Wednesday, 15 December 2010

No 1 on Google

I have just discovered that if you search google for "Skopelos Blog", Waiting for Skopelos comes in at number 1!

I'm quite chuffed with that, but then you know what they say about little things pleasing little minds!

Friday, 19 November 2010


A couple of weeks ago on a bitterly cold weekend at the end of October, Mrs Istanbilly and I took a drive down to the Gallipoli peninsula. Now, you may or may not be aware, Gallipoli was the scene of a major battle in the first world war. On the 25th of April 1915 allied troops landed at various beaches along the western edge of the Gallipoli peninsula. If you don't know anything about it why not read more here

My Grandfather was one of the troops who died in this ill-fated conflict. I wanted to go there for two reasons - 1. I had been told that it is a remarkably beautiful place and 2. I wanted to see where my Grandad died.

We took a drive down - it is about 5 hours from Istanbul and it was pouring rain down all day! We got there, checked into our hotel The Gallipoli Houses where we quickly settled down with a bottle of wine waiting for dinner.

The next day it was bright and clear but windy and very cold, but out we went to visit various places of interest. I have never been to Flanders but I imagine that it is similar - around every corner is a war memorial or cemetry and we visited quite a few of them.

Helles Memmorial

This is the Helles Memorial and is at the southern tip of the peninsula. There is a wall around the memorial and the names of all the allied soldiers and sailors who died but have no known grave are engraved on that wall. My Grandfather is amongst them but I couldn't take a photograph of his name because the section of wall that he is on is currently being refurbished. Oh well... I will go again.

We didn't just visit the allied cemeteries, obviously there are many Turkish cemeteries and memorials as well.

This was taken at the Cannakale Martyr's Memorial.

Cannakale Martyrs Memorial

Every grave stone has the names of 10 soldiers on it and there is just row after row of them.

This is Soğanlı Dere Şehitliği (Soganlidere Cemetry)

Soğanlı Dere Şehitliği

The grave markers are in the shape of heads with Turkish helmets from the time on them. Each head represents a village/town/city/area where the soldiers came from.

The next day was a little warmer and we went to the western side of the peninsual to visit ANZAC Cove. Gallipoli is very important to the ANZAC's and every year on the 25th of April (ANZAC Day) Australians and New Zealanders gather here to commemorate their ancestors.

Ari Burnu Memorial

This monolithic monument is the Ari Burnu Memorial at ANZAC Cove, it is the words of Mustapha Kamal Ataturk in 1934:

"Those heroes that shed their blood
and lost their lives...
you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.
Therefore rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies
and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side
in this country of ours...
You, the mothers,
who sent their sons from far away countries
wipe away your tears,
your sons are now lying in our bosom
and are in peace.
After having lost their lives on this land they have
become our sons as well"

Ataturk 1934

Right next to the Ari Burnu Monument is the Beach Cemetery, an allied cemetery in perhaps the most beautiful setting of all.

Beach Cemetery

Although I have many more photographs of the weekend, I will finish with one of the Lone Pine Cemetery. The reason I am in Turkey is because I am a member of staff at the British International School Istanbul and the lone pine is our logo so it felt right to go and visit.

Lone Pine

I took several shots of it but I rather like this one taken directly into the sun using my wide angle lens.

As the weekend progressed, the weather got better and the drive home was really quite pleasant. We had a lovely weekend down there and we want to go again in the spring - apparently the peninsula is covered in wild flowers (and it isn't quite as cold as it was on this weekend).

Something to look forward to and, perhaps, the work on the section of wall that bears my Grandad's name might be finished!

Another walk in the forest

Mrs. Istanbilly and I took another walk in the forest this morning. This time I took my long lens with me - it has the advantage that it also doubles as a macro lens. Of course, a dedicated macro lens allows you to get even closer to the subject but I am happy with the photo's that I managed to get.

forest flower

Long time readers of the blog will know that I particularly enjoy taking macro photographs of flowers - on our 6 km walk today, this was one of very few flowers we saw, but how lovely to see such a beautiful flower growing when all around are the rich colours of autumnal decay!


But plants can be beautiful even in death - this teasel with its attendant shriveled leaves is certainly testament to that.

life and death

There were lots of trees whose leaves were in the process of changing from green to yellow and brown but it was difficult finding the right combination, but in the end I was pleased with this study with leaves which are completely dead, leaves which are completely alive and leaves which are somewhere between the two extremes.


It isn't holly, but I suspect that this prickly little bush with its bright red berries is a relative. A lot of people who walk round the forest take sprigs of this bush home with them - perhaps it is some kind of tradition at this time of year here in Turkey. To me, this is nature preparing to provide winter food for the forest creatures that live here all year round.

forest path

This is just a view of the path we were walking along. I really think that Belgrade Forest is going to be my favourite part of Istanbul. I wouldn't describe me as a 'tree-hugger', but I have missed seeing natural forests like this during the last decade and a half in the Middle East, and now I am so close to one I am determined to take advantage of it!

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Belgrade Forest

Mrs Istanbilly and I took a drive down to Belgrade Forest today, it is a beautiful area a little way outside the village of Bahcekoy, about 10 to 15 kilometres from where we live.

We have been there before, it is a beautiful area where lots of people go to walk and have picnics. There is a reservoir in the middle and a 6 km walk around it. It really is a lovely walk and was made all the better today because it is so long since either of us have experienced autumn. It is at least 17 years since I have seen the leaves changing colour and falling as the trees prepare themselves for winter and it is even longer from Mrs I.

Of course this is nothing like New England, but I think it is beautiful.

a little bridge over a stream

Right at the start of the walk I spotted this little bridge over a little stream and thought it would make a lovely picture.

mushrooms or toadstools

I have to admit that I am not to well up on my fungi, so, mushrooms or toadstools? Either way they weren't going home with me - take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints. I'm quite pleased with the result of this one.

view through the trees

Looking at the reservoir through the trees.


I just love the colours in this photograph, the greens, reds, browns, yellows and the beautiful blue of the sky, what a gorgeous day!


I found this branch with frilly fungus growing on the end of it. I would normally have taken a macro photo of it but I didn't have my macro lens with me. This was taken with just my normal lens, so I am quite pleased with the result.


I've always liked taking photographs of reflections (probably something to do with me being a mathematician)and I couldn't resist the reflection of the trees in this stream.

nearly bare trees

This is Mrs I's favourite photo out of all the ones I took today - trees stretching back as far as the eye can see, all standing up like bare stalks (in her words).

I am looking forward to going back to Belgrade Forest again - we will probably go again this week but I think I will take my long lens (which doubles as a macro) with me. But more than that I am looking forward to going there when it has snowed (something else I haven't seen for a very long time). I can't wait to see the photo's that I take on that day.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Did the earth move for you?

So Mrs Istanbilly and I are sat at the table in the lounge surfing the internet when we just experienced a smallish earthquake - not very far up the Richter scale to be sure but nevertheless it is a strange feeling when you are not used to that sort of thing!

Saturday, 25 September 2010

I'm sorry, I thought I lived in Istanbul!

The sound of cow bells reached my ears this morning - at least I thought it was cow bells, actually it was sheep bells and this is the sight that greeted my eyes when I looked out of the window:


And it wasn't just a few sheep, there were lots of them:

more sheep

The sheep were baa-ing, the goats were bleating, and the sheep bells were clanging, so who could blame the local domestic dogs for adding their voices to the overall cacophony?

domestic dogs

Though the local street dogs (and there are lots of them!) seemed to be a little more laid back about the entire event.

street dog

The sheep dog took no notice of the noise and just strolled about amongst his flock - most of which were smaller than him! So this then is the spot the dog competition!

sheep dog

Not to be outdone, the local population of crows cawed as they hitched lifts on the back of the sheep and, presumably, de-ticked them in the process.

sheep and crow

Since I moved here I have seen (wandering the streets of Zekeriyakoy) sheep, goats, cows, bulls, horses, donkeys, water buffalo (I kid you not) and more street dogs than you can shake a stick at!

Megacity Istanbul? Don't make me laugh, I live on a bloody farm!

Sunday, 19 September 2010

A Good Day

Today has been a good day!

This morning we went down to Dalia Beach for a breakfast organised by the PTA - pleasant conversation was had in a lovely setting overlooking Dalia Beach on the Black Sea.

When we left there we went through the village of Bahcekoy to the Belgrade Forest and had a lovely 6km forest walk. Unfortunately I didn't take my camera - never mind I will take it with me next time I go there.

When we got back I took a couple of photo's of the car as I had been promising you:

Wide angle view of the car from the front

Wide angle view of the car from the back

It is a lovely motor - beautiful to drive (as I can honestly state now that Mrs. Istanbilly has let me have a go).

Coming in from photographing the car I saw this beautiful little creature sat on the tiles on my porch:

Preying Mantis

He didn't stay long so I was pleased to get the pic.

Then we had dinner - Mrs I made a superb Thai green curry - she hasn't made one since before the summer and she really does do a good job of Thai green curry! It was fantastic!

To end the day we are going to go on line on our separate computers (yes, my laptop has finally arrived and it's working!) meet up with Janet and John (names changed etc as usual) and while the evening away playing bridge!

As I said, it has been a good day.

Friday, 17 September 2010

The new wheels have arrived!

It seems like it has been a very long wait but the new wheels finally arrived today! I haven't taken a photo of it yet but I will do that tomorrow and post it then.

Interesting, Mrs Istanbilly came with me to the dealers to pick the car up - I'll give you three guesses which one of us got the pleasure of driving it home... here's a clue for you, it wasn't me!

Not to worry, she says I can drive it the 5 or so kilometers to work and back each day but at weekends it is her turn! Something doesn't quite work there for me!

Under what thumb??????

Sunday, 5 September 2010


During the last 13 years in the Middle East, the one thing that I started to miss was weather. Wall-to-wall sunshine does become a little monotonous after a while. The joke is that you have two seasons - Hot and Hotter. Alright, as anyone who has lived there knows, that isn't strictly true. I have known very heavy rain in the Middle East - it is just very short-lived and very infrequent and is only notable because of the problems it causes. But, most of the time, the sun shines and there are very few clouds in the sky.

Here in Istanbul things are a little different:

The dramatic sky from my front window about half an hour ago

The equally dramatic sky looking towards the black sea a minute or so later

It had just started to rain when I took the second photo as you can tell by the wet roof, a few minutes later it was bucketing it down - I might get tired of it in time but at the moment...

I love it.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Time to get some wheels

So, Thursday afternoon saw us on a trip over the Bosphorus to the Asian side of Istanbul to go and visit a car showroom. We have made the decision to buy a set of wheels and have gone for a Suzuki Grand Vitara.

Should have it some time this coming week and I will post a pic when we get it!

Can't wait.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

The Basilica Cistern

Eldest son and his girlfriend have descended on us for a holiday - our first visitors in Istanbul. They arrived yesterday and today we took them out to do the tourist bit. Eldest son wanted to see the Basilica Cistern.

I will be honest and say that I didn't know about this but was keen to see it when I heard about it (interestingly I can't find any reference to it in the Rough Guide to Istanbul; might be wrong but I haven't found it and it isn't mentioned in the index).

Anyway, regular readers of this blog will know of my fondness for available light photography and the basilica proved to be an ideal place to practice. Here are some of the results

The Basilica Cistern

The Basilica Cistern

The Basilica Cistern

The place is fantastic and well worth a visit next time you are in Istanbul.

Whilst I was in the area with my wide angle lens and in the mood for available light photography I went back to the New Mosque at Eminonu to take these:

The roof of the Eminonu New Mosque

I think the roof of this mosque is absolutely spectacular. And I love the way the lights have all starred in the photograph below - I promise you I didn't use a starburst filter for that effect either.

Inside the Eminonu New Mosque

The Princes' Islands

On Thursday the school organised a trip for all the new staff (yours truly included) to the Princes' Islands. These are located in the Sea of Marmaris about 15 km south of Istanbul. The incredible thing about these islands is that there is no motorised transport allowed on any of them! They are havens of peace and tranquility!

We took a nice slow ferry from Karikoy and relaxed for the 90 minute crossing.

The ferry to Buyukada

Eventually we arrived at our destination Buyukada where we took a phaeton (that is the name they used but I have always known them as landaus, but anyway, a horse and carriage) up the hill to our hotel. This was the only part of the two day trip that I didn't particularly like and that was because our phaeton driver was rather obnoxious to both his passengers and to his horses. I don't like to see horses being mistreated and this guy was rather too free and easy with his whip for my liking! Hence no photo of the phaeton.

The hotel garden

The hotel was a lovely if somewhat rustic place perched on top of the island and from the top we had great views of the next island in the chain, Heybeliada.

The view looking to Heybeliada

Our time there was delightful, very restful with good company and good wine and good food and a beautiful sunset.

Princes Island sunset

The next day we walked back to the port (a very pleasant stroll down hill that took about three-quarters of an hour) and caught the ferry back to Istanbul.

On the way back I took a series of photographs of the Asian side cityscape and stitched them together to make this panoramic view.

Asian Istanbul cityscape

The ferry calls in at Kadikoy on the Asian side on the way back and I managed to get a couple of photos of some famous sights of Istanbul. The first one is the Aya Sofia which is well over one thousand years old and for most of that time was the largest enclosed space in the world. The second is the Sultanahmet Camii, better known to the world at large as the Blue Mosque.

Aya Sofia

The Blue Mosque

All in all we had a delightful couple of days. On Monday work starts in earnest!

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Another Tourist Day

So, after an early start this morning, we decided to head back into town again. So it was back on public transport for us. Dolmus into Sariyer, then we got the wrong bus from Sariyer - wrong in that it didn't go where we expected it to! What the hell. Where its route ends there will be a little bus station so we will try to get where we want from there. I guess it took us about two to two and a half hours to get where we wanted rather than an hour. By that time we were extremely hot and sweaty!

Anyway, we went to Eminonu to have a look at the Egyptian Bazaar - lots of ceramics, lots of Turkish Delight and lots of spice stalls. Lots of people as well. Saturday is not the best day to be doing this sort of thing - especially in the hottest and most humid summer anyone in Istanbul has ever known!

After the spice bazaar we visited here:

New Mosque

It is wonderful that the "New Mosque" in Eminonu should have been built between 1597 and 1663!

This is a beautiful mosque and visitors are allowed inside. This is a walled court yard containing the ablution fountain outside the main mosque.

The courtyard and Ablution Fountain outside the New Mosque

The mosque is as beautiful inside as it is outside. It quiet and it is peaceful and the faithful at their prayers are very patient with us tourists, even allowing us to use flash photography in there.

The roof of the New Mosque

Above is a view of the beautifully decorated multi-domed roof of the New Mosque and below is an interior view.

A view of the interior of the New Mosque

Well, there is only so much culture a person can take in one day so, after visiting the New Mosque we made our way over to the very flash Kanyon shopping centre and finally got home at about 10 past 5 in the afternoon... Knackered!!!

Baggins in his new home

He might be a pain when it comes to finding dry food that he will actually eat, but he is still a beautiful cat.

Baggins in his new home

Here Comes the Sun

I woke up early this morning and couldn't get back to sleep. At about 20 mins past 6 I decided to get up. This is the sight that greeted me when I looked out of the window:

Sunrise over the Black Sea

Beautiful! How could it possibly be anything but a great day after this?

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Bloody Fussy Moggies

To say that Baggins is a discerning eater is to somewhat understate the case!

Baggins will eat dry food and he will eat wet food. In terms of wet food he likes Miaow Mix (well one of the flavours of it anyway) and he will deign to eat certain other brands at a push.

In terms of dry food he will eat Friskies.

That is it. Friskies. Nothing else.

But they don't sell Friskies in Turkey.

We have tried all sorts - Whiskas (that was always going to be a loser, Baggins won't eat any manner of Whiskas), Kit-E-Kat (tried one piece), La Cat (winning by miles, he has eaten maybe 3 pieces in the last few days), some expensive stuff from the Vet (not interested), Eukaneuba (didn't even bother to sniff it)

So far, in the 9 days we have been here we have spent about 50 US dollars on dry cat food in an attempt to get him to eat - result, nothing.

And the trouble is, if he eats exclusively wet cat food he starts throwing up.

What to do!

Bloody Fussy Moggies!

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Istanbul Touristy Stuff

So Mrs Istanbilly and I arrived in our new home on the evening of the 2nd of August. I've been into school a few times - they are constructing a new building and I need to make sure all is well. I've had a tour of the construction site.

We've been to a couple of shopping centres and spent more than we would want to!

On Saturday we decided that we should do some exploring and some of the touristy stuff. Now, Istanbul seems to have a fantastic public transport system! Dolmuses (really a shared taxi that has a specific route but more like mini-buses that will stop anywhere on their route for passengers to get on or off - quite an experience), an extensive bus network, a metro, trams, funicular railways and ferries! And remarkably cheap! Apart from the ferries we made pretty good use of the rest of it on our day out.

We decided to head for the centre of the city, so we took a dolmus from Zekeriyakoy to Sariyer and then a bus to Taksim. At Taksim we caught the antique tram down to the bottom of Istiklal Caddesi.

The antique tram runs from Taksim to the bottom of Istiklal Caddesi

The antique tram is probably one of the most photographed vehicles in the world

I love these little antique trams, and I suspect that they are one of the most photographed vehicles in the world (those of you who want to be picky please note that I said one of.) In a shop on Istiklal Caddesi I saw a great photo of one of them in the snow - I shall look forward to seeing that in January or February for myself.

When we got off the tram we walked about 250 metres down hill to Galata Tower.

Galata Tower

Built in 1348, the tower dominates the skyline and has a great view over the Golden Horn. There is a panoramic view balcony around the top and also a restaurant at the top. I am pretty sure that the lifts up to the top were not part of the original feature but they are a lot easier than struggling up a long and winding staircase in the current Istanbul heat and humidity.

The Galata Bridge crossing the Golden Horn to Eminonu
The bridge is the Galata Bridge linking Karakoy with Eminonu. The trams use this bridge as do many fishermen.

View up the Golden Horn to the Ataturk Bridge
Here we are looking up the Golden Horn to the Ataturk Bridge

View over the roof tops of Istanbul looking towards the Bosphorous
Andthis is the view over the rooftops of Istanbul looking towards the Bosphorous

As you can see in the photographs the day was very hazy, presumably caused by the high humidity. I shall look forward to going there again when the weather has become considerably cooler to see if I can get clearer pictures.

After the tower we went down the hill to the Golden Horn and caught an ultra-modern tram at Karikoy to the Grand Bazaar.

One of the main thoroughfares in the Grand Bazaar
This is Kalpakcilar Basi Cad looking towards the Beyazit Gate,one of the main thoroughfares aroundthe edge of the Grand Bazaar,

One of the side streets in the Grand Bazaar
And this is one of the smaller side streets off Kalpakcilar Basi Cad.

Visiting the Grand Bazaar on a Saturday was possibly not the best move, next time we will try for a mid-week visit. After the Bazaar we caught a tram back to the other side and a funicular from Kabitas back up to Taksim.

Once in Taksim we took a walk down Istiklal Caddesi and, in the Balik Pazari, managed to find a butcher who sells pork! So it was pork chops for tea on Sunday.

Back to Taksim for the bus to Sariyer, then the dolmus to Zekeriyakoy and home, hot, sweaty and exhausted. But, all in all, a very pleasant and successful trip.