Saturday, March 30, 2013

Sunday morning in Constantinople

Good Easter morning from Istanbul!
I am getting ready to head over to the other side of the Bosphorous to have brunch at a cafe I have heard has an amazing view. I need to take three different modes of transit (trains and a funicular. funicuwhat?) to get there so wish me luck!
It is going to be close to 70 degrees here today!
After brunch I want to visit a museum where the Dervishes got their start.
Had a lovely dinner last night at the coziest spot full of beautiful hanging lamps. Once again, this place is not failing to impress.
Happiest day to you all.


Inside the bazaar from StaciMagnolia on Vimeo.

Hamam me

Hamam me from StaciMagnolia on Vimeo.

Bazaar Saturday, part one

Hey Lady from StaciMagnolia on Vimeo.

Mosques of my dreams

It happened. I saw the Blue Mosque with my own eyes; and it is even more grandiose than you could imagine. From the outside, it is absolutely gigantic, no other words for it.
Inside, it didn't seem so big. But, the ceilings and heights are really what makes it so impressive.

I waited in line inside the courtyard of the mosque. No one in front nor behind me readily spoke English so this time I kept to myself, almost stricken by awe of where I was and what I was doing. It was cold. As the queue became shorter I knew I wouldn't be required to cover my head but it was so gosh darn chilly I wrapped my scarf around my head in the best traditional style I could muster. This mosque did require the removal of shoes and they are certainly strict about it, and rightfully so. They give you a plastic bag to hold your footwear.

Across the square from the Blue Mosque is the Hagia Sofia. (Also known as: Sancta, or Aya Sofya) Although almost just as big, I felt the beauty of this mosque was on the inside.
Before one takeover or another, it was a cathedral. This is easily evidence by the many mosaics depicting Christ, his mother, and persons of their day.
I struck up a very nice conversation with a father traveling with his 2 daughters from Germany. They were from near Nuremberg. As we were waiting, a whole cavalcade of cars and security came through, entering the Hagia Sofia. Who? What?
When I finally got inside the grounds, I asked a security guard: the Prime Minister of Cameroon.
Neat, eh? I have a picture and he is somewhere in amongst the mass crowded near the prayer floor.

I write this as I sit at breakfast on Saturday morning. I would love to write more but I am finding my days to be full and my mind and body are just beat by the time I settle down at night. I am trying to mark down notable things throughout the day to detail here later. And today? Today is bazaar and fancy hamam day!!!
Here are some from the mosques.

Thursday, March 28, 2013


Hamamgasm from StaciMagnolia on Vimeo.

Breakfast and dinner

Last night I ate an entire fish for dinner.
Granted, it was a smallish sea bass, but still.
I knew what I ordered even though I've never been served an entire fish before.
This is all leading up to the fact it was delicious.
Eating around bones > shelling crabs. (Sorry family)
It was served with a few grilled vegetables but most notably there were grilled oranges on my plate. And also the cutest strawberries, stems on! Adorable.

I found that restaurant via TripAdvisor right before I ventured to it. It had 5 tables; a few more if you count the ones outside. I thought it would be a few blocks away but it turned out to be less than a two minute walk from my hotel. I am finding everything here to be closer than I expected.
Yes, men (shopkeepers? restauranteurs?) have spoken to me from the stoops of their respective businesses but I pretend as if I don't hear/understand them and walk on. Bali was MUCH more intense in that respect. But, let's see if I have the same opinion after I visit the Grand Bazaar.

Top sheet aside, I slept great last night.
Breakfast is included in my stay here and I will tell you it is wonderful.
They had an entire honeycomb this morning. Like, fresh from the beehive. It was about a foot in length by 7-8 inches high. I've never seen anything like it; just hanging there, knife and spatula set out for the self-serve honeycomb.
Let me tell you what else was self-serve: oranges. As in, make your own juice. What a delight! Here's a bowl of oranges, here's a knife, here's a juicer, go to town. You know I did.
The only thing slightly disappointing to my palate thus far has been the yogurt I had this morning. Bleck. No, thank you.
And now for the part perhaps only my mother would appreciate: they had egg cups! Cute little holders for your hard-boiled eggs.
There was also polenta. See? Totally not disappointed with this spread.
It was obviously all excellent fuel for what I knew was going to be a long day.

