Museum of Innocence

“It was the happiest moment of my life, though I didn’t know it.”

I first read the Orhan Pamuk’s novel the Museum of Innocence in 2011.  It is the tale of Kemal, the son of one of Istanbul’s richest families and his bordering on creepy love of Furun, who is, of course, from the wrong side of the tracks.  I admit it’s not my favourite Pamuk novel, I mean Kemal is nothing short of a stalker (and a thief) as pathetically mopes around collecting (thieving) Furun’s used cigarette butts but Furun is no better with her desperation and sulking throughout most of the novel but regardless Pamuk’s writing is still a poetic, hypnotic story which draws you in (even if, like me, you had to put the book aside for a while).  I’m moving on for those who have not yet read it so no spoilers here people.

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While I was recently in Istanbul I wandered into the antique district of Çukurcuma where I inadvertently happened onto the actual “Museum of Innocence”.  This interesting museum was conceived by Pamuk who collected items over the period of writing his novel to go hand in hand with his story.

Entering the three-storey building is like seeing fiction turned into reality.  From the mesmerising installation of Furun’s cigarette butts to clothes and pieces of daily life from the 1950’s through to modern Istanbul it was an interesting reminder of a period that has been left behind.

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It was a fascinating stop on my meandering through Çukurcuma but it was also a stop that made me feel infinitely sad.  Sad for Kemal and I guess in some way sad for myself as well.  We all have that lost love (well maybe not everyone) but for many of us, we had a Mr (or Miss) Big.  I called mine Mr Mediocre (it took me years to realise that he wasn’t all that) and somewhere in the back of my wardrobe I do in fact still have a movie ticket from the first movie we went to (Dirty Dancing) and hidden in a book somewhere on my bookshelf (and no I don’t remember which book) is my only photo of him and I, circa 1993.  A total of 12 years of my life for a love that is only a memory now.  I don’t regret the way my life turned out but I do in some small way understand how the pathetic Kemal became so infatuated and destroyed his life over his love for Furun.

To anyone who is a fan of Orhun Pamuk and gets the opportunity to visit his museum, do yourself a favour.  It is only small but it is truly charming and well worth getting lost in Çukurcuma with the intention of finding yourself here.

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Çukurcuma also has so many tiny antique shops which, although out of my price range, were still fascinating to rummage through (and the Turkish tea that is offered as soon as you walk through the door was a blessing on that freezing January morning that I visited the area).

The future of museums is inside our own houses.

And if you haven’t read The Museum of Innocence grab a copy now from Amazon

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Istanbul or Bust

Like most of us, I have a love affair with Istanbul, and I try and visit this beautiful city at least once a year.  I always take a list of things I want to see and when in the city, I walk around and tick off the tasks that I’ve completed.  Daughter can’t cope with my method and now that she is a little older (but perhaps not any wiser) I let her go off and do her own thing (which usually involves around sitting in coffee shops with her friends, flirting with boys and melting my credit card with her spending).

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I’m just now back from a week in this gorgeous city, staying in a fab apartment on Istiklal Caddesi.  I racked up over 100,000 steps (or 82 km), predominantly getting my tourist on, but also spending time meandering through tiny alleyways and cobbled backstreets looking for that hidden gem that I hadn’t found before.  One of my friends gave me a pretty thorough list of places I should visit but with my god-awful sense of direction, I got lost every single time although having gotten lost, I often found somewhere new that I wouldn’t have come across otherwise.

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Walking through Istanbul’s busy streets is a visual feast, with so much life going on around every corner that you never know what you will find from an overflowing mosque filling onto the street on a Friday afternoon, ladies gossiping to their neighbours (probably about other neighbours) or a street party to welcome a young man home from his army conscription, life is everywhere.  Istanbul is also made for those of us who are cat-obsessed and as a self-proclaimed cat-whisperer I  always kept an eye out for my four-legged furry friends as I go.   Did they follow me back to my apartment?  I’m not saying yes and I’m not saying no but I will say that when we left there was a little calico kitty sitting on the step next to our doorman when we left for the airport.

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The thing with Istanbul is that it really is a city that you can just walk around in.  No need to do tours or pay exorbitant fees (150TL for 1 day or 180TL for two days) to bus companies.  Instead, you grab an Istanbulkart and hop on the trams and buses that are so easily accessible and just as easy to use.  I also downloaded a couple of apps including Voice Map and Street Art Istanbul which gave me the opportunity of also seeing things from a different perspective.

