Holy frickin week

I didn't even bother to take photos until the FOURTH band came by.
I didn’t even bother to take photos until the FOURTH band came by.

This is Semana Santa, or Holy week. The week leading up to Easter is celebrated by Christians around the world to commemorate the death and resurrection of Jesus.

It may be sacrilegious, but I just want to get some sleep.

In Spain, Holy Week appears to be celebrated with drums and marching bands accompanied by hooded figures, reminiscent of the KKK. Oh, and then more drums. The worst part is that all of the city of Valencia seem to be taking turns processing in front of my apartment. The bands start about 8am and seem to appear any time of day, but prefer early morning, late evening or anytime I am about to drift off to sleep. Last night they were drumming well past 11pm. The night before it was past midnight. This evening they’ve been pounding and processing for 3 solid hours.

This could put me off marching bands forever.

I don’t understand and find the hooded figures kinda creepy. And how on earth is it “Christian” to keep me from my sleep?

For more see here and here.

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There was briefly a traffic jam when three bands all tried to march from different directions into this park across the street.
There was briefly a traffic jam when three bands all tried to march from different directions into this park across the street.

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Stupid foreigners, unite

I am trying to learn Spanish. I am not doing so well, but as I tell my students, learning a language is a series of failures. If you don’t make a mistake, you are simply not trying hard enough. Clearly, I’m trying.

I was trying to ask my students the question, “When is your birthday?” (¿Cuando es tu cumpleaños?) But my pronunciation isn’t very good. Instead of “año,” the  Spanish word for year, I said “ano” which is a completely different word.

Go ahead. Look it up on Google Translate. I’ll wait.

Is this not proof that I’m trying really hard? Even if I’m failing monumentally?

Panorama 1453

This circular structure is built into a hillside. The painting is at the top. Visitors climb steps and wind through a lot of Turkish texts and blown up illustrations from old manuscripts and paintings of the time. If my Turkish were better, I'd have gotten more out of it.
This circular structure is built into a hillside. The painting is at the top. Visitors climb steps and wind through a lot of Turkish texts and blown up illustrations from old manuscripts and paintings of the time. If my Turkish were better, I’d have gotten more out of it.

This is a 360 dome view of the battle for Constantinople, which occurred in 1453. The museum deals only with the conquest of Istanbul (then known as Constantinople) by the Ottomans. The painting that circles the top floor of the building depicts the moment in the battle when the Theodosian Walls are breached near Endirne Kapi (the Endirene Gate). Accompanying the painting are full displays and sounds with some actual cannons lying on the floor. The top floor has no English translations, but lower levels have a little. Look down at the little metal signs below the winding displays that take you up the stairs.

this is a table top model of the top floor.
this is a table top model of the top floor.

This place is best for locals and not tourists, but those with a strong interest for history and a lengthy stay in Istanbul should visit. For my Atlanta friends, this reminds of The Cyclorama, though this is not in disrepair.

Even on this weekday, there were large crowds.
Even on this weekday, there were large crowds.
The painting is very detailed with old cannons and life sized models in the foreground.
The painting is very detailed with old cannons and life sized models in the foreground.

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Pera Palace Hotel, Istanbul

Pera Palace (View from late 1800s) By Canerol86 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46742193
Pera Palace (View from late 1800s)
By Canerol86 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46742193

Established in 1895, this hotel was built to house the elite who traveled on the Orient Express between Paris and Istanbul. Everyone who was anyone stayed here.  As Wikipedia says, “the very name inspires visions of Ottoman grandeur, the great European fascination with the East, the immortalisation of Istanbul’s unique culture in Western literature, and the very beginnings of world tourism as we now know it.”

The writer Agatha Christie was a regular guest from 1926 and 1932 and “Murder On the Orient Express” was possibly written in Room 411. Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, first stayed at the Pera Palace in 1917 and found Room 101 his personal favorite. Kings and queens, the famous and the infamous all stayed here.

With this kind of history, I had to find the hotel, still overlooking the Golden Horn and within walking distance of Taksim Square. This was once the Pera district,  Istanbul’s “Little Europe.” It is now Beyoglu (Bay oh loo). With everything that’s grown up around it, you don’t suspect the history, nor the opulence inside.

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Current prices are not as bad as might be expected. The Ernest Hemingway room was about 1000TL a night (about $325), but it’s possible to get a single room for half that.

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I would have loved to see the museum rooms, but they didn’t appear to be open the day I arrived.

A long walk

Burak, Kate and me on the Galata bridge, over the Bosphorus. It was right at sundown, a lovely time to be near the water.
Burak, Kate and me on the Galata bridge, over the Bosphorus. It was right at sundown, a lovely time to be near the water.

I’m training to hike the Camino, so I walk every day. Long walks are much more fun with friends, though. This particular walk was completely unplanned. Originally we were off for a cup of salep–once a popular winter drink in the Ottoman Empire.

Salep is made mostly with milk and sugar today, but the real stuff should still have at least some of the orchid root of the original drink. According to Wikipedia: “Its consumption spread beyond there to England and Germany before the rise of coffee and tea and it was later offered as an alternative beverage in coffee houses. In England, the drink was known as saloop. Popular in the 17th and 18th centuries in England, its preparation required that the salep powder be added to water until thickened whereupon it would be sweetened, then flavored with orange flower or rose water. Substitution of British orchid roots, known as “dogstones”, was acceptable in the 18th century for the original Turkish variants.

Salep is served hot with lots of cinnamon. Yum!
Salep is served hot with lots of cinnamon. Yum!

Burak brought Kate, a fellow teacher, and I to a tea house in Eminönü, across from the Istanbul Sirkeci Terminal, once the final stop on the Orient Express. Once consumed, we walked all the way to Taksim Square before we went our separate ways back home, roughly 7km. Here’s a few lovely shots along the way.

The lights were just coming on. The mosque in the distance is Süleymaniye. If you could see to the left of the photo would be The New Mosque (Yeni Camii). This is a popular stop to pick up a cruse of the Bosphorus or Balik Ekmek (fish sandwich).
The lights were just coming on. The mosque in the distance is Süleymaniye. If you could see to the left of the photo would be The New Mosque (Yeni Camii). This is a popular area to pick up a cruse of the Bosphorus or Balik Ekmek (fish sandwich).
Burak and me. You can just see the Galata tower to the left of Burak's head.
Burak and me. You can just see the Galata tower to the left of Burak’s head.

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By the time we walked across the bridge and up the steep steps to the Galata Tower, it was dark. This is from the base of the Galata tower.
By the time we walked across the bridge and up the steep steps to the Galata Tower, it was dark. This is from the base of the Galata tower.