Archive for the 'Turkey' Category

Tokyo-Yokohama-Kyoto!

November 18, 2016

Dear Family and Friends,

It’s been a nice three days since the last blog. Wednesday I woke up early in Tokyo and visited the Tsukiji Wholesale fish market (where they have the famous 4am tuna auctions).

wp_20161116_08_23_40_pro-1It was just two stops away from my hotel. I’ve come to love the Tokyo metro system. Of course the market was closed that day (they have one “set holiday” per month and this was it) but the restaurants in the outer market were still open. I tried steamed oyster with ponzu sauce, grilled crab in its shell with miso paste, and then went to a sushi counter for some pieces, and finished off the meal with a mochi with a strawberry in it.

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Then I had a meeting and worked the rest of the day. There were some stores I visited in Shibuya, which has a famous crowded crosswalk.

For dinner I visited the neighborhood of my hotel again, near Hamamasutcho and Daimon stations. I’ve decided that’s my favorite neighborhood now. It’s really low key, quiet, and the little restaurants are filled in the evenings with businessmen getting totally hammered!

wp_20161116_20_15_02_proI walked around to find a good atmosphere intending to eat whatever was good. I decided on a restaurant that, when I walked in, the manager beamed! So welcoming. It was small, just 8-10 seats or so. He was super animated, fun, and very slightly heavier than average and didn’t speak English. I asked for no smoking? he said “yes smoking!” but I still ate there because it seemed like this guy would take care of me. I let him know that i’d eat whatever he thought was good. There were all sorts of dishes including some potato salad with something on it, I had to ask. Kind of looked like a sausage. It was “fish eggs” but honestly it was like a whole womb. I ate it all because that’s what’s respectful. And I like salty foods, and enjoy trying to figure out why people like to eat certain things if at first I think they are disgusting. At that dinner I got to eat all sorts of “presents” like edamame and extra special sake.

wp_20161117_14_42_45_proThursday morning I woke up and had a meeting, the first one I was able to find on my own 🙂 and then took the train to Yokohama, which took only about 45 minutes. Yokohama is its own city but very close to Tokyo. Some people live in Tokyo and commute to Yokohama. Some people live in Yokohama and commute to Tokyo, but really only if they want their kids to go to the international school in Yokohama.

wp_20161118_10_34_57_proI had another meeting in the afternoon there, worked, walked around the main shopping street, ate dinner, not much else. This morning I finished work and took the Shinkansen, the bullet train, to Kyoto where I’ll be for the weekend. The bullet train is very cool, and obviously very fast. I’m staying in guest house here in Kyoto. It was a little difficult to find it, and “check in” but that was because I was a early for the reservation but the issues turned around quickly.

wp_20161118_16_14_54_proI went to Fushimi Inari shrine and had a “road soda” of Kyoto beer on the walk there:) and then stayed wandering around the shrine until dark. It’s on a mountain, which you can climb up and the entire way is covered with gates. At the bottom it was so busy, but at the top it was very peaceful. There must be at least 100,000 of the gates, so cool! On my way down I stopped for a matcha latte and then visited Gion area. There are a ton of shops and restaurants. It was a little busy for my taste at that point but I took a deep breath and appreciated it.

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I walked around for a while visited a “leek-themed” restaurant and sat at the counter and got more “presents.” The chef let me taste things when I looked curious. I’m always curious and tried things that were only on the Japanese version of the menu, not for English speakers.

Now I’m exhausted and excited to sleep on the Tatami mat.

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Hope you are well and have a great weekend!

Love, Annie

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Heading home from Turkey just in time to eat some!

November 25, 2013

Dear Family and Friends,

The title says it all! My flight leaves at 6:00 AM tomorrow so I’ll get up at 3. 20131126_122641The layover in Munich is a long one, long enough for me to head into the city! :). Today I finished up my work, and then had a fabulous last Hammam experience. I’m definitely going to miss these baths. I’m all packed up and going to watch Homeland. Thanks for following me this trip! HAPPY THANKSGIVING! That picture was added after I got home, I’m at the Christmas market in Munich! I’ve just had some gluehwein.

Love, Annie

Day Off in Ankara!

November 24, 2013

Dear Family and Friends,

Yesterday was a pretty normal work day. Not too much to write about. I went to two malls and got a lot of work done. I did have time for some shopping too. 20131124_111544In the evening, I experienced horrible service at the hotel restaurant. The staff was rude and unwelcoming when I wanted to sit down and work a bit and then order some food. Maybe because it is Saturday night? I’m not sure. Tonight, the service at the same restaurant was so much better.