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Of course, I ate way too much during my week in Istanbul which negates all those kilometres walked. I pretty much indulged in everything I saw with tempting stacks of baklava, simits and lokma on every street corner and juicy kebabs, overloaded kumpir and thanks to Macro Centre (why oh why won’t they open one in Mersin) even a little bacon thrown in to enjoy.  Yes I know I can eat all of this just as easily in Mersin (well maybe not the bacon) but when in Rome (or Istanbul).

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On a serious note, I will mention how safe I felt during my time in Istanbul.  There was a significant security presence with police and soldiers patrolling at tourist attractions as well as security guards doing bag checks and security gates to pass through before entering shopping centres or bazaars.  At no time did I feel nervous or intimidated.  I was not harassed while out by myself and Daughter, who travelled on the metro by herself to Kadikoy and back, did so without incident.  Yes, you should be vigilant and follow the advice of local security authorities as well as monitor media reports and keep up to date with the travel advice issued by your own Government, but I personally felt very comfortable visiting this beautiful city, and I hope to come and visit again very soon.

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I will do a few posts over the coming weeks about our time in Istanbul, but I just thought for now I would put up a few photos.  They are, of course, not great as I am no photographer, but they are little memories for me to keep.

If you are thinking of visiting Istanbul why not grab one of these books –

 

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Mayday Parade

This is not a post about Turkey, I repeat, this is NOT a post about Turkey.  Instead, this is a post about the emo pop/punk band Mayday Parade that I had the very real pleasure of meeting recently in Cologne.

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It’s no real surprise to anyone that I tend to spoil Daughter and this birthday was no exception.  Daughter loves music and concerts so when one of her favourite bands, Mayday Parade, recently came to Cologne, I purchased her tickets to go and see them in concert.

I am probably pretty lucky in that Daughter and I have similar tastes in music.  Sure, when I was young I might have loved a bit of Wham but as my music tastes matured I became a real lover of rock music, and the louder the better.  There is nothing better than blasting my rock music when no one is at home.  It’s just me and my music. Similarly, Daughter loves a bit of rock and I might even go to say she goes a little farther than me and loves a little metal and punk as well (God help the neighbours when she blasts My Chemical Romance or Sleeping With Sirens) which can get a little exhausting to the brain.

So Daughter and I found ourselves at Essigfabrik in Cologne on 3 October at the Mayday Parade “10 Year Anniversary” tour.  First up Essigfabrik.  Holy crap I thought we were going into a condemned building.  A friend of mine from Cologne tells me that Essigfabrik is, in fact, a very famous hall for concerts; yes, I know, don’t judge a book by its cover and all that but jeeze!

Putting that very real trauma aside Daughter and I had the opportunity of meeting the members of Mayday Parade and followed security down some rather unsafe and possibly unapproved stairs into a basement area where we stood around with maybe 30 other fans waiting patiently for the band to appear.

And they did.  And they were totally chill.

I guess I expected screams and squeals from the predominantly female teenagers but instead the band just milled with the fans, getting around and meeting them all, having a bit of a chat and allowing photos.

I was impressed.

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I got to have a chat with the lead singer Derek Sanders and asked him why they have never visited Turkey.  He said that it is mostly up to his representation as to where they travel to and they have never had any requests for a gig in Turkey.  Daughter said she was going to change that.  He then said that they were off to Australia for some concerts Down Under and asked if we’d see them there.  I laughed and explained that we actually lived in Turkey.  His eyebrows shot up.  Wow!  You guys are so lucky.

Yes we are!

The concert itself was pretty awesome as well.  Since it was their 10-year anniversary tour, they played their entire first album, “A Lesson in Romantics” blasting off with “Jamie All Over” before moving into a few of their newer stuff including “Stay” and “Terrible Things”.  Their encore was the fan favourite (and you can include me in that statement because I am now officially a fan), “Oh Well, Oh Well”.

Daughter had the barrier so when she finally found me at the end of the concert she was looking a little worse for wear but with a grin that just wouldn’t quit.  Supporting acts were Waterpark and With Confidence.

