Sunday, February 23, 2014

Istanbul, A Turkish Delight

We just returned from a wonderful get-away to Istanbul Turkey and what a treat. I was able to have my first Turkish Bath, (soapy and scrubby, better than a massage) and enjoy some Turkish spices in food that was just delicious. The weather in the high 60's and sunny was perfect for a cruise on the Bosphorus, visiting ancient Mosques, walls of Constantinople, Grand Bazaar, Spice Market, and an underwater Cistern built by the Romans and full of mystery.  We had always wanted to explore this great city with enormous historical tales and we were not disappointed. It was interesting to hear the Greek's history of events and then hear the Turkish version. The Ambassador Hotel was perfect and the people as nice and welcoming as you could want. If you get the chance to visit you should, it was a delight.

Trip was too quick, I could have spent a few more days to explore- also, it's the cleanest I've seen Richard.
My take:

The Blue Mosque or the Sultan Ahmed Mosque was built in 1609 - 1616.
   Istanbul has 3,000 Mosques in a city of approximately 15 million people.  Our guide told us that 99% of the population here are Muslim, 40% are practicing Muslims, and maybe 20% attend services at the Mosques. Even though Turkey is a Secular State, one hears the chanting through loudspeakers 5 times during the day as everyone is called to pray.

Inside of the Blue Mosque - still in use, even as tourists tramp through taking pictures

Before praying in the Mosque - a ritual of washing called Wadu is done.
Outside of  Hagia Sophia Mosque
Once a Byzantine Church in 532, built by Emperor Justinian.  He wanted to build the world's largest cathedral so materials were brought from all over the empire to build the church - Hellenistic columns from the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, marble from Thessaly, stones from Egypt and Syria.
When the Ottomans conquered the city in 1453 it was converted to a Mosque and then became a museum after 1931.
These pictures cannot do justice to the architecture and collection of relics of this now museum.  A museum that holds both Christian mosaics and historic Islamic art is always a challenge for the restorers as they continue to uncover more mosaics that have been plastered over when converted to  a mosque.

A visit to the Egyptian Bazaar known as the Spice Market!

"Mr. Richard, what can I interest you in...."
 I don't know what Mr. Richard is filling that black bag with...

Heading into the Grand Bazaar to check out the shopping.  Since we only have so much space in our suitcases, we got out of there with a scarf for me and a belt for Rich.

We were in the Grand Bazaar early and caught a Sales Meeting.  Richard was ready to give some advice.
A Turkish Silk Rug can take a year or more to make - at least she gets to chat with her friends on her
 Iphone as she is working.

The Basilica Cistern - An ancient cistern that lies beneath the city was built in the 6th century by the Emperor Constantine and later expanded by Emperor Justinian.  Back in the day it held 100,000 tons of water and was built by 7.000 slaves.  

In the Cistern are two columns with Medusa's head at the base -why is her head upside down and sideways is the mystery.  (Dan Brown's new book Inferno has a climatic scene here!)

Old walls of Constantinople still standing throughout the city

City View over the Bosphorus or Golden Horn - I can't remember, it was a quick picture.  I was really more interested in taking a Turkish coffee break at this point.

Peace Out  - 3 days was not long enough.  We did buy a box of baklava, so we could taste all the different varieties - chocolate, pistachio, almond etc.  We over indulged, but what the heck we had a delightful time!!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Our Life in Ruins Continues

It all somehow feels as mythological as the Greek gods, these monumental people, Aristotle, Plato, Socrates etc. of 2500 years ago and their incredible influence on what we do today and their brief appearance on this stage and it's importance. The ideas and philosophies that are the cornerstones of so much of our way of thinking, the cradle of western civilization, democracy, theater, science, literature and more. To walk the same steps that Alexander the Great, Pericles, Aristophanes and other amazing people walked, continually overwhelms me.

We went to the Byzantine & Christian Museum (incredible displays and set-up, not seen enough by visitors) and it described how the Christian influence sent everything into the Dark Ages, (or more PC, the Middle Ages). Almost all advances in literature, science, philosophy, came to a halt. All these great cities, ie. Constantinople and Athens, were sacked and pagan art, sculpture and ideas were abolished after 300AD. These Classical ideas of democracy, philosophy, literature etc. were sent into hiding for years. Centuries of oppression and war clearly illuminates that only with freedom of expression can creativity and humankind improve and evolve.

 One man's opinion.