Day one, video one

Super brief summary, day one. from StaciMagnolia on Vimeo.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Across time zones

I was hoping to have the gumption to write quite a bit tonight, but after traveling who knows how many hours I am ready for nothing but some sleep.

The line for passport control was insanely long and by that point all I could do was be patient, hate myself for having such a heavy bag, subsequently sweat, and chat with the sweet older English woman in line behind me. It took me about an hour to reach my hotel from the airport, with one transfer. Bought a transit card, found my lines, done and done.

The famous mosques came into view the nearer I came to my tram stop. They are monstrous even from afar. I could not believe what I was seeing.

My journey here was basically uneventful but I am about to tell you something you're not going to believe: my airplane food was delicious. I AM NOT KIDDING. It was dinner, served on my flight to Munich and it was some sort of mostly unrecognizable Indian fare. Green beans with coconut shavings, rice, tofu and some other things (was that a tomato? possibly a carrot? piece of eggplant? I have no idea.)

This hotel is rather lovely but I don't yet understand the keycard/light system or why there is not a top sheet on the bed.
It's rainy and quite chilly so hopefully tomorrow I'll be sitting in the pub on the corner writing about the whole fish I ate for dinner tonight.

For now, here's a few pieces of my travel day

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Airport interlude

I checked in almost three hours to the minute from my departure time. However, for a minute I was not even sure I was going to make it to the terminal because my parking shuttle driver seemed to be born with a lead foot. I was re-organizing my things and WHOOPS there goes my sunglasses and cosmetics kit flying across the shuttle's floor. I was the only one on the shuttle so I risked my life to stand up and retrieve my items while this dude rocketed our shuttle ahead.
Also, do they not drop you off right at the check-in doors anymore? Not that this is a huge deal but girl with a bad back really doesn't take a liking to walking across the street, through baggage claim, and up a flight to get to the ticket counter.

Those who know me well know one of my main personal credos: Preparation is my comfort zone. My purse is always large and I promise I have everything you need. Hey, thanks for this gene, Mom! I think at this point my carry-on bag may be heavier than my suitcase.

For this trip I invested in a rolling duffle; I am already singing its praises. By the time I got everything in, Miss Overpacker had at least 10 lbs to spare. Clearly that portable luggage scale has been a good investment, as well. Buuuut by the time my trip reaches its end and I am about to leave Lisbon something tells me I will have invested in the cheapest tote I can find to cart home all your souvenirs.

I'm currently bogarting an entire 4-person table in the atrium in my airport home of Terminal C. It's bright and kind of airy but it smells like ketchup. I always (usually! whenever possible!) do the right thing so God help the person who tries to sit down and share this table with me. Unless it's an attractive and cosmopolitan looking gentleman. Then, by all means, HAVE A SEAT, SIR.

A word about airport security screening: my carry-on bag was flagged and checked earlier. The TSA officer (a woman) was friendly and gentle with my things. They saw the ipad holder I have, which, as an aluminum easel of sorts, does look like a sharp weapon. She dug that out, examined it, and replaced it. Then she took out my ipad, said she had to some kind of test to it, took it out of my sight for no more than 3 seconds and that was it. Done. Did I at all, in any way take issue with any of this? No way. If they are being this thorough then thank you, TSA, thank you for protecting me and all of us. I don't think it's silly and I'm actually happy to let them do their business. I mean come on, this is coming from a girl who doesn't even wear socks when she knows she has to remove her shoes in the security line. How THAT falls out of line with so many of my other ocd-ish quirks, I have no idea.