Sidenote: Whilst in Cologne Daughter got attacked by a dog which resulted in us visiting a German hospital as well as being in Cologne on Unity Day, celebrated on 3 October as a public holiday commemorating the anniversary of German reunification which meant that everything was shut so no shopping.  But we did eat bacon.  A lot of bacon.

So just to re-iterate I am the BEST MUM IN THE WORLD!  For this week at least!

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#First World Problems

Daughter and I have been in Sydney for the past 6 weeks as well as a sneaky side trip to Bali with a few of my girlfriends so I have been MIA in case you hadn’t noticed (what do you mean you didn’t notice???).

While Down Under I got to spend desperately needed time with many, but not all, of my most beloved peeps (and purchased some desperately needed bras – my boobs are back in the Northern Hemisphere again) and Daughter also got to have a few catch ups, again stalked members of 5SOS and even went to see The 1975 in concert.  Sydney was definitely a win/win sitch for both of us (although Calum from 5SOS is still playing hard to get).

Bali 1Now we are back in my Türkiye and back in the Village I find that things haven’t changed.  At all.

Of course I am aware that Türkiye was on the news while I was away.  As an early riser I had the news on and was watching the ‘incident’ as it happened.  (I will call it an incident however I won’t make any further reference to it due to the current political climate here).

“Holy Shit!” said I.

“Don’t go back!” said most, if not all, of my acquaintances back in Sydney.

Coming back home I admit was a little nervous but now that I am here and have been out and about I can say that in the Village and in the city of Mersin nothing has changed.  The sun is still shining, people are going about their business and life goes on oh and The Turk actually didn’t know that the ‘incident’ had taken place.  Slept through the whole thing.  And before you Negative Nelly’s start banging on at me yes I know that Mersin is not Istanbul and that there are continued protests there as well as other cities including Ankara but, just in case you didn’t realise, this is a blog about living in Mersin.

Anyway after staring at the television for hours I realised that something that was so huge in Türkiye and that held such huge ramifications for this country as well as the rest of the world it was merely a ripple in the pond in Australia (and possibly other countries) and was only getting about 7 minutes of airtime with the Australian media.   I should just stress at this point that the home that I was staying at only had free to air television – in fact I didn’t even get to see the finale to Game of Thrones until I got home!  #FirstWorldProblems

Everybody-Loses-Their-Mind-GoTAustralia had a general election during my time Down Under and so I did my civic duty and cast my vote.  I actually received a fine for not voting in the last election although on checking with the Consulate here in Türkiye I found out there was in fact nowhere to cast your vote unless you did it by post.  Have you ever tried to send mail from Türkiye?  Has it ever arrived or did it take 6 months?  I betcha that if I had done the postal vote in the last election my solitary postal vote would have been crucial in stopping that tosser Abbott getting elected!  And did you know that this is like the 50th freaking election since 2010 – not really – but it sure seems like it.  I mean Australia change leaders like others change their undies!  #FirstWorldProblems

I took Daughter to the hairdresser in Sydney.  Now, back in Mersin a trip to the hairdresser including a wash and blow dry will set you back 9TL or AU$5 (the price has gone up in our absence).  In Sydney a wash and blow dry at a suburban hairdresser set us back AU$60 or approximately 120TL!!!  #FirstWorldProblems

I made potato kofte for dinner for a friend and after a quick trip to the local supermarket I realised that Türkiye beats Australia hands down on the cost and the quality of the fresh produce available.  Of course here in Türkiye fruit and vegetables are seasonal but after I paid AU$3 or 6TL for one (rather crummy) bunch of maydanoz (parsley) I realised just how great I really have it here.  I couldn’t even get my hands on any nane (mint) either!  I mean WTF??  It’s mint for feck sake.  Here it’s growing on every freaking street corner.  I think back to when we lived in Sydney and we always had mint on hand.  Of course The Turk would grow his own.  Duh! #FirstWorldProblems

Although Australia did win hand over fist time and time again.  Electricity is abundant as is fresh drinking water.  I had only been home in Mersin a few days when the electricity was cut and the water disappeared from our pipes.  It took 2 days for the water to come back but the electricity did crank up again pretty quickly (and a good thing too with the current temperatures here in Mersin hitting mid-40’s (that’s Celsius to you freaking Americans) on a regular basis.  Sidenote – Daughter just stuck her head out the door and asked me “When’s it winter?”  LMAO! #SydneyoverMersin

The traffic back in Sydney is as always a dream to navigate although peak hour did my head in on more than one occasion.  I love that the speed limit isn’t just a suggestion and I seriously don’t think I heard a car horn during our whole time there!  #SydneyoverMersin

Of course the biggest drawcard and the one thing that I can’t replicate in Mersin is bacon.  Sydney has bacon.  A lot of bacon.  And I ate it all!  #SydneyoverFECKINGMersin

bacon 1So now that I’m back I will probably be back to whinging about all and sundry and hating this and that again but right now I will just say that I’m glad to be home.

