On Thursdays the Palace is Closed But the Museum Is Free

What started as a trip to Dolmabahce Palace became a trip to the Istanbul Modern. It was Thursday, and we didn’t know that the palace is closed on Thursdays. So after going through security and walking up to the ticket booth we saw and read the sign that said the palace is closed on Thursdays.

Disappointed, I suggested to Stephanie that we head over to the Istanbul Modern. It was a short ride on the tram from Kabatash, and it’s one of the places we hadn’t yet seen.

She told me I took the palace being closed well. She said she had been worried I was going to have an episode. I said, see, I’m getting better.

The Istanbul Modern is another place I should have viisted sooner. This art museum, which specializes in contemporary art, is in a beautifully renovated former warehouse set on the Bosphorus near the Tophane tram stop.

From the tram stop there are signs pointing you where to go. But the last stretch confused us a little. You have to walk down a narrow street next to a construction site before you get to the parking lot of the museum and can then access the entrance.

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One thing we didn’t know before going to the Istanbul Modern is that every Thursday entrance is free to residents of Turkey. Which means we, as legal residents, got in for free. Woo-hoo!

Since it’s located on the Bosphorus, the view from the museum is fantastic. You can see where the Bosphorus meets the Golden Horn and the Sea of Marmara. You can also see Topkapi Palace and the Hagia Sophia.

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This view, as fantastic as it is, does not overshadow what’s inside.

The current exhibitions include several audio-visual pieces. One piece called Women Who Wear Wigs by Kutluğ Ataman consists of interviews with four women who wear wigs, each playing simultaneously. One woman wore wigs because in the early 70’s she needed to escape the government due to her activism, another because she lost her hair thanks to chemotherapy treatments for cancer, another who wears a wig over her head covering so she can attend university (head scarves at universities is a no-no because it’s seen as a political statement), and a transgender woman whose hair was cut off by the police. The woman whose hair was cut off by the police was the least of it; the police regularly arrested, harassed, beat, and raped transgender sex workers. It was one of the most provocative and poignant pieces of art I’ve seen in awhile.

Here’s a sample of some of the pieces currently on view.

Pae White’s Northern Smoke

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Ghada Imer’s Sunset in Isfahan

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Sabire Susuz’s Shopping

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If you look closely you can see that it’s made entirely of clothing tags/labels.

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:mentalKLINIK’s Double Cherry.

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Mihri Musfik’s Portrait or, as I like to call it, Portrait with Rich’s Silhouetted Reflection in the Glass Covering the Painting.

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I should note that the Istanbul Modern is not just an art museum. There is also a movie theater in the building where they host many film screenings. A few months back they screened several films by Krystof Kieslowski. Currently, their screening 10 films from Hong Kong under the program title “Hong Kong Panorama.”

I might try to visit Dolmabahce Palace one day next week. But our last full week in Istanbul is already filling up with obligations, from a school outing to a class party, to saying goodbye to friends, not to mention packing before we head to Bodrum…

Suleymaniye Mosque

There are several important mosques to visit in Istanbul. One of them is Suleymaniye Mosque. It’s one of much-revered architect Mimar Sinan’s most revered buildings. Built at the orders of Suleyman the Magnificent, it was completed in 1557, taking seven years to complete. (Mimar Sinan also designed the Selimiye Mosque in Edirne.)

This is also the mosque I can see from the terrace of our apartment. At night it’s lit up, so it glows white.

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Last Thursday, I finally paid a visit to this mosque. Since the Metro stop at Vezneciler opened, the mosque, which is next to Istanbul University, is easy to get to.

The grounds of the mosque are quite large and well-landscaped.

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Like Sultanahmet Mosque (the Blue Mosque) it’s a working mosque, so visitors have a separate entrance and are not allowed into certain areas. But as you can see, it’s a large beautiful building with great attention paid to details.

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The sky was overcast on the day I was there, so the pictures didn’t come out as well as I had hoped they would. though I did manage to take a nice shot from the grounds down at the Golden Horn. You can see the Galata Tower and the Galata Bridge.

