Sharks, Stingrays, and the Trojan Horse at the Istanbul Aquarium

Yesterday we took a trip to the Istanbul Aquarium. It’s a large, beautiful, recently-built (2011) aquarium with many tanks and colorful exhibits. It’s located in the Florya neighborhood, near Atatürk Airport. (This is not to be confused with the other aquarium in Istanbul; the Forum Mall called “Turkuazoo.” We’re going to check that out in another month or so.)

As far as I know, there is no quick way to get to the Istanbul Aquarium from where we live in Şişli. There is a public bus that goes from Taksim Square and stops near or in front of the Aquarium but it’s a very long ride.

There used to be a stop in Florya on the commuter rail line. That line was been shut down and the tracks ripped up. There will be a stop there again on the Marmaray subway line. The Marmaray [link] is the newly-opened train line that runs under the Bosphorus. As of now, it only has four or five stops. The original stop in Florya was less than a kilometer from the aquarium.

I suggested we take a taxi. Sure it was expensive, but it was quicker than any other method available to us.

The aquarium is laid out regionally. There are sections dedicated to bodies of water such as the Black Sea, the Mediterranean, the Bosphorus, the Red Sea, and the Atlantic. We saw a lot of different kinds of fish.
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We also so Dory,

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and Nemo.

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There is also a restaurant (Sütiş) and a few cafes, too. Here’s my daughter letting her brother taste her Nutella-flavored gelato.

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There’s also a replica of the Trojan Horse.

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I didn’t understand why the Trojan Horse was in the aquarium. Neither did my son. He said it didn’t make any sense.

The aquarium is laid out a bit like Ikea, in that you start at one end and have to keep going until you have seen every exhibit before reaching the exit. The exit is, of course, through the gift shop. We managed to get out of the gift shop without buying the kids anything. The gift shop itself has two exits: one to the entrance of the aquarium and one to the Aqua Florya mall.

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We did a little window-shopping. Stephanie did find an absolutely gorgeous dress…for 1990 TL. Even with the favorable exchange rate, that’s still a $900+ dress. She does have good taste.

We explored the back of the mall which faces the Marmara sea.

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I imagine on a warm sunny day that this is a great place to sit and hang out.

We hailed a cab at the Taxi Stand out front and the kids nodded off on the ride back to Taksim. Two worn-out kids is the sign of a successful outing.

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What to Do When the Company That Makes Your Ebook Reader Exits the Market?

The big news in the ebook world back in North America is that Sony is closing its Reader ebook store and transitioning it customer base to Kobo. The closing was not much of a surprise after Sony stopped selling their digital readers in the US this past Fall.

The fact they are trying to give their soon-to-be former customers a smooth transition to another company is a welcome surprise. Like all the other Sony Reader owners, I received an email explaining how the transition is supposed to happen. I don’t know how smooth it will be. I hope all the books I purchased are also available on Kobo.

I bought a Sony Reader (PRS-350) back in Spring of 2011. I like the design and the touchscreen interface. The fact that the casing is metal has always made it feel durable to me.

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I’ve been splitting my time between ebooks and dead tree books. The Sony Reader has come in very handy for our temporary move here to Istanbul. I bought several books and put them on the Reader before we left for Turkey. Books are heavy. And the airlines don’t let you bring as much (even on international flights) as they used to. Well, they do, but you have to pay more for it.

Having the Reader also allowed me to acquire copies of Turkey-related books like Lady Montagu’s Letters and the writings of Procopius, courtesy of Project Gutenberg. The former was the perceptive wife of the British ambassador to Turkey during the early 18th century. The latter was a historian during the age of Justinian here in what was then Constantinople. I also have the ebook of Orhan Pamuk’s Museum of Innocence. I hope to read that before we leave Istanbul in the Summer.

When my Sony Reader dies what will I do? Nook will be dead soon. Do I go with a Kobo or join in the modern eReader Borg (aka Kindle)?

I have time to decide despite the fact that after nearly three years the battery life on my Sony Reader is noticeably less than what it once was (though significantly longer than my smart phone and my wife’s iPad). Regardless, I’m glad I always keep copies of my ebooks on my laptop. I don’t understand these people with wifi readers who don’t have their own backup copies. If it comes down to an issue of compatibility with my future ebook reader, I’ll just strip the DRM from my Sony Reader bookstore purchases.

Note: The screensaver picture on my Sony Reader is one I took of Beyazit Tower back in the late summer. My wife has since been able to tour the tower.

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Istanbul Archeological Museums

This past Saturday we took the tram to Gülhane Park to see the Archaeology Museum. Technically there are three museums in the complex: the Archaeology Museum, the Ancient Orient Museum, and the Tiled Kiosk Museum. One ticket gets you into all three.

We only had time to enter the Archeology Museum. The kids were interested for a little while and then they became hungry. But we did get to see many interesting sarcophagi and statues.

Afterwards we ate lunch at a nearby restaurant. Since the kids were disappointed the restaurant was out of dondurma (ice cream) for dessert, we walked across the street to a small shop. Lo and behold they had ice cream. And there was much rejoicing.

We strolled through Gülhane Park with the rest of the Turks and tourists, while the kids enjoyed their ice cream. It was a mostly sunny day. We wandered and found a different entrance from the one we entered and emerged near the Sirkeci train station. The station has a stop on the newly-fabled Marmaray, the subway line that goes under the Bosphorus. We have yet to take a ride on it. We need to do that before we leave just to say we did it. The funny things is, we have to go out of our way to do it because the four stations currently open on that line are far from where we live.