Oh and yes I was playing with hashtags.  They are stupid and I hate them.  I vow this day to never use them again!

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Daughter’s birthday present

I’m off to Sydney next week so this will probably be my last post for a little while.  I did want to post about my side trip to Tallinn last weekend though.

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First up  – Tallinn – what a beautiful city.  Having been living in Mersin where there is a population of just under 1 million people spending a few days in the relative calm of this Estonian city was a real pleasure.  The people were lovely.  The food was great (yes of course there was bacon) and the traffic was downright pleasant.  I mean people stopped for you on pedestrian crossings!  I know!!!

But why was I in Tallinn?  Yes?  …  Well …

As you all know Daughter is my very spoilt princess and I do tend to give her overly elaborate birthday presents.  You may also recall that Daughter has a love for the band 5 Seconds of Summer and believes, in her heart, that the bass player is the man of her dreams.  I have mentioned to you before as well that I thought George Michael was the man of my dreams and we all know how wrong I was about that.  Anyway as 5SOS (and practically any other band in the world) refuse to come to Istanbul to play a concert I looked for the cheapest alternative and that alternative just so happened to be in Tallinn, Estonia therefore Daughter and I travelled to Tallinn for her birthday present – tickets to 5SOS.

I knew nothing about Tallinn or Estonia.  I assumed it was part of Russia.  I thought it would be cold.  I thought I would have to eat horse or blood sausage (there was blood sausage for breakfast but I did not partake).  One thing I will say is that it was still light at midnight!  Crazy!

Arriving on the Friday morning we immediately walked over to the Old Town to get our tourist on.  Tallinn dates back to the 13th century when a castle was built by the Crusaders and developed into a large city full of opulent public buildings and merchants’ houses.  Today the Old Town forms part of UNESCO World Heritage List as one of the best preserved medieval cities surviving today.  The Old Town is one of those places where you can just get lost wandering through the winding, cobblestone streets … and that’s just what we did.  We also made a visit to Fat Margaret and Kiek in de Kok – seriously who makes these names up – before finding a restaurant and indulging in bacon burgers for the both of us.

Saturday morning came around and Daughter was chomping at the bit to be dropped off at the stadium to meet her friends and line up for sound check so I left her there while I found some similarly bored parental guardian types who were also waiting patiently for their children.  We went on the hunt for a bar where we settled in for a natter and a few bevies.  I arrived back at the stadium at 4 just in time to go inside and watch the band do their warm up before answering a few questions asked by the screaming fans.  I could feel a migraine coming on (perhaps I had had one glass too many).  Daughter had a front row, centre seat during sound check and nearly collapsed when Michael (the lead guitarist) noticed her t-shirt.  He pointed her t-shirt out to Calum (the bass guitarist and the man of her dreams) who laughed but sadly did not speak to her (the t-shirt was of Calum pulling a funny face).

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The concert itself was not as elaborate compared to the concert at Wembley last year.  I assume that it is too much to bring the whole she-bang with them while travelling around Europe.  They played a mix of their old stuff and a lot off their new album.  I laugh as I write this because of course these kids are fecking 20!  Their old stuff!  Give me a fecking break!  Daughter was happy though and that’s all that matters.

