(not to be) Missed Turkey & Istanbul Sites and Facts

summer 2009 / more feed with intelligence to refine your tours

November 2010 – US $ to Turkish Lira exchange rate

1U.S. $  = 1.45 lira

1 Euro = 1.95 lira         ( the rates will  fluctuate just  slightly )

US $ will  move between 1.40 – 1.58lira.

Best place to change money in Turkey is anywhere outside the banks of airports.  They charge ridiculous unnecessary commissions at the airport.   In the city there are these free exchance offices , almost anywhere, where you get better value.   That is where you get the best deal.

Traveller’s cheque is a bit difficult to cash , only certain main branches of banks will cash it, vendor’s will prefer credit card ; they will avoid American Express because of high commission rates; a number of them will accept visa or master like cash. But one gets better value by cash in a number of cases in grand bazaar,  as this reduces the ( tax! )  costs of the vendor.

You can make majority of your payments  in US $ or Euros in Turkey , needing local money Lira  few times . You will need lira for museums, but a number of them do accept credit card ( ( including Hagia Sophia ( Ayasofya ) and Topkapi Palace  ( The ticket of the Harem is sold seperately inside the palace, at the entrance of Harem ) , Basilica Cistern.

If you get a pin number for your credit card you can withdraw money from atm’s which are plenty , all over in Istanbul.  In Turkey if you have a pin number you can also use it during a purchase.

In most cases in Turkey  as if you were in the U.S. you pay pay in US dollar ,  or , as  in a European Union you may pay in euro.  At some places they give you a worse rate for foreign currency payment and you may lose money, so it is better to carry lira in such case.

 

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February 20, 2010 Posted by | 1 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Orhan Veli – I am listening to Istanbul

Istanbul Poem by A notable Turkish poet,  Orhan Veli :

LISTENING TO ISTANBUL
I am listening to Istanbul, with my eyes closed.
At first there is a light wind;
The leaves on the trees
Are gently swaying.
And far, faraway
The endless jingling of the water-sellers’ bells,
I am listening to Istanbul, with my eyes closed.
I am listening to Istanbul, with my eyes closed.
High above the birds are flying,
Flocks after flocks shrieking loudly.
In fish traps the nets are drawn;
A woman’s foot touches the water.
I am listening to Istanbul, with my eyes closed.
I am listening to Istanbul, with my eyes closed.
Delightfully cool Covered Bazaar,
Busy, lively Mahmut Pasha,
Courtyards teeming with pigeons,
Sounds of hammering coming from the docks.
Smell of sweat in the lovely spring breeze.
I am listening to Istanbul, with my eyes closed.
I am listening to Istanbul, with my eyes closed.
Drunk with its old time memories,
A seaside mansion with gloomy boathouses,
Amid the humming of waning south winds,
I am listening to Istanbul, with my eyes closed.
I am listening to Istanbul, with my eyes closed.
A sexy girl is passing by on the sidewalk –
Curses songs ditties taunts…
Something in her hand falls to the ground
It must be a rose.
I am listening to Istanbul, with my eyes closed.
I am listening to Istanbul, with my eyes closed.
Round the edges of your skirt a twittering bird;
I know if your brow is hot or cold,
I know if your lips are moist or dry.
I can sense that from the beatings of your heart.
A pale moon is rising behind the umbrella pines;
I am listening to Istanbul.
Orhan Veli

February 20, 2010 Posted by | 1 | , , | Leave a comment

The first love letter of the world – Istanbul Archaeological Museum


The first love letter of the world
The first love letter of the world

love letter istanbul archaelogical museum

A Sumerian letter.

Scholars say, this  was a  ritual taking place in  Mesopotamian festivals for  fertility and power which also included the initiation  of a sacred Marriage. The  new year for the Sumerians is  around the spring equinox, and every new year the Sumerian king “married” the Sumerian goddess of love and war, namely  Inanna. Inanna  is the Babylonian version of Ishtar.  Inanna’s  powers  included   renewing  the land’s fertility.