I land in Munich in what will be the early, early morning for all of you. If I find my way and exchange my currency with enough time to spare I will certainly share what transpired in the air.


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Not why. Why not?

I wanted to write when my trip was two weeks away, then I wanted to write when it was one week away. Here I sit now, late Saturday night, three days away.

I really need to start by saying, God bless my parents. I mean, really. Me, their only child, has thus far in her life decided to transfer to a college hundreds of miles away from them, then fly across the world to live for a year, and is now taking herself on a multi-city European trip -- alone. I cannot pinpoint how or why I am at ease with my distinctly independent choices, but I am certain they deserve the credit. Thank you, thank you, thank you for always supporting me whether you agreed or understood, nudging me to always follow my heart and loving me to the fullest. It is because of you both that I have grown into the person I always hoped, as a child, I'd be as an adult.

Packing has not officially begun but there are countless piles around my apartment just waiting for a place. Of course there's a list on my kitchen table. Hey look, there's even a few things crossed off. Right now, I'm not a bit stressed. I feel good about everything. Excited. Anxious. I may go as far as even saying prepared. I'm definitely prepared for Istanbul. I have maps and tips and guides out the wazoo. Lisbon? Eh. Yes, I have maps, yes, I invested in a transit card, yes, I know some places I want to visit. Beyond that I'm going into it with a bit more spontaneity.

Let me address what has, rightfully, drawn some quizzical looks the past few weeks: the fact that I am taking this trip by myself. I understand the safety and security side of it, I promise you I do and that's not something I will be cavalier about. But that aspect is not enough to keep me from doing something I desire to do -- at least not in this case. I bummed around Tokyo on a regular basis so the idea of exploring a city is not daunting to me, it's exciting.
How liberating it is to not have to agree on where to go or what to see, to not have to wait for anyone. Do you know how difficult it can be to travel with someone? I am not excluding myself from this equation.
I have some fantastic people in my life and while I did pose this trip to a few of them, none could commit for their own legitimate reasons. Again, not enough of a factor to stop me.
The phrase I've instilled recently is: No husband, no kids, no pets. If now is not a time for me to travel and see the parts of the world that interest me most, I know it will be much different (but hopefully not harder) if any one of those three things enters my life.

As learned from my time in Japan, my writing does best when stimulated by new experiences. What you can expect from this blog: words, pictures, and maybe a video or two. I will post a few pictures here then link to a larger album. Both of my hotels have wi-fi. I am hoping to post frequently but I have no idea how my days will turn out. I look ever so forward to your comments and any questions you may have about all I share.

Thank you to everyone  who has been encouraging and excited along with me in the days leading up to this journey. Knowing I have a squad at home cheering me on is a comfort I could never even begin to adequately describe.

Planning days are here again

(Written 2/26)
The guidebooks are on my kitchen table, the borrowed dvds sit in my living room. The moleskin notebook with the pretty watercolor by a Portuguese artist still sits empty. And it's only now I am glad I kept my camera's instruction manual. For years I have simply, and naively, been pointing and clicking.
How did I choose these two vastly different places, miles and miles separating them? I don't have a specific answer, I really don't. I suppose I was just drawn there during those stressful days of staring at Google maps. The Nordic countries have always been on my list but the end of March is still a very daunting (read: COLD) time to try to attempt a visit there.
Istanbul's history is almost as old as the written word itself. I already know the shapes, sounds, colors and tastes are going to draw me in.
Lisbon is more of a mystery and that's what I want. A place more traditionally European but coastal and seemingly modern and abuzz with life little publicized.
It's been so long since I have written like this. Today I mentioned this idea to a friend and she seemed so supportive and interested and it was perhaps just the push I needed to get back to it.
How can I, basically undaunted, book a solo European trip but be completely apprehensive about writing again? That's a question I haven't thought long enough to answer. And I'm not sure I want to.
So thanks for visiting; I'm happy to have you along for the ride.