Today was a pretty nice day off in Ankara. I woke up naturally at 9:00 am and after breakfast headed to Ankara Castle. 20131124_135912There were fantastic views there. I met some students from all over the place who were taking the weekend in Ankara from their study abroad time in Istanbul. We took each others’ pictures. I wandered around the castle and the surrounding area for a while.

After that, I walked through a nearby shopping area where I met a lady from Seattle and then headed to Anıtkabir, the Ataturk Mausoleum. It was an interesting area with a major museum with a lot to learn. 20131124_135025There were many different exhibits on WW1 and the Turkish War of Independence and the subsequent reforms. I got to see all sorts of Ataturk’s belongings like a shaving kit, and swords. Outside of the museum, I particularly liked the statues of the large people. In the picture you can see the Turkish Scholar, the Farmer, and the Soldier.

After that, I decided to check out the Sengul Hammam, but it did not seem very relaxing (it was very crowded, and small … pretty gross. 20131124_123727I wonder if I was in the right place because this place got great reviews) so I left. After that, i went back to the Armada mall to have lunch because I hadn’t eaten yet and was very hungry. Then I walked around and digested, and then had a work out and hung out at the hotel. For dinner, I had a kebab dish, and ordered the traditional Turkish desert sampler.

There were four things on it. 1. A syrupy thing like a tiny little donut made of sugar syrup and starch (my least favorite) 2. a shot glass of rice pudding, 20131124_1137303. a pieve of baklava, and 4. some “cream” which was seemed like buttery tasting cream cheese. Turkish desserts get an A+.

This time tomorrow night, I’ll be trying to fit everything in my suitcase / figuring out how I’m going to get everything home. I have way more stuff than I started with.

It’s been over five weeks, and while Turkey is so awesome (probably one of my favorite countries ever) it’s certainly time to get home. Just one more day of work to go! I hope you had a really nice weekend.

Love, Annie

Ankara Awesome

November 22, 2013

Dear Family and Friends,

Hope you are well. Today was my first full day in Ankara, and spent the whole day working but only after enjoying the breakfast that was included in my hotel room upgrade. I haven’t had filter coffee in weeks! I had a great meeting in the afternoon with our hilarious contact at a local relocation agency. 20131122_141202After the work day was over, I worked out and the fitness centre is not too bad! For dinner, I ate at the hotel restaurant which is actually quite good. It’s an Italian restaurant but I don’t really care. I’ve had my fill of turkish food and will continue to eat it at lunch. I like the atmosphere in the hotel restaurant. There’s an enormous granite high-top table I can sit at and work and eat. I prefer high top tables and this one is really exceptional.

The funnies thing that happened today was when I went into a small store to buy face cream because mine ran out. 20131122_143406I was were discussing eye cream with the girl at the store and she kept telling me I should buy the eyes cream and it sounded like she was selling me ice cream! I kept laughing so after I made my purchase I gave the three ladies in the store an impromptu English lesson. I drew an ice cream and told her I thought at first she was trying to sell me a tasty treat, and that in English “eye cream” is how you say it, not “eyes cream.”

It actually makes more sense the way the Turkish girl was  saying it because you put the cream around both your eyes, not just one of them. 20131122_141142I had to explain that this is the way we say it, even though it makes no sense. Oh well! They were really happy to know this and we had some laughs.

So far, Ankara seems really pleasant. There is a lot of construction going on and it is so much less hectic than Istanbul. I sat in traffic for a bit during a drizzly rush hour but of course that would happen. Tomorrow: another day of work! I saved the good malls for tomorrow because I might do a little shopping too! It’s easiest to do shopping during the last location, and there are some stores here that can’t be found in the U.S.!! Hooray!

Love, Annie

Adios Diyarbakir

November 21, 2013

Dear Family and Friends,

Hope all is well. For my last day in Diyarbakir, I slept as late as possible and I didn’t do very much. There was not too much to do and I was not supposed to leave the city for safety reasons. I 20131121_125603Finished some last things for the survey, and wandered around feeling pretty cloudy like a zombie for the whole day. I don’t want to say I was “wasting time” but that was sort of what it was as my flight to Ankara wasn’t until late. During the day, I consumed three cups of tea and two cups of coffee but that didn’t take away the cloudy head. In the afternoon, I worked at the hotel restaurant for a few hours and got a whole lot done. 20131121_155912Then headed the airport for an easy flight to Ankara. Here, I got a room upgrade and it’s awesome! Looking forward to having a nice day of work tomorrow. In the second picture you can see a local cheese shop. Wow! The shop sold mainly cheese and olives. They let me taste some and of course it was delicious.