Every summer at the  special festival      Inanna’s high priestess of Inanna  representing Inanna married  the King : The King would provide offerings ; and  the priestess would accept the king into her bed, preceded by   an invitational  love  poem  : In the one below Sumerian king is Shu-Sin,  and we are introduced to Enlil, the high priestess. This  is the oldest love poem known in the world :

Bridegroom, dear to my heart,
Goodly is your beauty, honeysweet,
Lion, dear to my heart,
Goodly is your beauty, honeysweet.
You have captivated me,
Let me stand tremblingly before you.
Bridegroom, I would be taken by you to the bedchamber,
You have captivated me,
Let me stand tremblingly before you.
Lion, I would be taken by you to the bedchamber.
Bridegroom, let me caress you,
My precious caress is more savory than honey,
In the bedchamber, honey-filled,
Let me enjoy your goodly beauty,
Lion, let me caress you,
My precious caress is more savory than honey.
Bridegroom, you have taken your pleasure of me,
Tell my mother, she will give you delicacies,
My father, he will give you gifts.
Your spirit, I know where to cheer your spirit,
Bridegroom, sleep in our house until dawn,
Your heart, I know where to gladden your heart,
Lion, sleep in our house until dawn.
You, because you love me,
Give me pray of your caresses,
My lord god, my lord protector,
My Shu-Sin, who gladdens Enlil’s heart,
Give my pray of your caresses.
Your place goodly as honey, pray lay your hand on it,
Bring your hand over like a gishban-garment,
Cup your hand over it like a gishban-sikin-garment.

Dünyanın ilk aşk mektubu – İstanbul Arkeoloji Müzesi

1889 yılında, Bağdat’ın 150 kilometre uzağındaki Sümer kenti Nippur’da bulundu. Tablet 55 yıl önce ABD’li Sümerolog Samuel Noah Kramer tarafından okundu. Aynı dönemde tableti Türkçe’ye ise bugün 94 yaşında olan Türkiye’nin ilk Sümeroloğu Muazzez İlmiye Çığ çevirdi.

Şiirin hikayesi: Sümer inancına göre, toprağın bereketini ve toprağın verimli olmasını sağlamak amacıyla, Kral’ın yılda bir kez Bereket ve Aşk Tanrıçası Enlil yerine bir rahibe ile evlenmesi kutsal bir görevdi. Bu şiir büyük bir olasılıkla Kral Şusin için seçilmiş bir gelin tarafından yeni yıl bayramını kutlama töreninde söylenmek üzere kaleme alınmıştı ve ziyafetlerde şölenlerde müzik, şarkı ve dans eşliğinde söyleniyordu.

Şiir :

“Okşayışları baldan tatlı “rahibe Enlil “aslanı” Damat Şuşin’e mektubunda  şöyle yazıyor:
Güveyi, kalbimin sevgilisi,
Senin güzelliğin fazladır, bal gibi tatlı
Beni büyüledin,
Senin önünde titreyerek durayım,
Güveyi, seni okşayayım,
Benim kıymetli okşayışım baldan hoştur,
Bağışla bana okşayışlarını,
Benim beyim Tanrım,
Benim beyim baygınlığım,
Enlil’in kalbini memnun eden Su-Sin’im,
Bağışla bana okşayışlarını.

bir diğer detaylı tercümesi :

Damadım, kalbimin sevgilisi. Güzelliğin büyüktür baldan tatlı. Aslan, kalbimin kıymetlisi. Güzelliğin büyüktür baldan tatlı. Benim değerli okşayışlarım baldan tatlıdır. Yatak odasında bal doludur. Güzelliğinle zevklenelim. Aslan seni okşayayım. Benim değerli okşayışlarım baldan tatlıdır. Damadım benden zevk aldın. Annem söyle sana güzel şeyler verecektir. Babam, sana hediyeler verecektir. Sen beni sevdiğin için. Lütfet bana okşayışlarını. Benim Tanrım, benim koruyucum . Tanrı Ellil’in kalbini memnun eden Şusin’im. Lütfet bana okşayışlarını .

