Drachmas & Nemo
Final official post. Last day in Istanbul, Bodrum, and the Nautilus.

I write this from aboard the E/V Nautilus. We have finally reached our destination after over a week of delays. I spoke with the head of the expedition and I can no longer provide a personal blog. However, I will be writing a few pieces in the near future on the official Nautilus website (http://www.nautiluslive.org/), with fingers crossed. I will provide links for those once I get my work posted. We are now operational and we are streaming 24/7. I will be working the noon-4pm and 8pm-midnight shifts (central time). You can actually send us questions and listen to us live. Check it out!

Saturday we decided to take it easy. We knew our time in Istanbul was waning. I still wanted to get a Turkish shave so Jeff and I headed back over to the historic district and treated ourselves. I never have had a straight razor shave, so it was an experience. I honestly could not tell that much of a difference in closeness, but the barber used a variety of aftershaves and lotions which felt incredible. Jeff and I indulged and even got some type of clay mask which peeled the sweat and grime right off our faces. 

Straight razor

The Mask of Jeff

After treating ourselves, we met up with Pontus (our Swedish friend), Cory, and Maggie back at the hotel. We found a nice place in the Taksim district earlier in the week and decided we would grace it with our patronage. Saturday is a busy night in Istanbul, especially in Taksim. The restaurant was packed but we got a table. I had some excellent swordfish on a skewer.

Swordfish Kebab

Dinner entertainment

Taksim Square was hopping!

After that we went back to the bar we went to the other night. We danced and sweated out all the liquids we gulped down thanks to a variety of Turkish cover bands. It was a great time, but I headed back to the hotel earlier than the rest of the group (I wanted to talk to my girlfriend and not be TOO drunk). I caught a taxi in Taksim. A quick note on travel in Istanbul: the Bosporus is a problem. The ferries stop at night, so the only connection between Europe and Asia are the two  bridges which span the water way. This being the case, the small veins of traffic flow into these massive arteries which, on a Saturday night, are flowing with the fervent passion induced by the Istanbul night life. These arteries become clogged with fatty traffic and make travel a pain.  My taxi driver, told me of “traffic problems” in broken English, and I responded in my broken Turkish. We chatted. This is what I thought the conversation was:

What were you doing in Taksim?-Taxi Driver says in English

Discoteque!-I say in my poor excuse for Turkish

Party cab!-He said and turned up some Turkish house music

Soon enough we were flying on the highway on the southern coast of the European side of Istanbul with signs for Attaturk Airport appearing. The Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, and the Theodosian walls were blurs on my right. We abruptly stopped at some cavernous entrance of a club where you could hear the deep reverberations of bass bellowing out. Suddenly, I realized the apparent communication breakdown. It was illuminated with the bright glare of my naive trust in my mastery of Turkish and the reassuring enthusiasm with which the taxi driver had been driving. He had taken me to the opposite side of the Bosporus practically to the edge of town under the impression I wanted to go to a club. I was able to convey this misunderstanding to him after a lot of pointing and gesturing. We flew through the outskirts of town and headed towards the Bosporus Bridge which was lit with the hundreds of cars slowly pumping their brakes across the Bosporus. After moving around 20 meters a minute for approximately 40 minutes, we finally crossed into the Asian side of Istanbul and I paid a hefty taxi bill (around $50!!!). I was certainly relieved to be back after this 90 minute ride through the city.

Traffic was actually packed up this far.

I checked my email and discovered we were to catch a taxi to the international airport on the Asian side to fly down to Bodrum to meet up with the Nautilus at 1pm Sunday. We were finally mobilizing! 

The flight was quick, Bodrum is located maybe 200 miles south of Istanbul on the coast of Turkey. It is at the ancient site of Halicarnassus, where one of the seven wonders of the ancient world once stood, the Tomb of Mausolus. However, this structure has been taken apart and reassemble in during the 4th Crusade to create a castle in the middle of the Bodrum harbor.

Sunset in Bodrum, the Crusader Castle on the right

At long last

This ancient history is interesting but really I am relieved to finally get going. We met up with the crew at a local hotel and enjoyed a few drinks. About a quarter to midnight we hurried aboard and caught the vessel prior to its midnight departure. We are finally here. 