Wait a minute Aristotle wannabe.....  I too am on top of the Acropolis, and yes Athens is one of the world's oldest cities dating back 3,400 years, and I too am in awe that it is the cradle of western civilization today - but guess what?  They treated their women like property and women were not involved at all in anything but rocking a baby's cradle.   I'm wondering why they revered their immortal goddesses, ie Athena, (who Athens was named after) and treated their mortal women so poorly.  Ahh, I guess like today, it's still a work in progress.....

We promise you, this will be the last post of Ruins (until we get to Rome)

View of Acropolis from Filopapou Hill

The Parthenon atop the Acropolis was built between 447 and 438 BC.  The Parthenon is a temple dedicated to the goddess Athena.  Throughout history the Parthenon has been either destroyed  by wars, fires, or changed from pagan temples to christian churches by the Byzantine Empire, then mosques by the Turks, the greatest catastrophe was in 1687 an explosion caused by the Venetians trying to capture the Acropolis - - on and on lots of back stories...Such a history!

A couple of modern cuties resting after climbing to the top of the Acropolis

Porch of the Caryatids.  These 6 statues are replicas - 5 of  the original statues are in the Acropolis Museum and one is on display at the British Museum.  The Greek  government is demanding for her return, saying she was stolen -  good luck, even George Clooney  got into it with the Brits and asked for her return to Greece.  Good gossip stuff since he was just here pushing his new movie "Monument Men"...

In the foreground are the ancient ruins of Agora with modern Athens as the backdrop

The Ancient Marketplace below the Acropolis.  An open-air marketplace where merchants and craftsmen made and sold their wares.

The Modern Marketplace on the gates outside the Ancient Marketplace - still doing business!

Renata channeling Athena, the goddess of wisdom and war that ancient Greece put on a pedestal....

Eric channeling Hermes, Olympian god, son of Zeus - god of transitions and boundaries.  He is quick and cunning and moves freely between the worlds.  He is a messenger of the gods.  He is protector and patron of travelers.  Does sound a bit like Eric.... 

A Temple to Zeus -  King of the gods.  Married to Hera but the god had many children with many different immortal and mortal women.  He was a player.

From the Byzantine & Christian Museum - proof that baby Jesus was black.
 (Can someone let Megyn Kelly of Fox News know)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

"ROADTRIP" A Pilgrimage Outside Athens

Poseidon's Temple
I am not sure Apostle Paul was as lost as the 4 souls in a beat up rental car with the battery on the Tom-Tom/GPS going dead. But, we made it to the beautiful Temple of Poseidon (and maybe the prettiest sunset location ever).

Then a 4 hour drive into the hills to the Temple at Delphi, (so much energy here we forgot to eat, I mean really). The enchanting Hamlet of Galaxidi and a wonderful B&B -  Hotel Gianemede.

The last day was at a magnificent Castle/Acropolis in Corinth that has the most incredible history. You must go, one of the few places you can wander without barriers or guards and recreate what it must have felt like to have Roman soldiers rushing up the walls. "Game of Thrones" realized.  It made me think of my Dad, Lindy Lindroos who was the most intelligent historian I have known, I would have loved to have him as a guide, but thankfully, we had his granddaughter who has his love of history DNA, Greek Mythology, plus some climbing instincts of a mountain goat. Man, I am exhausted.

We all took the Greek god test on-line and Richard turned out to be Poseidon -brother of Zeus and Hades.  Renata -Athena, Eric -Aphrodite, (though I still say Eric is Hermes - and not the designer) and me - I chose Nike. (To Hades with the Quiz) But today it is all about Poseidon, god of the sea, protector of all waters. His weapon is a trident, used to stir up the sea creating waves and storms.  He is also associated with horses, bulls, and earthquakes (Sounds like Richard all right, after a good Greek meal ).  He is second only to Zeus in power among the gods.

What did Richard (I mean Poseidon) mean by forgetting to eat??

The temple of Poseidon was constructed in approximately 440 B.C.  Reminds me of giant Lego pieces.

The Greek Temple of Poseidon is located at Cape Sounion in Attica. This sacred Temple sits dramatically on the coast of the Aegean Sea.

Sunset over the Agean Sea

The story of Poseidon is fascinating and tales of battles at sea and sailors paying homage to Poseidon, the 2nd most powerful God in Greek mythology.  With our Ouzo, Food and Wine consumption I am feeling more like Dionysus. Join us next when I recreate the Corinthians outrage to Paul's letter to not act like children, he may as well have sent it to the group in our car.

Back in the car on our sacred journey - we are now heading to Delphi to consult the Oracle at the Temple of Apollo.  Delphi is situated on the edge of a high cliff on the slopes of Mount Parnassus and in ancient times was considered the center of the Earth - where heaven and earth meet. It is still one of the greatest pilgrimage sites in the world. Will we keep ourselves open to the legendary mysticism one feels when visiting this sacred site?