Philadelphia Üniversitesi profesörlerinden Hilprecht, 1889 1900 yılları arasında Mezopotamya’nın Niffer Vadisi’nde bir kazı yaptı. Bu arada topraktan çıkarılan önemli bir vesika, içeriğinin ne olduğu bilinmeyen çivi yazısı ile yazılmış diğer binlerce levha ile birlikte, kazı yapılan yerin sahibi olan Osmanlı Hükümeti’ne teslim edildi. 70 bin levhanın içine sıkışmış bulunan bu tarihi vesika; 58 yıl sonra, dünyaca ünlü Sümerolog Muazzez Çığ ve Hatice Kızılay tarafından ele alındı. Bu taş levha üzerindeki yazının ne anlam içerdiği çözülünce, uzmanlar hayretler içinde kaldılar. Çünkü bu taş levha, dünyanın ilk  aşk  mektubuydu. Hem de Sümer Medeniyeti’nin en büyük kral ve kraliçesinin aşkını anlatan bir mektup…
Milattan önce 2300 2500 yılları arasında Mezopotamya’da yaşayan ve şahane bir güzelliğe sahip olan Enlil adında Sümerli bir rahibe, Kral Su-Sin’e aşıktı. Sümerlilerin yeni sene bayramında, tesadüfen kralın gözüne çarparak onunla evlenmeğe muvaffak oldu. Evlendiği gün de  ateşi ile, sevgilisi krala bir şiir yazdı. Gerçek sevginin sembolü olan şiir sarayda o kadar beğenildi ki, daha sonra o devrin en ünlü musiki üstatları tarafından bestelendi ve kısa zamanda halk arasına kadar yayılarak ebedileşti…

*Oguz Kosebalaban is a travel writer, photographer , travel consultant and  official professional tour guide who have been leading tours through Turkey including prime sites like Istanbul, Ephesus and Cappadocia for many years.  The pdf file belongs to a quarterly Turkish magazine where some of his photos have been  used , including the cover : www.kartonsan.com/pdf/paylasim/paylasim2009-1.pdf

Oguz Kosebalaban is spellt as Oğuz Kösebalaban in Turkish.

 

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A wonderful Hittite Prayer   ( to be translated ) :

HİTİT DUASI
Tanrım, beni yavaşlat.
Aklımı sakinleştirerek kalbimi dinlendir…
Zamanın sonsuzluğunu göstererek bu telaşlı hızımı dengele…
Günün karmaşası içinde bana sonsuza kadar yaşayacak tepelerin sükunetini ver .
Sinirlerim ve kaslarımdaki gerginliği, belleğimde yaşayan akarsuların melodisiyle yıka, götür.
Uykunun o büyüleyici ve iyileştirici gücünü duymama yardımcı ol…
Anlık zevkleri yaşayabilme sanatını öğret; bir çiçeğe bakmak için yavaşlamayı, güzel bir köpek ya da kediyi okşamak için durmayı, güzel bir kitaptan birkaç satır okumayı, balık avlayabilmeyi, hülyalara dalabilmeyi öğret…
Her gün bana kaplumbağa ve tavşanın masalını hatırlat. Hatırlat ki yarışı her zaman hızlı koşanın bitirmediğini , yaşamda hızı arttırmaktan çok daha önemli şeyler olduğunu bileyim…
Heybetli meşe ağacının dallarından yukarıya doğru bakmamı sağla. Bakıp göreyim ki, onun böyle güçlü ve büyük olması yavaş ve iyi büyümesine bağlıdır… Beni yavaşlat Tanrım ve köklerimi yaşam toprağının kalıcı değerlerine doğru göndermeme yardım et. Yardım et ki, kaderimin yıldızlarına doğru daha olgun ve daha sağlıklı olarak yükseleyim.
Ve hepsinden önemlisi…Tanrım,Bana değiştirebileceğim şeyleri değiştirmek için CESARET, değiştiremeyeceğim şeyleri kabul etmek için SABIR, İkisi arasındaki farkı bilmek için AKIL ve Beni aşkın körlüğünden ve yalanlarından koruyacak DOSTLAR ver…

February 20, 2010 Posted by | 1 | Leave a comment

Gourmet dining Istanbul – Sentimental meatball for tears of happiness :))

Hi there ;

One of my duties mixed with pleasure as a  tour guide in Istanbul offering high end tours   is  keeping my visitors away from touristy restaurants offering mediocre food.  If you care for a gourmet bite as a treat; read on :))

Taking care of upmarket clients I always need special charming restaurants , that doesn’t need be pricy all the times,  but charming and special; and below are the ones.
(For the price concern,   In a number of them  of them one main dish will be in the range of 10$ – 14$ price range for those budget concious who would like to plan ahead. In the list below Buhara is the least expensive, a turkish pizza ( lahmacun ) is around 3,5$, most veggy meals 5$ or so, the beyti mentioned below for 12$ , but it is like 1,5 portion, you may order a half size. )

Here are my comments from my visits to the restaurants mentioned below enough times to give you the good advice. Of course there are tons of others which are also perfect.

