Category: Elsewhere

Stambul

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 in San Francisco, where the saints’ statues crowd the aisles as […]

Tourists

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 […]

Tourism

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 […]

Kadiköy

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 […]

Orient Express

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 […]

Saffron

If you find Saffron on display in a Middle-Eastern spice bazaar, chances are it’s fake. More likely, the spice is kept in the safe in the back, because, at anywhere between $1,100 and $11,000 per kilogram, it is literally worth more than its weight in gold. Adulteration of the […]

English

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, […]