What happens when fifteen million people all rush out at the same time to go shopping in the same impenetrable warren of urban alleys, bazaars, and arcades? That’s what it feels like in the Fatih District of Istanbul around five o’clock on a holiday eve.
For someone brought up on Christian churches, East or West, Orthodox, Roman Catholic, or Protestant, the simplicity of the great Islamic mosques of Istanbul can be both over- and underwhelming. We’re reminded of a church across Market Street in San Francisco, where the saints’ statues crowd the aisles […]
We’ve now traveled by sleeper coach train through every major west European country except Spain (including our own version of the Orient Express), and it’s uncanny how the experience has reflected the culture of the train’s country of origin. The French coach was dignified and correct, if a bit […]
You would have thought you were on a movie set. We followed a dowdy, middle-aged couple all the way down to the Library of Celsius in the Ephesus ruins, as the husband juggled his over-sized camera and barked staging and posing directions, while the wife shoved her airspace […]
My favorite lame travel joke used to be: “If it’s Tuesday, this must be Belgium.” On the current voyage, the new one is: “If you’ve seen one Acropolis, you’ve seen ’em all.” Except… The Greek word technically refers to the summit of a hill, with or without a […]
Our friend Rick Botts has a favorite joke: “Don’t be a sheep and follow the herd.” [The joke being that sheep flock and cows herd, so if you’re a sheep following the herd, you are by definition a chronic non-conformist.] He told us this after I confessed to […]
The political classes are forever looking for symbols to crystalize their support and distract from the failure of their policies. No symbol has remained more potent, persistent, and maybe ridiculous than the headscarf. We would dismiss the entire brouhaha, if it wasn’t for Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, one of […]
The original Orient Express started running in 1881 from Paris to Istanbul via the northern, Romanian route (Paris-München-Wien-Budapest-București-Istanbul). After World War I, the southern route substituted Belgrade-Sofia for București to bypass the worst of the Balkan political mayhem. After growing up with Agatha Christie (Murder On the Orient Express), Graham Greene (Stamboul Train), and Ian […]
Every culture has its classic Saffron dish, from Biryani, Tagine, and Al Kabsa to Bouillabaise, Paella, and Risotto. Besides its deep, penetrating flavor, the spice is guaranteed to cure all your medicinal ills.
In Eastern Europe all of the way to the Bosphorus, everyone speaks English–except for the tourists. Whether it’s a French girl talking to her Romanian uncle, an Austrian passenger ordering coffee from a Turkish conductor, or an Italian with a defective passport remonstrating with a Bulgarian border guard, […]