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Returning to our hotel I went upstairs but Daughter stayed in the lobby – did I mention that we were staying at the same hotel as 5SOS?  And Adam Lambert.  And Brian May. Wasn’t intentional but it was a definite bonus.  I caught the lift up with Brian May.  I was very cool.  Smiled but didn’t go “Oh My God!  It’s Brian May!!!”  Anyway Brian May (who was also at the 5SOS concert) arrived back there at around 2am and said “don’t hold your breath for the band to come back anytime soon” but she held out.  The concierge rang me at 4 and said that Daughter had fallen asleep in the lobby.  Could I come and get her please.  Poor darling.  She got up again that morning at 8 and went back down to the lobby but, sadly, they didn’t come downstairs to meet any of their fans.  I felt bad for Daughter but at least she was inside.  Outside the weather had taken a turn and it was bloody freezing.  Fans in tiny shorts and t-shirts were jumping up and down and squealing but I am pretty sure it was because they trying to increase their body temperature and not because they were going to catch pneumonia.

So that was my weekend in Tallinn, Estonia.  I would thoroughly recommend a visit to Tallinn if you ever find yourself having a sneaky getaway.  Lovely spot.  And they have bacon.  Lots of bacon.

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Banged Up Abroad – Janey Edition

I was watching Banged Up Abroad last night with Daughter and The Turk.  Definitely showing my old age I shook my head and tut-tutted in various points throughout the show as ridiculous stories were told by hapless tourists or morons trying to make a quick buck.  I mean we had all been there (or maybe not) but if we were all honest with ourselves we’ve done things that, perhaps on reflection, may not have been the most sensible thing to do while travelling.  You know you’ve done it too, maybe ending up on the wrong side of the law, ending up with a hellish hangover or, in my case, ending up pregnant to a Turkish fisherman.

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After it had finished I turned to The Turk and piped up, “You know I bungy jumped while on holidays in Zimbabwe.  Did you know that?”  His reply was, as usual, full of wise rhetoric, “that must have been one big-ass elastic band”  while Daughter rolled her eyes and replied with a snarky, “You’ve never done anything remotely dangerous – or interesting – in your entire life!  You are boring!”  Challenge accepted!!

And so in no particular order I give you “Banged Up Abroad – Janey Edition”:

Canoeing through a herd of hippos in Botswana.  Did you know that hippopotamus are responsible for more human fatalities in Africa than any other large animal?  No I didn’t know either.  I do now.

Smoking some weird shit in Nepal.  My entire trip through India and Nepal was full of crazy but this incident definitely came in at no. 1.  On our first day in Kathmandu my friend and I hopped a rickshaw that was kismet-ly waiting right outside our hostel.  The rickshaw driver was very friendly and before we knew it we were sitting on a hilltop being blown away by the beauty of the Himalayan Mountains before us (with a little glimpse of Mt Everest through the clouds).  Our driver then pulled out a rollie and offered us the first toke. Twenty minutes later we woke, totally dishevelled, robbed of our belongings and abandoned on that hilltop.  Luckily neither of us had anything of value on us (as we had dumped everything at the hotel) and thankfully we were not assaulted but it was a valuable lesson learned.  Don’t smoke strange shit handed to you by randoms in Nepal folks!

How about paying off a border patrol with two packets of my precious B&H Extra Mild and a bottle of whiskey trying to enter Zambia?  I was not happy about the loss of my cigarettes let me tell you but it was better than being left behind at the border!

And speaking of border problems we ‘misplaced’ a friend in Israel while trying to cross from a Palestinian checkpoint.  Six hours later he was delivered back to our hotel in Jerusalem a little shaky but happy to re-live his story for us over and over again (and still to this day he will tell the story … over and over again).

Jet skiing through a cyclone in Cancun.  In our defence none of us knew it was actually a cyclone.  Maybe it wasnt a cyclone, maybe it was a tropical storm.  I mean sure there was wind, there was black clouds and there was a really big swell but, honestly, I’ve seen worse at Manly beach during a summer storm.  I did question about whether we should start making our way back but no one else seemed perturbed by the strength of the wind or the very black skies.  By the time we got back to shore and saw the damage that had been done we realised the danger.  At least I realised the danger.

The gift that keeps on giving.  Whilst camping on the banks of Lake Malawi and ignoring the clear advice given to me by my Doctor back home in Australia, I and the rest of our group swam in the beautiful clear waters of the Lake at Cape Maclear.  Three months later I was diagnosed with Schistosomiasis or Bilharzia.  Google it people and a word of advice – don’t swim in Lake Malawi!

I have also been mugged in NY city, slept under the stars in Jordan (and was unceremoniously dumped in the desert by our tour guide the next morning), hitched a ride with some very dodgy dudes that were packing heat in Egypt (although I suspect everyone packs heat in Egypt) and was nearly sold off to a village chief in Tanzania.  Oh, and finally, getting pregnant to a Turkish fisherman.  Have I mentioned that one already?