This mountain sanctuary was the holiest site in ancient Greece. Picture includes the Sanctuary of Apollo and the Sanctuary of Athena - where is Athena now?

Awe Inspiring views.  Eric channeling a runner in the ancient Pythian games at the stadium of Delphi and Richard waxing poetic at the theater of Delphi channeling Aristophanes.  Yes - this was a mystic place.....
 We were here for hours soaking in the legendary magic - the spirit of Zeus' son Apollo is still here

After a long day at the Temple, enjoying the picturesque historic fishing village of Galaxidi on the Gulf of Corinth near ancient Delphi.  A favorite spot for vacationing Greeks.

Our Aegean Diet

Long day for us, I think we must have felt the magic on our sacred journey today because everyone was quietly introspective - well, for a minute or two.

The next day we drove along the coast of the Ionian Sea and stopped in Corinth, where we spent a few hours playing Game of Thrones

Athena brewing up a storm

Hunting for the Temple of Aphrodite, on the hilltops highest point

Ahh!  We found the Temple - Aphrodite with a Hermes bag
A "Cliff" notes version - Acrocorinth was Corinth's fortress throughout its history.  From 657-583BC, Corinth was ruled by the tyrant Kypselos and his descendants. - destroyed by the Roman army in 146 BC, refortified by Julius Cesar in 44 BC and flourished and prospered until the 12 century AD when the fortress fell to the Franks of the Fourth Crusade, the Ottoman Turks conquered the castle in 1458 etc etc. ( don't want to bore you, you had to be there)   
Really was a Game of Thrones!

The Gods are all happy - now it's time for Ouzo!


Saturday, February 1, 2014

Cooking Class in Athens, Yamas!

Maria in her Taverna Klimataria

Just had the best time at a cooking class in Athens, and if you ever venture here you must sign up!  Maria, our instructor owns this cool place behind a church nearly 100 years old called Taverna Klimataria. 

Maria has such warmth, passion and love of Greek food. In her class you drink, you prep, you drink, you cook, you eat, you drink, and eat and so on...

We started at 5:30 pm and stayed until after 1am- dancing and drinking with the locals.  Greeks do not usually start dinner until 10 pm and will stay till past
3 am.  We left early (2 am),  and still felt like Dionysus - completely exhausted.

Food is an important part of Greek life - and with fresh vegetables and fish so inexpensive here, you find abundant amounts being served at all the Tavernas we visited. (In other words, we never left a Greek Tavern hungry!)  Besides all the fresh vegetables and seafood, Greek cuisine includes fresh herbs, various meats, feta cheese, olives, and olive oil and more olive oil!  (Greeks consume more olive oil per person than anywhere worldwide).  The vegetarian in our group was ecstatic when she saw what we would be cooking: Eggplant pies, Greek salad, Feta cheese salad, eggplant salad, Dolmadakia, Tazatziki, and one protein main dish - Lamb in Hull.  Where to start........   

Hands washed and aprons on.....

Maria meeting the class, we will see what kind of students these gods are (We just finished visiting the Acropolis)....

Class does not begin until a glass of Retsina - Yamas!! 
(A Greek Toast that was repeated throughout the evening)

Teacher's Pet gets to sit beside Maria.....

Athena starts the Mini Eggplant Pies or Mpourekakia.  The pastry is made with 1 kg self-rising flour, equal parts of Greek yogurt and butter (200gr), tsp of salt and sugar, 1/2 tsp nutmeg and 1 tbl of vinegar.  "Vinegar is the magic in pastry making" says Maria.   The pastry seems to be a piece of cake for Athena.

Can Hermes excel at pastry making as sister Athena?  He is trying to work magic on that dough with only his smile - hmmm, only Maria can tell - we don't want the dough too sweet....

 A break in the action with Uncle Poseidon - "Yamas!"

The finished pies.....time to put them in the oven.  Can you see why I am teachers pet?

"Come on Class - quit all the drinking, we have 5 more dishes to make!"

Don't worry Maria, stuffed cabbage leaves always taste better with wine.  Yamas!  
What does Poseidon do again??

Tzatziki tastes so much better when Maria feeds you...

"Ok, so you all do better work with wine - look at this beautiful stuffed eggplant!!"

Eggplant three ways  and  Lamb  - Nostemo!

Sitting down to a wonderful meal we prepared, however, Hermes is having a problem.....

Thank goodness for Maria, she was able to help Hermes by cutting up his lamb for him...

Efkharisto  Maria.  The meal was Phantastika!