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The tombs of Suleyman the Magnificent and his wife Roxelana are located next to the mosque. But people were not allowed inside.

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Here people are peering inside to look at Suleyman’s tomb.

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While making my way to see the tomb of Mimar Sinan, I saw the Hamam built at the same time as the mosque. It’s just outside the grounds.

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Mimar Sinan’s tomb is located near the grounds of the mosque on the northeast side. The tomb is in a small, raised garden that’s not accessible.

Here’s the locked door.

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Here are the grounds. The man on the left was selling fresh sweet cherries.

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Here’s as close as you can get to the tomb of one of history’s most famous architects.

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As magnificent as the mosque built for Suleyman the Magnificent is, I still think Selimiye Mosque in Edirne is more beautiful.

The Pigeon on Our Terrace

Pigeons and even crows often perch on the ledge of our terrace.

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A few weeks ago, I noticed that every time I went out on our back terrace, a pigeon would fly away. I figured the pigeon had found a good perch and was just scared by me whenever I went to hang up or take down laundry.

Then one day the pigeon didn’t fly away and I saw her sitting in the basket that holds the clothespins.

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She would just sit there. This went on for well over a week. She never seemed to budge day or night.

Then one day she was gone and all that was left were these two eggs.

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Haven’t seen her since. Now we have two pigeon eggs. Anyone know if they’re good eating? 😉

Heybeliada – Jam-Packed Ferry to a Beautiful Island

Heybeliada is one of the Princes Islands in the Marmara Sea just off the coast from Istanbul. It’s small, pretty, quiet, and once there you can take a horse-led carriage ride. The carriage ride is a great leisurely way to see the island. Which we did when we visited the island this past Sunday.

I was cranky that morning because we were running very late. We needed to catch the 9:30am ferry. We didn’t get out the door of our apartment until a little before 9:00am. We walked to the Metro and waited for a train. Once on the train we’d have to change to the funicular at Taksim and then get on the ferry at Kabatas. I was being pessimistic and grumbling that we wouldn’t make the ferry in time. I hate having to rush. Stephanie didn’t think it would be a big deal if we didn’t make it, reminding me that I could always go by myself during the week.

We did make it, but not without running up the steps and into the terminal and onto the ferry…to find a ferry already well-above capacity. Steph and Meredith snagged a seat while Henry and I sat on some stairs.

I was also a little hungry at that point. I hate the world when I’m hungry. The kids and I all got snacks and something to drink and after a bit I was feeling better.

The ferry stopped at Kadikoy, where few got off but many people got on, including a woman and her little dog. She sat behind us. The dog was cute and quiet.

We arrived at Heybeliada about 50 minutes later. It was a little after 11am and the restaurant we wanted to eat at was not yet serving lunch. So we got the kids some more snacks to tide them over before riding in a horse-drawn carriage. It’s a small island. The only vehicles we saw were fire engines and garbage trucks.

As I said, the carriage is a great way to see the island. The four of us enjoyed it.

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After the carriage ride we went back to the restaurant Heymola where the kids ate french fires (Meredith) and pasta (Henry), and Stephanie and I ate a lot of yummy seafood, from calamari to octopus to sea bass to fish kokorech.

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Fully sated, we decided to walk back up the hill to where there were some trails in a small forest. As we were walking up the hill Stephanie asked, “Are you having a good time?” But she said it in a way that implied, “See! I told you so.”

“Yes, I am.” I said. “I’m in a better mood now.”

“You need to remember that things often do get better.”

“I know.”

“I do these things because they’re fun. Not because you’re fun to be with,” said my wife.

Ouch!

We had a nice walk, though Meredith wanted to be carried and asked to stop and rest at various points. This did make it easier to stop and snap pictures.

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Once we told Meredith we were going to turn around and go back into town to get ice cream, she turned and ran, leading the way back.