Stray thoughts

Spice Market, Bosporus Tour, and almost ancient castles supplemental 

Spice Market, Bosporus Tour, and almost ancient castles

By July 6th we had fully recovered and were itching to leave the Harem Hotel. Cory found a ferryboat cruise which for 25 Liras (a little over $12) would take us from the Golden Horn to the entrance of the Black Sea. Around noon we crossed the Bosporus and purchased our ferry tickets. The boat would not leave until 1:35, so we had some time to kill. We decided to check out the Spice Market, another sprawling complex of shops which ebbed and flowed with tides of tourists, shop owners, and exotic smells.

The Entrance to the Spice Bazaar

THE SPICE MUST FLOW

I picked up some candied ginger because I have been told by several people that ginger can combat sea sickness. Also, they taste  like a giant gooey ginger snap cookie, so that is acceptable. We swung by a restaurant for a quick lunch. We have had a lot of the traditional Turkish meals including pitas (which is like a personal pizza), Kufta (like deep fried meatballs with rice and spices inside), and kebabs. However, I finally found something truly odd. They offered heart at this little diner outside of the Spice Bazaar and I had to get it. The heart tasted a bit fatty but actually was pretty tender. I think it was cow heart. I would certainly get it again.

A HEART-y meal (Carl? CARL?)

After our lunch we boarded our ferry. I picked up an audio guide which used a GPS signal to narrate the voyage up the Bosporus. We passed ancient buildings drenched with history. The tour also pointed out modern attractions. There were castles with walls which were meters thick and there were modern mansions surround only by a thin fence. The ferry took us under the two massive bridges which link the European side to the Asian side of Istanbul.

On the back of the ferry with the Bosporus Bridge in the background

Palace along the Bosporus

Rumelian Castle near the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge

The ferry slowly floated up the waterway and finally left us off on the Anatolian (Asian) side of the city with a castle towering above us. The ferry would return in three hours so we decided to hike up to the top of the castle and get a look at the Yoros castle and also the Black Sea. It was a very steep walk. This area is right at the mouth of the Black Sea and is still an important military position. There were lots of foreboding signs to communicate the amount of foolhardiness necessary to cross into the military area. The view at the top of the Yoros Castle was simple and breathtaking. The Black Sea stretched into the horizon beyond the mouth of the Bosporus. Tankers, cargo vessels, and little fishing boats made their away around the entrance. Yoros castle was built in the early Byzantine era (according to my audio guide) and had been used by the Genoese and the Ottomans. The structure itself is made of other buildings. We spied a few column capitals and bases which made up the side of a couple of the towers.

Yoros Castle

Yoros Castle at the summit

Post all the castles!!! (look for the capital heads)

The Bosporus and the Black Sea

We floated back down the Bosporus around 5 and finally returned to the Harem Hotel around 7pm. The quick trip up the straits made each of us a little more anxious to get aboard the Nautilus and begin our research. We had supper with a Swedish traveler named Pontus who we met in the hotel bar. He taught us some useful Swedish phrases and complained about Danish accents.

Stray Thoughts

  • I learned to order beer in Swedish. All it translates to is “I want a big and strong”
  • The jersey I bought at the Grand Bazaar is a mixed blessing. It is polyester…so I am constantly sweating, but the player’s number I bought is very popular. Lots of Turks have been very excited to see it and speak quickly at me, all I say is “Evet (yes)”.
  • The Bosporus only allows commercial boats to sail through at certain times, or so I have heard. For 12 hours they can head north and 12 hours they can head the other way. We saw a fleet of ships on the south end around sunset today.
  • I saw a Japanese Coast Guard vessel docked in the Golden Horn. Anyone? Bueller? 
July 5th: International Recovery Day (Hey Dad, I found a train station)

After our expat 4th, we spent our 5th of July relaxing around the hotel. I arose promptly at noon and joined the other crew members for lunch. After a quick bite at the hotel restaurant, I laid out and began to read “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde. Apparently this is another classic novel which my high school arrogance forced me to avoid or I never crossed path with it prior to this moment. So far I have enjoyed the wit and the subtle references. However, on the same coin, it is easy to get lost and then read the same sentence 2-5 times. Oh well. On the 4th I finished Philip K. Dick’s “The Man in the High Castle”. Interesting sci-fi alternative history which posits that Japan and Germany won WWII and runs with it. After a few hours of laying about, I met up with Cory and Maggie to take a walk to the south coast of the Anatolian (Asian) side of Istanbul. We found the Haydrapasha region which had been the terminus of the Orient Express in a better time. Now it is just a train station and industrial area. 

Haydrapasha Train Station

The Germans built this Neo Classical train station.

Wouldn’t be a train station without…

Train station from the bridge

Some old wooden cars

Mosque towering near the train yard

Nice train station. Built by the Germans in the mid 19th century. It apparently connected Istanbul to Baghdad. I think I remember learning about all of the contracts which the Ottomans outsourced which ultimately destroyed their national economy. This train system was certainly mentioned. However, it is still a pretty neat place to walk around. 

Stray Thoughts

  • Recovery day is good for…recovery
  • The next post will include a much more eventful day, I promise
  • We found a new place to eat that gets us our check faster than the hotel takes our orders.
  • I think we might be able to board our ship soon (fingers crossed!!!)

Name that tune (Puppet edition). Taksim Square district on the 4th of July

An expatriate 4th of July

Apparently America’s independence day is unremarkable on to the Turkish calendar. Who would have guessed it? However, when you gather six Americans who are in a foreign city for an indeterminate amount of time on the 4th…it makes for a pretty patriotic and fun time. We spent most of the day relaxing around the pool and sunbathing. We decided to celebrate Independence Day by enjoying the Istanbul night life. Of course this would begin by heading out for a ritzy supper. We found a place in the heart of the modern city. We crossed the Bosporus on the ferry and then crossed the Golden Horn from the old city to the modern area. The bridge that traverses the water is filled with restaurants underneath  and also provided a stunning view of the sun setting on a humid day over the Golden Horn. We then boarded the 2nd oldest subway in the world which took us uphill to, what I will refer to as, the Taksim Square district.

Sunset over the Golden Horn bridge

On July 3rd Cory did some recon work in the area and found some promising chic restaurants. Through spotty wi-fi navigation, we were able to make it to a very nice cafe/bar/restaurant which was apparently owned by an American…though we never saw her. We each had a few generous drinks and some great big American meals. I ordered butterfly beef which was very patriotic, I thought.

More food pictures (butterfly beef).

Over supper we discussed finding an “American” bar to celebrate the holiday at. We conversed at great length trying to tease out exactly what was meant by “American” bar. It certainly had to have canned Bud Light, sparklers, and patriotic music. We wandered around Taksim square for a bit, which is a bustling area full of nightlife, restaurants, puppets playing pianos, mimes, and vendors selling shellfish. It is the Turkish version of a New York or Chicago street in the heart of the respective city. Something is always happening and someone is always trying to get you to buy something. Burger Kings and McDonald’s light the streets and mosques form silhouettes in the background. Kebab places and what only could be called as “Turkish drunk food” were wide spread. We were finally directed to a bar where we could actually get in. Turkish clubs are a bit different than the American bars I frequent. The bouncers try to enforce gender balance, so our group of five guys and one girl was not well received.

Taksim Square is the place to loiter apparently.

Sounds appetizing

Busy streets

The bar we found was on the 2nd level of a fairly modern building. The band inside had the American hits down. Eric Clapton “Cocaine”, Tina Turner/CCR “Proud Mary”, and to top it all off (though not an American) Amy Winehouse! They passed out some pink shots for free which were appreciated by all…and even more appreciated once no one passed out from them.

All that matters is saxophone.

Balcony of the bar

Cory & Maggie leaving the Ankara Ishani as the bouncers stands his ground

After the band wrapped up, we wandered back to Taksim square. On the way we saw a man shooting lighted helicopters off of a rubber band. They were tiny hand held things made of plastic which were flung off of a launcher into the air and slowly descended with their wings. We all bought one and these became our ad hoc fireworks for the night. We caught a six person bus/taxi which dropped us off after it crossed the southernmost bridge over the Bosporus. Once we finally returned to our hotel, we gathered around the pool, sang the national anthem and launched our fireworks. It was the best expat 4th in recent memory.

Stray thoughts

  • I am pretty sure the hotel staff actively ignores us now, oh well.
  • Mimes still creep me out, not so much puppets playing classical music.
  • The Turkish Lira is a poly-chromatic currency. Makes the dollar look bland.

Inside the Hagia Sophia on the 3rd of July.