Love, Annie

Great Day Diyarbakir

November 20, 2013

Dear Family and Friends,

Today was a very productive day in Diyarbakir. 20131120_101019I started with a nice breakfast at a local cafe. I just ordered “food” and they brought me all of this! For 4.5 dollars, not bad. After breakfast, I headed out with a driver Ismeil (who is actually a security guard at the Tigris university). We had a very productive day and got to know each other throughout the day even though he didn’t speak english. When we stopped for coffee, we used a pen and paper to draw out our families and communicate. 20131120_144248He has three teenage kids and a wife. I told him about my family and apparently “Melissa” is a Turkish name. During our lunch break I also showed him a letter in turkish that kind of explains what I am doing, and for the rest of the afternoon he was even more helpful. After we hit every place on my list, he took me out for this Delicious coffee in a kind of hidden area in the old part of the city. 20131120_142025To get to the cafe we walked through a metal workers alleyway. The coffee was pistachio coffee made with milk and it was very decadent. We went into a store afterward and he bought me some of my own! I can’t wait to try it with my colleagues and with Lev, who I am very excited to see. I hope he is excited to see me. 20131120_150409After the coffee we went to see the big wall, and then to the Tigris River! There were some people playing musical instruments at the bridge over the Tigris, and also a big school group. So cool. After that, we were finished and Ismeil took me back to the hotel. I had an early dinner at a restaurant nearby, and now I’m hanging out in my room. Tomorrow night I leave for Ankara!
Love, Annie

Working in Diyarbakir

November 19, 2013

Dear Family and Friends,

Hope you are well. Today was a productive day in Diyarbakir. 20131119_155245This city is interesting because the culture is very different from the culture in Istanbul. It’s very clear I’m in Kurdistan. I slept a little later (nine-ish) and then headed to the mall. The mall was a pretty standard mall, not upscale, but it was clean and had a variety of well known stores. 20131119_155328After working there, I had a meeting, and then went to a hotel in the older part of town. The city wall that surrounds the old part of town is incredible. It was built in  seems that they were, according to wikipedia, Restored in 349. Yikes! Diyarbakir is without a doubt one of the most interesting places I’ve ever been.

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You can see the wall in the second picture. That’s one of the few places where there is a break in the wall. It’s mostly still intact! In the third picture you can see a bit of more modern Diyarbakir, this is the view from the terrace of the food court in the mall.

Overall, the city is not touristy at all.20131119_154734 No one asks “why are you here?” and with my lightish hair, I definitely stick out. After collecting prices from the hotel, I walked around a bit of the old city. Then I went back to the hotel and worked out. At dinner at the hotel, I found a little worm in my salad. it was one of those small green curly ones, but still, gross. I flicked it away.

Tomorrow, more work. Love, Annie

Hello Diyarbakir (and Goodbye, Istanbul)

November 18, 2013

Dear Family and Friends,

After a wonderful week with my mom in Istanbul, it was a little sad to leave her and head to the city where I am now, Diyarbakir. Yesterday was Fabulous. We avoided the Old City, which was such a relief because it’s such a pain to get there, and instead we did some things that locals recommended.

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First, though, I dragged my mom to another mall because I needed to go to just one more store! It didn’t take that long, AND we got coffee.

After that, we went to an area called Ortakoy, which is supposed to have funky shopping. The shopportunities were more of the same, (bracelets with eyes, scarves, more eyes) but it was a cool area.

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Also, we split an enormous baked potato with a whole bunch of stuff on it. Apparently you are supposed to do that. It was kind of gross but delicious at the same time. My mom has this funny story about how she vomited projectile out of an elevator in a fancy office building when she was a young attorney that I’ve heard 17000 times, but during the potato I learned that what she ate before that episode was a baked potato. Nice. 20131117_144901Needless to say she hadn’t had one in a while so this was special. After the potato that we couldn’t finish, we walked along the Bosphorus and took some pictures.

