Bosphorus Cruise

September 24

Bosporus Cruise: we all trooped down to the ferry at Eminonu, embarking for the hour and a half cruise up the Bosporus, almost to the Black Sea. The water is a beautiful deep bluegreen, turquoise when churned by a propeller. Our ferry was loaded up with tourists from all parts, eager to take pictures at all points of interest.  This led to a certain amount of tipping when we passed the Dolmabahce Palace, a princess of a summer house, white and frilly and elegant, right along the water.  All along the coast, villas of enormous value if not size; it is not hard to see that they would go for millions of dollars.

Dolmabahce (Stuffed Garden) Palace

Beni,  Frish and the beautiful Bosphorus

Bosphorus Bridge

Villa on the Bosphorus

We passed the Rumeli Hisari, an old fortress crucial in the conquest of Constantinople in 1453; in two months, Mehmet II’s army rebuilt it, thus controlling the traffic up the Bosporus (the Ottomans already controlled the Asian side and its corresponding fortress). The Bosporus is relatively narrow, with steep wooded slopes.

Rumeli Hisari

We stopped but did not disembark, at villages along the water, exchanging passengers, while folks sitting at cafes enjoyed the same beautiful day.  At our destination, Yoros Kalesi, another fort, this one in ruins, we proceeded up the hill. Most walked, but Deene and I took a cab; I had a freak fall just as we got on the ferry, and whacked my knee, and did not want to risk further injury.  The others plodded up a steep road to reach our goal. But first, lunch, at the fish restaurant perched on the side of the hill. Delicious fish and a spectacular view.

Oops, no time for the ruin, back down the hill, to catch the ferry and cruise back down.  On the way, all kinds of ships heading to the Black Sea passed us.

Dinner with the 8 at a hip place in Galata, followed by our first concert at a jazz club near the tower. Percussionist Yinon Muallem, the Israeli cultural attache to Istanbul, and his fusion ensemble: ud, guitar, basss, ney and other woodwinds, and vocals. Tangential Fusion, and very good. Veronica, Larry and I enjoyed it in other states of consciousness.

Istanbul day 2

September 23, 2012

Our second morning in Istanbul heralds another warm day.  The sky is clear, with smog and haze on the horizon; a soft breeze stirs, lifting the heat.  From the small rooftop of the Spina, the view is unrivaled. To the east,  the Bosphorus sparkles, the large boats steaming by, the smaller ones performing some kind of choreography in tight formation. Fishing boats? Water taxis?

Moving South, beyond other rooftop gardens, hints the Sea of Marmara, with an armada of trade ships facing into the Bosphorus, waiting to proceed perhaps to the Black Sea, or into the Port of Istanbul.  What are they carrying? Not food, for Turkey is proud of the fact that no foodstuffs need importing. Well, bananas and other non-essentials, I imagine, do get brought in.  Istanbul, we were told by our Tunisian-born taxi driver in Berkeley, is the place many North Africans go to buy things; the quality is higher, the selection better. Yesterday, while in Galata, we saw the windows full of hip, American brands for the wealthy youth of the city: Nike, Timberland, etc.

To the immediate South, the stunning presence of the Blue Mosque arrests the eye, a massive grey structure with its multiple domes and six minarets, each topped with a golden spire, now glowing in the sun.  I look forward experiencing the magnificence of its inner space and light, in contrast to its exterior bulk. The call to prayer from this is singularly unpleasant, unfortunately: very loud, tinny amplification. This  morning at five, or whenever dawn appeared, the sound blasted me into consciousness, with a splitting headache.

To the immediate North, facing the the Sultanahmet Camii (Blue Mosque), across a park, sits the Hagia Sophia, originally finished in 537 CE (!!!) in the Byzantine era.
Right below our hotel, on the other side of a parking lot, sits a squat building with the traditional structure of a medresse: u-shaped, 12 small domes and one large one, each with its own chimney, suggesting small rooms or cells, opening into a courtyard shaded by trees.

What looks like a medresse but is actually stores

Our day brought more adventures thanks to Frish, who had arranged the Pera Museum tour. This time we visited SALT, an art and design archive, founded by the Garanti Bank.  ( There is also an extensive archive of the bank, with documents, and photos of staff dating from the turn of the 18th century. Salt in Turkish means, according to our guide Melisa, total, comprehensive, absolute.  It is housed in the building of the former Ottoman Bank, and the renovation is stunning. Naturally, we had to eat in the Ca’ D’oro restaurant, overlooking the Golden Horn.  The food was not memorable, but the company was.  Further forging of friendships. The views from SALT:

Across the Golden Horn

The New Mosque, with Sulimaniye Mosque on the hill

The tour starts tonight and we are a little wistful that our little group of eight will have to merge with the others and follow a regime. But we shall see.

Flying and arriving in Istanbul

Sept 21-Frankfurt airport-

Waiting for the flight to Istanbul, and–what time is it? Or, as they say in Turkish, saat kach? We had what they referred to as “a short night” on the plane: a few hours of darkness, during which we slept very little.  Luftansa is a cushy ride, with cool bathrooms and a terrific entertainment selection of music, movies, TV shows, and audio books.  After listening to Brian Eno’s Music for airports (how long had it been?), I settled on Hard Times audiobook, which engrossed me to the point of sleeplessness. Each character perfectly captured, no overacting, Dickens’ feminism and fury at class hypocrisy clearly coming through.  At what point in Dickens’ life did he write this?

Hanging out with Lois and Clare, waiting for the call, going over some of the past, playing Jewish geography.

The call has been given.  Time to go!

September 22- Istanbul

Adventures last night and today, of the getting-our-feet-on-the-ground kind .  Last night, after meeting up with Kathy, Frish & Veronica, and later Beni, searching out a restaurant not too touristy,  during which the eight of us ordered too much and were surprised by the bill, though it came out all right.  I think it will be hard to find bad food here.  Overpriced, no problem.  Great yoghurt, eggplant, cucumbers, lamb.  Ordering carefully and in an organized manner will be the key. Lots of laughter and bonding.

After dinner, a meander through Sultanahmet square, and tea in the Bazaar, listening to some musicians, and watching the nargile smokers, both men and women, separate and together.  Many shops with charming salesmen, engaging in a most persuasive way, hope springing eternal.

In the morning we embarked for the Pera Museum, across the Golden Horn in Galata.  (So fun to be retracing the steps of Kemal Pasha, from Jenny White’s detective novels). Back to Sultanahmet Square, to buy the jetons and cram ourselves into the tram to Karakoy, then up the Tunel, an underground funicular, the second subway built after London.  One tunnel, two stops, running from the bottom of Galata Hill to the top. Then an exploratory adventure to find the Pera museum, located on a boulevard that winds along the outside of the hill.  The museum is a beautifully repurposed old hotel, founded in recent years by a very wealthy couple, committed to promoting emerging Turkish artists in may media, including film, and housing some of their personal collections as well. The lovely, smart, and articulate Fatmah guided us through it all. The art show features the work of students from an Izmir art school, all of it interesting and some of it outstanding.

Ate lunch at the Culinary Institute, which was good but not memorable.  Then more and more exploring around Galata, finding the main pedestrian drag, Ishtiklar, FULL OF PEOPLE, finally escaping down some side streets to find a specific shop in Ciangir. This took us through small streets that wound down.  Ooh, a hamam (Turkish Bath), and we were tempted to go in, but Clare wasn’t getting  a good vibe, so we moved on. On and on, getting further into parts where daily life is lived.

Popular tea spot

“The state has no business here”


The buildings are mostly in a state of lovely decay, though some are being energetically renovated (by whom?). After getting turned around, we finally found the shop, a little hole in the wall, full of scents and soaps and other over-priced items, run by an emaciated Englishwoman (not a reassurance). In front of the store someone had developed the habit of taking a pee, so the smell prevailed. Not an invitation.

By now we were exhausted, but did not want to return to the hotel, since we planned to eat in Galata, so we proceeded down the hill to the water, hoping to find a park and somewhere to rest. Found respite in the Kilic Ali Pasha Camii (mosque) which took us off the busy street and provided some quiet time. it is one of the 300 designed by Mimar Sinan, architect and builder to three sultans.

Sought some way to sit by the Bosphorus, but could not find it.  Recuped enough to set off back up the hill, straight up, through small streets busy with evening activity. The street signage is mostly not there on the small streets, and at times the names of streets a not the same as what appears on the map.  Newer signage might include the street name (Kumbaraci) the name of the immediate vicinity (Tomtom), the intersecting street (Istiklal), and the larger district (Galata).

More adventures getting to our restaurant, a yummy meal of meze and fish, then further adventures along Istiklal, people watching, buying Turkish delight and other sweets, and finding our way back to the Karakoy tram stop, and finally to Sultanahmet and bed.

Garden at the end of Summer

The end of summer in the garden.  Gone already are the mile-high sunflowers with deep red velvety flowers, the padrone pepper plant, the under-performing haricots verts.  Not pictured: the heroically -producing persian cucumber, and the amazingly-restrained zucchini. But, hooray-the persimmon finally has fruit–six of them, which the squirrels will probabbly enjoy, just as something has nibbled every ripe tomato so far. The strawberries spawned and will go out to spread their juicy sweetness in neighbors’ gardens. The iris will remind us that Spring is only 6 months away.

Artist’s Statement Wordle

Another wordle, this time my artist’s statement, so much easier than writing several paragraphs. Just hung the show, which took lots longer than planned, but looks great.

Wordle: About art

April 2012 Painting Show

This Sunday, I will hang my new show at the Espresso Roma Cafe on Hopkins St. in Berkeley. Works will include this painting (The Path,oil on canvas), some of the paintings in my Spring 2011 post, plus a few new ones. Watch for photos of the show and the paintings.
Reception 4/15/12, 3-5pm.

Artwork Spring 2011

Klimpty crowdVampire PharoahObamaryCrossing bordersDangerous crossings 1Potentially dangerous
We walk among UsWe walk among UsWe walk among UsWe walk among UsWe walk among UsWe walk among Us

Artwork Spring 2011, a set on Flickr.

Here are some recent paintings, along with an installation, We walk among Us, made of bottles encased in cheesecloth saturated with gesso and modeling paste, then sanded and in some cases, painted. I plan to show them in large flat trays with colored sand or aquarium gravel, so they can be moved around by viewer/participants.

Duck, my duckling

I’ve been reading “Duck” by Randy Cecil to k-3, as part of the California Young Readers Medal program. A carousel duck teaches a real duckling what she can about flying, but realizes she must let the little one go in order to really learn. We do what we can as parents, but usually our ducklings will only learn to fly from others.

Living vicariously through Nina’s adventure in Nicaragua (please, see Nina’s blog at right). Feeling every bump in her road, and relieved that it’s not me. She’s funny, sensitive, and insightful. Such an experience is invaluable: witnessing the world as so many people live it, seeing oneself in that context, appreciating when things go well, struggling with when they don’t, learning who to go to for help (we, as parents apparently don’t quite get it), and knowing when to let go.

Vaya, patita, pero no me olvides.