To begin with; if you would like a decent bite of lamb kebab ( sish – şiş kebab ) , or lamb ; ask for the most tender, that is rare to get – kulbastı – külbastı; only a real top of the line kebab place will have it, doeas not need to be a decor place.

In central old town ( around blue mosque square ) , there are very good and also but mediocre and touristy places.

In that neighborhood a real treat vegetable dish restaurant like the named Ciya of Kadikoy district ( take a boat from almost across Spice Market to Kadikoy district ; details of this is also another link in my opera.com blog you will find below.

Just outside the Nuruosmaniye gate of the Grand Bazaar, the gate on your left and the mosque on your right walk “3” minutes , and on your right the corner of the first block is Tarihi Subaşı lokantası, that is the right place to dine when you are in its neighborhood.

On Istiklal street in new town, yes there are tons of places, but beginning from Taksim square, past Burger King, on the left , 2 min walking , corner of the first block is Haci Baba, if you like lamb schank, I go there for lamb schank and warm sarma , grape leaf roll with ground meat and rice and spice filling – Greeks (wrongly) call it dolma ; the rest of their specials are a bit like Ciya, and Canak ( in Acibadem district of Kadikoy ( take a minibus or taxi – 7 lira , 5$ ride from Kadikoy ) and I DO PREFER THESE TWO to Hacibaba. For a superior vegetable ( usually mixed with chunks of beef and lamb ) also a turn on Istiklal street is a historical one called Haci Abdullah; this will be superior to HAcibaba for vegetable dishes, same leage with Ciya and Canak for some selections , but this one is full of character of an old business with a tradition, 1950’s or so.
Above the main entrance of Spice MArket there is this sort of historical restaurant, though a bit too pricy.

In the old town a number of very good and not necessarily pricy places can be pinpointed :
My favourite kebab and home made vegetable dish place nearby Blue mosque is Buhara; location is easy 5 – 7 min walking to Blue Mosque , inexpensive, my American clients just liked it so much , and some of them were gourmets. Their Beyti kebab ( ground beef and lamb made into a roll with thin flat bread just warm out of oven , with pistachio crunches , mushroom and pepper on side in it ) is a real treat, the order may begin with a much smaller lahmacun ( turkish pizza ) called bardakaltı ( saucer sized ) lahmacun .

Sentimental meatball for tears of happiness :))

Sentimental meatball is a slightly wrong translation; it is originally called icli kofte ( içli köfte )  içli means there is something on the inside – in other words stuffed or filled in ; literal translation is more like with inside . But in Turkey if you have feelings inside yourself, you have something on the inside .  The word is considered too be a gentle touchy word when referring to feelings ; in 2009 a plastic pipe company in its commercials used the metaphoric  meaning of the word as in ; so many things go through on the inside, yet nothing is heard on the outside; the reference is to someone with deeper and possibly unrevealed feelings. ( well this was supposed to be an article on dining , I throw in a bit of the culture around it  :))

Almost next to Spice market Hamdi Restaurant is also a treat ; but you should go for certain selections only – I do not advice the vegetable starters there, since they are not known for it. But again this is one more a kebab place, and but their baklava is ‘one of the best’ in Istanbul; you may read my recent article  on it at my blog,  somewhere below also at my :
http://my.opera.com/istanbulinsider/albums/showpic.dml?album=471930&picture=6528806

Bon appétit ! 🙂
Oguz Kosebalaban

p.s.

Sightseeing advise: for a Bosphorus cruise google ” bitter or better bosphorus cruise” or scroll down my blog to find about this “better cruise ” option , that is shorter but better than the one offered by the city lines.

February 18, 2010 Posted by | 1 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Turkish Herbal Remedies – Brand new Spice Market article , Feb. 2010! :)

This is not the regular turkish delight, henna, safran , coffee article , that is over-saturatedly and boringly repeated almost in any source.Yes info on these items is also juicy, but it is a shame there is lack of information on other interesting items as well as these .

My first introduction is a delicious herbal tea mixture : Green Tea, cinnamon sticks and cloves. This may well replace antibiotics (just  google and see some scientific research result on  how powerfull cloves against microps, germs, fungi, etc )  .  This mixture is especially great for those who suffer allergy with postnasal flow ( which may also cause   sinusitis) ,  those who are addicted to antihistamine pills. At least for me,  and for  the 80 or 90 other repeated Spice market shoppers ( who were advised by one of the Spice Market vendors , encouraged by me )  it worked .