My wife and I will return some time soon on a weekday, without the kids, so we can wander some more. Also, it won’t cost us anything. Because one other thing I did was get my Müzekart. I got my Müzekart because I’m a legal resident of Turkey. For 50 lira I can now enter many museums throughout Turkey as often as I like for the next year. Not a bad deal, eh?

Here are some of things we saw.

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Alexander Sarcophagus (no, Alexander the Great was not put in that sarcophagus)

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Sidamara Sarcophagus

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Detail of a Roman floor mosaic

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Detail of a sarcophagus

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Alexander the Great

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Hermaphroditus

caryatid

Caryatid

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Sappho

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Marcus Aurelius

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Cornelia Antonia

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Bell from Galata Tower

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Gülhane Park

The Next Challenge: A Half Marathon

Yesterday, I signed up to run the Istanbul Half Marathon. It’s set for Sunday April 27th. Should I complete it, it will be the first half-marathon that I have run. (I am still in the “conquering distances” phase of my running.)

I’ve been running regularly these past few months. My legs feel good. My feet still have a bit a of plantar fasciitis. I’ve been managing that through lots of stretching and liberal use of a tennis ball to massage the bottoms of my feet.

One of the many fun things about running is that it’s a great way to explore a place. As I’ve gotten used to Istanbul’s twisting, turning, rising, and falling streets I’ve been able to see places in the city I normally wouldn’t have made a special trip to see. It’s also let me “preview” places that I’d like to explore a bit more (for example, like Ortaköy, Arnavutköy, or Nişantaşı).

The route for the half marathon will take runners from not-quite-the-top of the Golden Horn down to the Marmara Sea, turning around at the Yenikapı ferry port and back. A beautiful course. I’ve done any runs along the Marmara Coast down there.

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This is not the only race I hope to do. There is a team marathon race in the Belgrade Forest on April 5th. I’m hoping to be part of team for the Istanbul Expat Runners group. Teams of seven will run the 6K loop in the forest, and their times added together for a marathon total. The forest is a great place to run, with several good trails.

Despite Turkey not having a big running reputation, I’ve found there are plenty of opportunities to run in races here.

Now, the official training for my first half marathon begins!

Anish Kapoor Exhibit at the Sakıp Sabancı Museum

No time like the last day of an exhibit to finally seeing it. One event I had been wanting to see since hearing about it shortly after our arrival in Istanbul many months ago was the Anish Kapoor exhibit at the Sakıp Sabancı Museum.

Chicagoans know Kapoor for his instantly iconic contribution to Millenium Park: Cloud Gate. Which every Chicagoan calls “The Bean.” Here are some photos I took of the Bean two-and-a-half years ago.

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My wife Stephanie and I kept saying we should go and the months went by and finally I looked at the museum website and saw the exhibit was ending. So we went yesterday, Sunday.

The Sakıp Sabancı Museum is far from where we live. It’s up the Bosphorus, past the second bridge. We took the bus recommended on the museum’s website…over two hours later we arrived at the stop for the museum. It was stop-and-go traffic the whole way. The bus driver was nice enough to tell me when the stop was coming up. When we’d boarded the bus at Taksim, I had asked the driver if the bus stopped at the museum and he’d said yes. This is the amazing thing about Turkish bus drivers: they will personally tell you when it’s your stop. I’ve seen them do this not just for tourists but for plenty of native Turks.

We didn’t go into the museum right away because after that long bus ride we (especially the kids) needed to eat. So we ate lunch at a busy restaurant next door.

After lunch, we walked to the museum. The line at the ticket booth wasn’t long, moving quickly. When I asked for two adult and two children’s tickets the woman handed me the tickets and said I didn’t have to pay. I was confused. I thought, okay, maybe I have to pay when we enter the museum itself. No, not there either. We simply showed our tickets to the security guard. So, even though we endured a 2+hour trip both ways (a feature of life here in Istanbul), we were able to enter the museum for free.

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Sky Mirror

The museum is on the beautiful grounds of a former mansion. That building now contains antique furniture and many ornate Ottoman era calligraphic manuscripts. The modern addition contains several galleries, a restaurant, and a gift shop.

As much as I appreciate and love art, sometimes abstract art like this brings out the smart-ass in me. The targets are so obvious…and so tempting…like this one.

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It’s called Untitled and it’s made of onyx. I like it. But I couldn’t help thinking it looked like the Eye of Sauron. Or a vagina.

Museum rules forbid flash photography so some of these photos did not come out as well as I’d hoped.

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Immanence

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Eight Eight

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Untitled (made of sandstone)

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My Body Your Body

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Tongue (aka “water slide”)

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Mollis

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Archeology and Biology  (This intriguing piece I called “Lava Vagina.”)

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Dragon

“Where are the dragons?” asked my son. “I don’t get it.” The photo doesn’t show the contours of the pieces, which are difficult to see even in the light provided. The purple is the deepest, most light-absorbing purple I’ve seen. You have to stare for a bit to see the bumps, edges, and waves in the stones.

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Yellow

“I don’t see the art in this,” said my son. Stephanie explained to Henry how that’s how art is sometimes; some pieces move you, others don’t. There were a few others that did nothing for me, mostly the ones I called “Half-Holes in Stone.”

The Kapoor exhibit was excellent, worth the trip, and definitely worth the entrance fee. There is great beauty in many of the forms created out of such large pieces of stone. They are compelling to look at and the workmanship is easy to admire. Despite being made from such hard materials and the chattering crowds of people nearby, I found the works  to be peaceful and comforting.