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We all ate ice cream by the ferry port. The kids opted for popsicles. Stephanie and I went for the dondurma (Turkish ice cream) from a street vendor. Unfortunately, we should have asked the price beforehand. The total for two ice cream cones was 30 lira ($14), the most expensive ice cream I have ever eaten. It was good, but not worth the price.

We thought (or at least, I thought) leaving the island would be easy. We would just take a different ferry, one we found that went directly to the port at Kabatas. So we went to that port. Ferries would arrive there and no one would tell you where it was going. You had to make your way through the crowd and ask one of the attendants.

The first one went to Bostanci which we only found out after waiting in the jam-packed crowd and pushing our way to the front to ask the attendant. That ferry left and another one arrived. He said it was Kabatas. We used our IstanbulKart to go through the turnstyle.

There’s a sign that says you can’t use your Akbil. I had no idea what that was and I’ve been in this city for 9 months. Turns out, that refers to the IstanbulKart, aka our transit card. The same card I use to ride the Metro, the Bus, and the ferries. But not this ferry for some reason. So we each lost three-and-a-half liras trying to use our transit card.

Then my wife went to the ticket window to buy tickets. And the woman at the ticket window said there were no more tickets. So we couldn’t get on that ferry.

After cursing not-quite-under my breath, I marched down to the ferry terminal from where we had originally arrived and looked at the schedule. The next ferry to take us back would be at 5:15pm. I looked at my phone: 4:15pm. We sat on a bench until an anouncement was made that a ferry was arriving. Then we joined the jumbled mass of people waiting on the pier. We shoved our way onto the over-crowded ferry. The ferry was already over-flowing with people returning form Buyukada (literally “Big Island”). My wife and I stood while the kids sat on the floor. It was hot, too.

Despite my grumbling and frustration, it was worth the trip to that pretty island. In the warmer months people spend the day there or on Buyukada on the beaches swimming in the Marmara Sea. I don’t think we’ll have to time to return there before we leave in three weeks. But if we ever return to Istanbul in the summer months, we’ll definitely spend a day at one of the islands again.

“Pissing Against the Moon” – Stephen Chambers at the Pera Museum

Yesterday I shared photos from my vista to the Pera Museum to see the Warhol exhibition. One of the other artists whose work was on display was Stephen Chambers. This enjoyable exhibition provided a survey of over two decades worth of the artist’s work.

One wall was dedicated to showing his large work The Big Country. (Yes, Gen-Xer that I am, I was promptly afflicted with the ear worm from that 80’s band.)

The Big Country is a collection of inter-linking panels with little stories depicted in one panel or across several panels.

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It’s inspired by the Gregory Peck-starring movie of the same name from 1958. I’ve never seen the movie.

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Several other works were exhibited including, Harvest (of heads?!)

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Scissors. You won’t be needing those wings now, will you…

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My favorite was The Indestructible Tree.

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Among the works were a few commissioned specifically for this exhibition. Each piece was inspired by a different part from the Flemish painter Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s Twelve Proverbs.

“To play dice at the wrong time, to keep drinking when he is drunk, impoverishes man’s name and makes him stink.”

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“In one hand I carry fire, in the other water. With chatterboxes and gossips I keep my mouth shut.”

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“No matter what I pursue I never reach it, I always piss against the moon.”

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The last is funny but also for me evokes the myth of Sisyphus and P.B. Shelley’s Adonais: An Elegy on the Death of John Keats.

Peace, peace! he is not dead, he doth not sleep,

       He hath awaken’d from the dream of life;
       ‘Tis we, who lost in stormy visions, keep
       With phantoms an unprofitable strife,
       And in mad trance, strike with our spirit’s knife
       Invulnerable nothings. We decay
       Like corpses in a charnel; fear and grief
       Convulse us and consume us day by day,
And cold hopes swarm like worms within our living clay.

Specifically the “unprofitable strife” and “cold hopes” bits. Yet the figure of the dog and the light colors bring a smile to my face as I contemplate those bleak words.