Here is how to prepare it :

( Well you better also buy  an inexpensive  turkish tea set , which is a kettle with a smaller pot   sitting on the kettle; small pot allowing to brew tea better while being warmed up as  the water in  kettle boils, the small sets  run for about  20 -30 lira = 14 – 20$ US   As you walk straight through the market , at the end that is straight ahead  step outside and take a right turn. That is the market place for glasses , tea sets, coffee pots etc )

Boil the cinnamon stick in the kettle, ( after the water boils lower the temperature until the water turns red from cinnamon . You should be able to smell the cinnamon in the kitchen, in the hallway.  8 cloves in the upper pot with just enough water to cover them will also heat up meanwhile. By now you need to be able to smell cloves as well.  Well , approx by then you need to put two tablespoonful green tea to the upper pot and 3 min or so later fill this pot up with the cinnamon water from the kettle.

Allergy and this herbal tea :

Give this a  try  especaially if you are  suffering from allergy symptoms, you may get rid of the antihistamine pills. Also if you will take a flight , be exposed to places where clean air  lacks , contagious diseases are more likely to spread around. So, in those cases this is also your drink.My name is Oguz Kosebalaban and I put my name to this drink.  It works.  This is my dedicated effort to contribute to your health. This drink saved my  life from being partly and continuously dependent  on  antihistamine pills, and so  I am indebted. Now is the time to pay back.

More spice market specials will be here, at my store, check back 🙂

( Of course you can make this tea anywhere in the world , but it will taste better while in Istanbul, with the sinergy of your new experiences :))

Regular Tea : May the British forgive, but I feel sorry for them ( and the rest of the world ) as they do not know ( read the rest with a British accent please 🙂 how to brew the tea properly :

The tea set I descirbed above is a must. Tea leaves should be used ( never tea bags ) , tea leaves should simmer in the upper pot.

Initially before brewing the tea leaves you should wash the tea leaves ( or moisturise ) , so that while the water in the kettle warms th pot up, the tea leaves won’t overdry.  I have heard so many of my visitors telling that was the best tea they ever drank.

nearby hamdi restaurant :

Also one of the best pistachio-lamb kebab and baklava + shobiyet ( şöbiyet ) is at the nearby Hamdi Restaurant, should be combined with your Spice MArket visit.

Hey backpacker, you too : this time pay a little bit more than a Burger King and treat yourself with this Kebab ( 14$ Us + two slices of sobiyet 7$ Us approx cost )  ; Visual Istanbul is a great Istanbul , but why not take back home a bit of Istanbul in your stomach or belly   , you can walk and burn it do not worry :))

Also at the same restaurant is Icli kofte ( mistakenly metaphoric word by word translation in some menus elsewhere reads sentimantal meatball, as opposed to stuffed ground meat  paddy. Also Gavurdagi Salatasi ( Gavurdağı salatası ) – Infidel’s mountain Salad : Includes Crushed walnut, pomegranade vinegar , finely chopped cucumber, tomato, onion – preferably red, pepper, fresh mint ( replaced by parsley in most places as well as Hamdi. But if you ask for it you can get mint in it as well. This meal better be accompanied by good Turkish Red wine, a decent one with which you will never  go wrong is Yakut,  and Antik ( this  one’s white is also available, also very good ) For white Çankaya is decent.  These are brand names by the way. The large bottles will sell for about 45$ US , between two a small bottle for a day time to tour afterwards is sufficient.

A wine called Kalecik karası is available by many wineries, a bit more pricy. In a bit more

The balcony of Hamdi is a good place for a photographer overlooking Galata Bridge, Golden Horn , New Mosque,  and partial Bosphorus view, across from Galata Tower. I am not their partner, but a good client : Since they keep my visitors so happy; I end up there a number of times a year.

What to do after spice market:

After a slow lunch if it is 2.20 you are on time to catch a taxi to Military Museum to watch the live performance of the military band – mehteran with a superb 5 minute film on their origin and how thet influenced classical composers like Beethoven, Mozart, Chaikowsky and as a result how the music called Ala Turca was born.

Coming soon  :

Pepper Paste – The best well kept secret of Turkish kitchen for the amazing meals ( hot and not hot pepper paste

Mastic ( may come in Turkish delight )

Mad Honey

Also for a visual guide of Istanbul you may visit my photo pages :

http://www.flickr.com/photos/23822697@N02/sets/  some photos there are also from Spica market experiences, that will give you some insight.

February 13, 2010 Posted by | 1 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment