14 April 2014

Turkish Wine of the Week Visits Sirince

A friend visited last week and as it's been since last October that I've been to Ephesus it seemed like a good time to go back. A lot has changed though since my last trips.

I usually take Onur Air to Izmir because if you're going to do Selcuk and Sirince all in one day, the early and late Onur Air flights give you the most time. Although I really wouldn't mind if they decided to offer a flight maybe an hour later in the morning and an hour or two earlier in the evening. 22 hour days (up at 4 am and in bed at 2 am due to delayed return flight) are not my favorite thing.

The Hercules Gate-not sure I've noticed it before

Of course I stopped to pet all the cats. Again.

If you take the 6.45 am Onur Air flight take the time for breakfast at home or the airport. Onur Air no longer provides food or beverage as part of it's service (which is a pity because the breakfast simit sandwich was kinda awesome) and now charge an outrageous 3TL for water. Also to keep in mind if you go:

  • The new domestic terminal at Izmir is opened so everything is new and confusing.
  • Onur Air still provides a free shuttle into Selcuk but it's not where all the shuttles used to be. An on-plane announcement said to check with Onur Air ground crew about it. We didn't see any ground crew (to be fair we didn't look as I thought I knew where I was going) but I suggest you look. Otherwise you'll be like me and wander all over the place to end up at the unmanned information desk, call information, speak Turklish, get transferred four times, and finally get someone who knows about the shuttle.
  • The return shuttle (at 8.20 pm for the 10.30 pm flight near the kiosk to the side of the hospital) is still running per usual. 

I love a side trip to Sirince when I'm in Selcuk. I rather like some fruit wines, especially raspberry and peach, but even I think that most of those found in Sirince are pretty bad. Usually I go for the karadut (mulberry) which is what we did however we got a different bottle than I usually get. The Vinova is the "higher end" fruit wine sold here and it was admittedly better. If you think of fruit wines as generally being overly sweet you'd have most of those produced in Sirince pegged. The Vinova though, as I understood, has a lower concentration of fruit, is mixed with grape varietals, and is aged longer.

If you're visiting Ephesus I will always advocate for a side trip to Sirince and that you try as many of the ridiculous wines as you can (except the kiwi-really you don't want to go there) but if you're going to buy a bottle go for the Vinova.

13 April 2014

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night

If you want to be technical, 11:00 is more late morning than night but my dog-involving curious incident was far more curious than Sherlock Holmes'. I've been to Masses interrupted by crazy protesters and homeless people (usually not mutually exclusive and a fairly common occurrence in DC), but I've never been interrupted by an animal.

Happily this Palm Sunday Mass wasn't actually interrupted. The priest, a few others, and I were in Saint Mary Draperis early preparing for Mass and praying when a stray dog wandered in. We were all a little taken aback and looked at each other with a 'what's happening' expression on our faces. Several people took turns trying to shoo the dog out of the church but with limited success as he just kept coming back in. It was like I was in a Vicar of Dibley episode-although sadly not one guesting Richard Armitage. Who, on the off chance he should ever stumble across my blog should visit Istanbul and look me up!

And then what I think we were all dreading happened...he wandered up onto the alter area. There wasn't exactly a collective gasp of horror since he didn't know he wasn't supposed to be up there...but there was a moment of frozen indecision as to what to do next. There's a lovely Turkish woman who works at the church and she was debating carrying him out but I could tell she really didn't want to do it. There seems to be an innate fear of dogs among many Turks. I'm glad to say though that fear does not mean they're cruel to the strays. Far from it. While not pampered like many of the stray cats, dogs are tagged, fed to a degree, and generally left alone. Which means that they in turn are pretty docile.

Luckily for me this one was a pretty friendly guy since, in the end, it was I who carried him out. I went up to the alter to help and when I grabbed him by the scruff to try to move him along he decided that meant it was time to lie down and take a nap! Seeing that he had no intention of moving I squatted down and tentatively lifted his front half (just to make sure he wasn't going to bite) before scooping him up. At which point I was vastly grateful to have a fellow female on the alter with me as it's really hard to scoop up a heavy, potentially bitey, object without also scooping up your skirt! While I was in a madly awkward position between hefting a heavy dog and flashing the congregation and tourists, my fellow dog shooer quickly saved my dignity (or most of it!) by tugging down my dress.

Happily the dog turned out to be quite friendly and docile and did not protest being carried out. Also thanks to the possibly Germanic or Scandinavian tourists who held open the door for me. Saint Mary's is at the bottom of long stairway so rather than carry him all the way up, I set him down and coaxed him all the way up the stairs onto the street, after which I closed the church gate to make sure he didn't once again get back in.

So, neither was it night nor did it involve the attempted laming of a winning race horse...but I think my curious dog incident could give the world's greatest detective a run for his money. Although speaking of...Benedict Cumberbatch is also totally welcome to visit Istanbul and look me up!

And because we cannot have a blog post sans picture, and I could hardly take a picture of myself while carrying at 30+ pound dog, I leave you with a picture of my own Sherlock in her favorite resting position.

I dunno, man. Cat's weird.

11 April 2014

The Island of San Giorgio Maggiore

If you're not in the mood for a longer side trip to Burano, there's always Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore just across from San Marco.

The church of San Giorgio seen from Campo S. Maria della Salute

The island of San Giorgio is the home to the San Giorgio Maggiore church and Benedictine monastery, an open-air theatre, and the Cini Foundation arts center. The church (another of the few that allow pictures inside) was designed by Andrea* Palladio in the 16th century.

The Monastery of San Giorgio


If I recall, entrance to the church was either free or was only like 2.50 Euro. The bell tower is about 6 Euro but the line is much shorter than that of the San Marco tower! The view is pretty spectacular. It also really drove home how small a city Venice is. Every city I visited on my first trip to Europe in 2000 seemed, to me, to be huge. And fair enough I suppose as I'm from a town with a population of under 5,000 (and I maintain they include livestock in that count). But now...both my friend who lives in London and I living in Istanbul, with a population of 15 million, were really taken by how small the city is. You can literally see all of it from the bell tower.

Piazza San Marco

San Giorgio facade in the foreground & San Maria della Salute in the back

The beautiful church and fantastic views make the trip to the island well worth the effort. There's a dedicated vaporetto, the number 2 (the last pier), that goes from San Zaccaria to San Giorgio. We only took a few vaportetti during our stay, preferring to walk. However single tickets can get expensive so if you think you're going to take a lot of boats, get one of the passes. Single tickets and passes can be bought at any of the piers and passes are good for 12, 24, 36, 48, and 72 hours and 7-days.

*I keep telling my parents they gave me a man's name and being in Italy just reinforces. There were at least four Doges with my name along with Andrea Palladio and any number of artists; including contemporary opera singer Andrea Bocelli. 

07 April 2014

Turkish Wine of the Week - Terra Boğazkere

It seems the one consistent thing about my wine drinking is that I drink far more red than I do white. In college I'd have told you that I was a white wine drinker but the more I explored wines and learned about grape profiles the more I realized I preferred reds. Which also means that I now gravitate towards them more often simply because I know more about them and feel more confident choosing a red wine. I really must start picking up more whites and rectify this. Before we get there though...lets discuss the Terra Boğazkere.

I've already reviewed an Okuzguzu and the Okuzguzu-Boğazkere blend but this is the first straight up Boğazkere. I really liked the blend and the Okuzguzu on its own not so much. The Boğazkere on its own-total winner.

The Terra Boğazkere had a nice plummy purple color. A Boğazkere grape's flavor profile is pretty complex: black cherry, raspberry, black raspberry, black mulberry, pepper, clove, tobacco, eucalyptus, leather (!), pine, dark chocolate, and liquorice. I'm not nearly good enough to pick out those flavors individually but did get a lot of red fruits and the tobacco in both the nose and flavor. My favorite part about the wine though? The feel of it in my mouth. There are a lot of people who don't like tanins in their wine but I am not one of them. If you're like me, you'll love this.

Even after breathing and having been opened for some time the tanins stayed very strong. This was a good wine for me as I find that I drink rather too quickly sometimes but I so enjoyed the feel of the Boğazkere that I held each sip on my tongue and rolled it around a bit thus drawing out the flavor and experience. It was like being able to both taste and feel grape skins in my mouth.

So far I'm having pretty good luck with both the Terra and Pamukkale wines and this is no exception - the Terra Boğazkere is a winner and I will most definitely be buying this again. Which I suppose doesn't help my resolution to drink more white wines...

02 April 2014

Colorful Burano

Taking a brief break from Venice's churches (more to come!), we took a side trip to Burano. Many people go to the larger and much closer island of Murano when visiting Venice. Murano is where all the Venetian glass is made. Rather than doing that, we opted to visit the farther out Burano, famous for its colorful buildings and hand made laces and clothes.

Like Venice itself, the island of Burano is traveled either by foot or boat via a series of canals. There are no roads or vehicles. In all honesty there really is not a whole lot to do on Burano. However if you have a few days in Venice I still think it's worth the side trip because "just" walking around looking at all the colorful houses is thoroughly enjoyable!

Love it.

Unsurprisingly, Burano is full of seafood restaurants. We were surprised and pleased to discover that restaurant prices here were very reasonable. Neither of us got seafood though! Much like when I was in Prague in December, my pork deprivation reared its insatiable head prompting me to order a Carbonara. Which I may have ordered more than once on this trip...

Burano is not a huge island. We didn't wander around the entire thing but we did explore some of the back streets where fewer tourists ventured. The exploring we did do made it obvious that it's not just the central houses and buildings that received the technicolor treatment but all of them. It must be very strange to live in a place so frequented by tourists that every facet of your outside life is documented - knowing that your laundry is never private and that your undergarments will likely end up in any number of vacation photos! Living in DC gave me a healthy dislike of tourists but at least my apartment buildings were so uninteresting as to not be swarmed by a bunch of amateur photographers such as myself!

Getting to and from Burano is very simple. Take the number 12 vaporetto (which runs every half hour) from Fondamente Novo, pier C or D (I forget) which itself can be reached by several different lines such as the 4.1 and 4.2 from San Marco/Zaccaria or by walking across the city. I do strongly suggest queuing early at the pier because the boat, while larger than the regular city vaporetti, is only so large and even in March was packed to standing room only. The trip itself is about 40 minutes from F. Novo and if you don't have good sea legs you might want to sit down. Same goes for your return trip.

Also a general rule of thumb...getting on an off public transportation abroad is not a game for polite people. Regardless of the "ugly American" reputation we've earned (rightly or not, I've seen all kinds) I think Americans in general tend to be polite, especially those who have not lived in any of the US's ruder cities. Props to DC for earning #3 rudest city in the country! So you think you have a certain place in a queue but when it starts moving you realize the queue was just an illusion. I'm not advocating line jumping, but don't be afraid to jostle a bit. It's really every man for himself.

It's not major attractions, churches, or museums that make Burano worth the visit but rather the island itself. It's a nice change of pace from the narrow, shady, tourist-choked streets of Venice.