Our next stop was a fancy hotel for tea. They had pretty nice bathrooms. After that, we kept walking and eventually split a kabob on the street. The Istanbul Marathon had just finished in that area, so there were a lot of people walking around. After the kabob, we went to the Dolmabahce Palace. 20131117_134812We liked it better than the other palaces, especially the reception area for visitors. The harem, or private residence area, was still nice but not as glamorous. In the first area, there exists the largest chandelier in all of europe! At the palace we also saw a clock museum. That all took a while.

After the palace, we headed to another area called Nisantasi to walk around the fancy shops. It was pretty cold out and we were shopped out so we had coffee and chocolates and some serious ice cream. 20131117_192332Then we walked back to the hotel to pack. For dinner, we went back to the restaurant we visited on the second night to get the chicken roasted under salt. Very much worth going back for. It was the best chicken I’ve ever had and the second best chicken for my mom, second to a chicken in Paris. Of course. The restaurant remembered us and made a bread thing with my moms name on it. :).

This morning, we both had to wake up very early to get flights out of different airports. My mom flew to JFK and I flew to Diyarbakir. 20131118_153615I got to the airport really early, so had a nice breakfast of simit and cheese and vegetables and tea before checking in. The flight was easy, I slept and read. Now I’m in Diyarbakir back in work mode. The hotel is O.K. but the fitness centre is better than expected. I’m heading to the one and only mall tomorrow.

Love, Annie

Istanbul Awesome!

November 16, 2013

Dear Family and Friends,

Hope you are having a nice weekend. Today and yesterday were great days in Istanbul. Yesterday, I woke up early and was able to finish my work 99 percent. I have to go to just one more clothing store tomorrow. 20131116_125403After a late meeting, my mom and I decided to head to the Hammam, the Turkish Bath. You’re really not supposed to miss it. The bath house was really cool and historic, and it was another naked scrubbing experience. But this time with mom! It was okay though. The room was big enough we were on opposite sides, and since she’s basically blind without contacts or glasses, and I kept my eyes so shut so hard you wouldn’t believe, there was no chance of seeing each other. 20131116_095424After the bath, we headed to the Galata tower area to a funky neighborhood where we went to a fish restaurant that was featured my moms foodie Istanbul book. We got a wrap and a whole sea bass and sea bream. Very healthy!

Today we also woke up early for a very tourey day. We started at the blue mosque, and then after some fresh pomegranate juice, went to Hagia Sofia. We learned a little about both places because there were English tours all around as we walked by! I couldn’t believe how many people were at this historic peninsula but after thinking about how much of a tourist destination Istanbul is, I believed it.

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The lines were outrageous so it was good we got there early and kind of beat them. After the Hagia Sofia we went to the Cistern, which was really unexpectedly cool, an underground water reserve with some enormous Medusa’s heads as the bases of two columns. The picture is not upside down… one of the heads is upside down and the other is on its side. Apparently this was done on purpose. The lighting in the cistern was supurb with lights going up all the columns but my camera didn’t show that very well. Below the walkway is water with a bunch of fish!

20131116_155114After that, a break for lunch at a really great Turkish restaurant. We had mixed kebab and some delicious lentil soup. After lunch, we headed to a fancier bazaar right near where the restaurant and mosque are located and shopped around for a bit. I got some gifts for friends at the Hammam store so we can all be super smooth. After that, the Topkapi palace which was huge and awesome. It was pretty cold after walking around for so long though and seeing all the views. Unfortunately, the Harem building was closed. Outside of the Topkapi Palace, we tried a warm milky drink with cinnamon called Salep. Delicious.

We went from the palace to the grand bazaar again so my mom could get some of these cool shoes for some friends that requested some, and then made the trek back to the hotel. Looking forward to a nice day tomorrow as well!

Love, Annie

Work and Shopping in Istanbul

November 14, 2013

Dear Family and Friends,

Hope you are well! This morning I had a few meetings north of the city. istanbulIn the afternoon, I went down to the old city to meet my mom who was finishing up her Istanbul Eats tour! On the way there, I stepped on my ankle the wrong going down a hill (it hurts so much still) and then walked over the wrong bridge. The pain didn’t really pick up until after dinner and now it hurts to walk and is swollen.

We met up and headed through the spice market and the grand bazaar – both were very interesting! My mom had done a very comprehensive food tour of the old city

20131114_183834so she was able to teach me some things about foods and where to shop (for food, not in the tourist bazaars). Then we had dinner at a famous restaurant and I tried ayran, the salty yogurt drink. I liked it. Tomorrow – more work and maybe a turkish bath in the night time!

Love, Annie