We all love a little adventure, after all it makes a great story when we get home, but none of us want to find ourselves in Bangkok Hilton or perhaps worse dead on the side of the road (or death by firing squad).  Safety first folks!  I glanced at Daughter and wondered what type of crap she would get up to while travelling the world.  She is already talking about her “Gap Year” and the places that she wants to go with her friends.  Brazil, Morocco, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Kenya.  Good God!  I can already see a “Banged Up Abroad – Daughter Edition” in my future!  Nope, I am locking her in her room.

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The New Normal

Once again terrorism has raised its ugliness stealing more lives and ruining countless others with this most recent atrocity in Istanbul, Turkey.  My thoughts go out to the families of those who died and to those who were injured in yesterday’s attack.  I wish with all my heart that we didn’t live in such a tumultuous time but we do and we need to take control of how we react to what is going on around us.  Terrorism is rife throughout the world and frankly we need to accept that this is the new norm for all of us.  We all know that fear is a commodity and terrorists are more than prepared to manufacture fear with the help of today’s media. istanbul 3

Right now many of you who were thinking of visiting Turkey are asking the same question, “Is it safe to travel there?”  Yesterday the Turkish Government was quick to respond to the attack by declaring that the bomber was a member of Daesh (IS) and that Turkey will continue the battle against all terrorism until it no longer remains a threat to Turkey or to the world.  That’s great but does it make it any safer for tourists or for those of us living here?

I really love Istanbul.  It is, without doubt, one of the most unique cities in the world.  When Napolean said “if earth was a single state, then Istanbul would be its capital” he summed up how so many of us feel about her (yes to me Istanbul is a ‘her’).  She is a city with over 2500 years of history, culture and traditions.  She is jam packed with amazing landmarks, vibrant nightlife and something new around every corner.  She is truly sensational.  And she should not be passed over because when it comes down to it nowhere is truly safe anymore.

Paris.  Tunisia.  Egypt.  Lebanon.  Sydney.  Hell even San Bernadino in LA.  But it is our response to that fear that will determine our future.  Please don’t turn your back on these amazing places.  Do not let evil win.

Climb to the top of the Eiffel Tower and savour its magnificent view.  Visit the Pyramids of Gaza or Tunisia’s famous beaches and please – please – come and stand in awe at the grandeur before you in Sultanahmet Square, Istanbul.  Be amazed by the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace.  Indulge in the heavenly cuisine and be welcomed with open arms by some of the most kindest people you will ever have the pleasure to meet.

There has always been a strong police presence in Istanbul and no doubt security will be beefed up again in the aftermath of this most recent attack.  For those of you travelling to Turkey remember to be safe, be aware (see links below) and be smart but please do not let evil control your future.  Only you can do that.

Travel advice for Australian tourists

Travel advice for UK tourists

Travel advice for US tourists

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Köln

I just got back from a sneaky girlie weekend in Köln (Cologne), Almanya (Germany).  I had the grip the whole time I was there which certainly put a bit of a dampener on things but still as it was my first time visiting I tried to get out and see as much as I could.

Cologne

So because I like my lists today’s list is 10 things I have learned about Almanya over my girlie weekend:

1. Alcohol is an acceptable bevy at any time of day. No shit.  I stepped out at 7 in the morning to go buy Starbucks and watched 4 well suited young men wandering down the street with a briefcase in one hand and a bier in the other.  I can only assume they worked in the financial district … or maybe they were lawyers.

2. Pork worship. Upfront I am ok with this type of worship.  Hallelujah and all that.  Bacon.  Ham.  Salami.  Jerky.  OMG – crackling!  Again any time of day is a good time for domuz (pork).  Why not start your day with a plate of bacon with crackling on the side before snacking on some jerky to tide you over until holy hell – just look at what they serve up for dinner!  Yikes.

Cologne 163. Köln Christmas markets are the place to be. Where else can you wear dancing tree hats or a Santa suit while drinking glühwein (red wine heated with spices) before munching down a sausage sanga and finishing it off with the more festive feuerzangenbowle (red wine infused with rum)?  It is all about Christmas and the more Christmassy you are the better!  If you are not into Christmas get the hell out of dodge ‘cause you are going to be the odd man (or woman) out!