Warhol at the Pera Museum

Warhol. In my mind, the name brings up images of Campbells soup cans, famous people with bright colors painted on them, the cover of the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers album, and a bespectacled man with white hair. Warhol’s images are instantly recognizable as was the man himself.

There’s an exhibition of some of Warhol’s work currently on display at the Pera Museum here in Istanbul. I don’t know what took me so long to visit the Pera Museum. It’s a place I should have visited much earlier. It’s near Istiklal Street and easy to find, across from a surface parking lot (one of the few I’ve seen in the middle of the city), near the Italian Cultural center. It’s not a very large museum. It lacks size, but not in quality.

There are several exhibitions at the museum, all worth seeing. For purposes of brevity in this post, I’m only including photos from the Warhol exhibition. In the coming days I’ll post some photos from the others.

The Warhol exhibit is the largest currently at the museum. It takes up the top two floors of the six-story museum. Even the elevator doors were covered in Warhol prints. This one was covered by Annie Oakley.

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The beginning of the exhibit is marked in a very understated way.

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This is the first time I’ve seen an exhibit of Warhol’s work. I’ve seen pieces here and there in various museums I’ve visted over the years. Grouped together, you can see a remarkable amount of playfulness in his work.

There was Martha Graham, Satyric Festival Song.

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There was a Mother and Child from the series Cowboys and Indians.

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There were Endangered Species.

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There were Grapes.

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And fermented grapes, La Grande Passion.

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In addition to a pair of Lenins, there were these four pieces known as Hammer and Sickle.

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Torso was the only piece that could be considered risqué in any way.

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On one wall was a row of these small paper prints that you were free to take. So I took one of each.

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I’m not sure what I’ll do with them, just yet. But they’re nice keepsakes from the exhibition.

Video Games and Ice Cream

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People have often remarked to my wife and me how well our kids do at traveling. I would like to think it’s because we’ve instilled in them the importance of being respectful, patient, kind, curious, and all that. But the fact is, kids (especially small kids like ours) don’t care even a tiny bit about history or culture.

Sure, they get to climb on old ruins like they did in Ephesus and Miletus, and climb down into an underground city in Cappadoccia. But for the most part, telling them that something is 1500 or 2000 years old briefly gets their attention and then it’s on to something else.

Still, the question is: how do we keep our kids from melting down and freaking out when we’re on a tour?

Bribery. Usually taking the forms of video games and ice cream.

There’s all kinds of parenting advice that appears to have been designed for children that were created under some impossibly ideal lab-like conditions where they do what they’re told and better behavior is merely a short timeout away. Or that getting them to try new foods is as simple as gentle prodding or the tried and true take-it-or-leave-it method.

These are not our kids.

Our kids are picky eaters. So picky that they skip lunch three or four times a week at their school; days when plain pasta (or rice in the case of my daughter) is not on the menu. They’re not allowed to bring their own lunch. Their only choice is what’s on the menu. Can you say “stubborn?” So when they arrive at home here around 4:30pm they’re tired and famished.

In Trabzon we managed to keep them alive on french fries, plain pasta, the small pancakes at the hotel’s breakfast buffet, ice cream, sour cherry juice, and American Children’s vitamins. Children’s vitamins in Turkey come in the form of syrup, which our kids will not drink. Gummies or Flintstone-style are not available here. We’ve had to buy vitamins through drugstore.com, ship them to family, who then bring them when they visit. We also bring along snacks on the trips: peanuts, dried mango, and almonds.

We recognize that if we can’t get the kids to appreciate even a sliver of what is important about something we’re seeing, they’re going to be bored. You can allow them to be bored for only so long before they take it out on you. Long bus rides from stop to stop, listening to a tour guide talk, is not an ideal way for a child to spend a day. So Henry plays his Nintendo 3DS and Meredith plays Minecraft or Where’s My Perry? on my wife’s iPad.

And thanks to these ever present ALGIDA ice cream bins in Turkey, we know that for the price of a few lira we can keep the kids happy for the time being. FYI, “mutluluğu paylaş” translates roughly as “Share your happiness.”