4. Germans are tall! I mean freakishly tall.  How tall are these people?  I’m like a tiny little oompa loompa next to most of them.

5. The Gothic styled Cathedral in Koln is a treat to view and is monumental in stature. It can seat 40,000 people and took nearly 700 years to build.  That’s a really long time considering it was built by Germans who are renowned for their efficiency.  If it was built by the Turks we would still be arguing over the right paperwork before the first foundation could be laid.

cathedral

6. Back to food.  Sauerkraut and lahana (cabbage) are again an any time of day food.

7. More food. Deep fried camembert and maydanoz (parsley)!  Why is it deep fried?  Bilmiyorum but damn it was delicious!

8. Still on food. Ekmek (bread).  Did you know there are over 300 different types of bread in Germany?  That is all.

9. Everything is closed on a Sunday. Well not churches and probably not the brothels either (prostitution is legal in Germany) but shops are which kind of sucks.  Sundays are also known as a quiet day so no mowing of the lawns either.  I guess it’s so you can get over that monumental hangover that you have from all the bier and feuerzangenbowle that you have consumed.

10. David Hasslehoff! I already knew he was a thing over in Germany but to hear his music blasting through the speakers at our hostel on a constant loop was a little hard to handle.  Well done though David.  Well done.

hasslehoff

Prost!

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Waiting for the Tulips to Bloom

These days you will find me on my terrace soaking in the last rays of sunshine before the grey of Mersin’s winter takes over.  I will no doubt have a cup of çay (sorry guys it’s not particularly Türk – white with two sugar) and, depending on the time of day, perhaps a biscuit (or two) to tide me over until akşam yemeği (dinner).  Basking in the sunshine is also the perfect time for me to catch up on my reading.

Tulips

As a blogger I am always on the hunt for fellow bloggers and writers that live in Türkiye, telling their own anecdotes of life, love and the numerous catastrophes that befall them living in this crazy country.  One of my favourite’s is fellow Aussie, Lisa Morrow, with her blog insideoutinIstanbul.  Her blog is filled with tales and photographs of her life living in one of the most incredible cities on earth – İstanbul – so when I received a copy of her most recent book, Waiting for the Tulips to Bloom, I knew that I needed to find a comfy spot in the sun where I would no doubt be entrenched until I had finished the very last line.

Lisa’s descriptive style captures the sights, sounds and even the smells (remind me to never catch the no. 2 bus with her) of modern day İstanbul, giving me, the reader, not only a personal tour of her favourite haunts but drawing me in with little known stories of what is, without doubt, one of the most amazing cities in the world.  Her anecdotes of language barriers and Government bureaucracy or even her partner’s difficulties with something as simple as his name (Who?) was something that any expat living in İstanbul (or any other city for that matter) will recognise.

To quote the wonderful Molly Meldrum (I am now picturing anyone who is not Australian googling “Molly Meldrum” right now), “Do yourselves a favour”.  With the Christmas season fast approaching this will make an excellent stocking stuffer, in fact, I can think of one particular friend back in Sydney will be receiving it in the mail very soon.

Does anyone else have any recommendations for good Türk inspired reading?  With winter fast approaching it is time for me to hibernate until spring so any suggestions to help pass the time while in my self imposed exile will be greatly appreciated.

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Silifke Kalesi

Why does every archaeological site have a tale of woe overflowing with horrendous suffering and devious behaviour?  Yes, yes I realise that most archaeological sites have been there for eons and so, of course something resembling the Red Wedding would have happened at some point over the course of thousands of years, but after visiting Silifke (ancient name: Seleucia) I realise that this little town, apart from being as dull as dishwater today, seemed to have had more than its fair share of woe in its many years of existence.

Silifike 1

I had passed through the town many times over the years but have never been tempted to stay for more than a toilet break or a glass of cáy and so, after reading up on its gruesome history, it was decided that a trip to Silifke to explore would be a great day trip from Mersin with just the right amount of gore to keep Daughter (growing up in an age of The Walking Dead) interested.

The town’s main attraction is Silifke Kalesi (Silifke Castle), an imposing structure atop a hill allowing a 360 degree view of the surrounding valley.  The Kalesi dates back to Byzantine times and was used as a defence and garrison against the Arabs before it was passed through the hands of many including the Armenians, the Cypriotes and finally the Ottomans in the late 1400’s.  It has been attacked many times, destroyed and re-built but the walls and some of its towers remain today as an example of Byzantine architecture coupled with 13th century Armenian influences.

silifike 2

Historical tale of woe No 1:

In 1226, Philip of Antioch, was murdered while imprisoned at Sis Kalesi (near Adana). His distraught (and no doubt traumatized by the fact that she was married off at the tender age of 12) widow, Isabella I, Queen of Armenia, sought refuge in the Kalesi. The regent for the Armenian kingdom, Constantine of Barbaron, arranged for his own son, Hethum, to marry Isabella (poor underaged girl cannot even grieve in peace before being married off again) and demanded that Bertrand de Thessy, the castellan of Silifke Kalesi, return her at once. The Hospitallers, who would not suffer the humiliation of surrendering Isabella, nor dare to fight the assembled troops of Constantine, eased their conscience by selling him the Kalesi with Isabella in it.

It makes it kind of hard to want to aspire to be Queen.  I think I am quite happy to be a pleb, thank you very much.

Archeologically speaking the outer walls of the Kalesi are in really good shape but inside has been reduced to rubble.  Daughter enjoyed terrorizing me by climbing the walls and hanging over the edge taking ridiculously dangerous selfies and I admit that the view from the top, overlooking the town and valley, was gorgeous, but is it worth driving all the way to Silifke?  Meh.

Silifike 3

The town of Silifke itself also does not warrant spending any of your precious time.  The otels are mostly old and not particularly welcoming so no need to stay the night and there is not a lot of activities for the visitor after you have explored the Kalesi.  There is a small museum which is filled with sculptures, coins and other artefacts. There is also an ancient church by the name of Ayatekla just south of Silifke in the small village of Burunucu.

Historical tale of woe No. 2:

St. Thecla was the first women to convert to Christianity by St. Paul (who you may recall originated from the town of Tarsus, east of Mersin).  She took refuge in a cave before simply vanishing into thin air.  Poof!  Was she simply murdered or was she afforded a miracle and ascended straight to heaven’s door?  We shall never know.  A shrine was built to remember her on the site and then the basilica was added in the 5th century.    There are also several cisterns cut into the rock which suggests that there was probably a sizeable settlement in the past.

Ayatekla Church

There are many hiking trails outside of Silifke following the Göksu Nehri (Blue Water river) and many little picnic spots to while away the hours.  You can go white water rafting on the river in the mountains outside the town although I believe from my nephew it is more of a relaxing jaunt rather than a thrill seeking white knuckle ride.

Historical tale of woe No 3:

Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, the Saleph of the Armenian Kingdom, drowned while either trying to cross in the strong current or while taking a bath.  There are two stories going round, I kind of like the idea of him drowning while bathing.  It’s definitely more amusing to me at least.

silifke 4

Having now visited Silifke can I give you an honest opinion?  Yeah?  Don’t hate me Silifke lovers but honestly spend an hour, photograph the view and the walls and then hop back in your car.  Either continue on the D400 towards Taşuscu (where you can catch the ferry to Northern Cyprus) or further on to Antalya (becoming a lot easier now with the tunnels slowly being completed) or perhaps hop on the D715 up into the mountains to visit the waterfalls at Mut (they also have their very own fortress and even a monastery further up the road at Karaman).  Don’t get me wrong it is definitely an interesting day trip and for the history buff there will be more than enough to keep you engrossed but for the average Joe (or in this case Janey) it didn’t hold my interest for too long.  Perhaps I am a simpleton.

For those of you wanting your fill of castles and archeological sites but still within a day’s drive of Mersin you can visit the famous Maiden’s Castle Kiz Kalesi or Korykos Kalesi and, coupled with Elaiussa-Sebaste and Cennet ve Cehennem, you will definitely have a full couple of days exploring without the need to travel quitte so far outside of the city.

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Need to Know:

Silifke Kalesi is off the D400 three hours west of Mersin.  There are no buses to the site itself so you will need to either drive or walk.  If you intend on walking it is almost 86 metres above sea level so good hiking shoes are a must.

Entry is free.

There is a small café at the bottom entrance of the Kalesi although it was closed when we visited.

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