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    October 1st, 2010adminIstanbul, Mundane Everyday

    A view of what? Guess that's the modern city...

    I have lived in three flats since arriving in Istanbul.

    This is a picture of the kitchen from my first flat — a place I lived in for a month, when I was very new to Istanbul and, honestly, very nervous about the whole thing.

    I took photos of strange things then — my kitchen, my hair, street cats. I think I was too overwhelmed by Istanbul, that first month, to take any substantial photos.

    Things are much better now.

    Okay, now off to Taksim to eat and drink with friends!

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    A mountaintop view from Plovdiv. Originally used as an ancient fortress by many great empires, this area is now a popular drinking spot for teenagers, sort of like an all-inclusive partying and "make-out point" spot, from my observations.

    I’ve been informed that this blog was mentioned in Sofia Weekly, which is great news (thanks!). And some Bulgarian readers have happened upon this blog, leaving emails and comments. I really appreciate the interest. In fact, I truly enjoyed my trip to Bulgaria, so I’m including one last photo-based entry before returning to my Istanbul blogging. You’ll find photos — both historical and mundane — from Sofia and Plovdiv. Enjoy!

    And here are the teenagers, sitting amidst their graffiti. I was interested in the lone boy by the tree. What was he thinking about? Girls? Life? Did he find humanity disgusting? Maybe.

    A run-down home by the old mountaintop fortress. There was a car parked infront -- which makes me wonder, who is inside?

    The Plovdiv Ethnographic Museum in the 1847 Kuyumdzhioglu House.

    Kebabs in a Sofia restaurant. The food was very good and very cheap. The waitresses all wore traditional Bulgarian clothing -- but, beneath the wonderful outfits, they looked tired, bored and jaded. I guess you see that in restaurants everywhere...

    Fish on ice at the same restaurant. When I was a vegetarian traveler (years ago!), this is what I was missing. But, even if I was a vegetarian today, I think I would loosen up when traveling.

    Oversized cowbells at the same restaurant. The cowbells are hand-made. So, no one bell is exactly alike. And, because each is shaped differently, each bell has its own distinct noise.

    My adorable teenage tour guides in Plovdiv. I was lost, trying to find the Roman Odeon, and they gladly helped me. They filled me in on Bulgarian girls, too! According to these fine male specimens, Bulgarian women are very beautiful but very difficult. Well, now I know! Thanks, dudes!

    Night life in Plovdiv on the main commercial boulevard. The photo came out strangely, but I like it this way -- lends the whole experience a ghostly air.

    A less than inviting entrance in Sofia.

    A sex shop advertised on a Sofia street sign pole -- in other words, on city property! How did this get approved? How the hell is this normal? Okay, I'm from San Francisco, home to the largest leather festival in the world and all forms of debauchery. But do I think there should be an advertisement for "Rock Hard" or "Good Vibrations," both local sex shops, on my street sign? Hell no! Very, very strange.

    Old Town Plovdiv: Completely charming -- and relatively free of tourists! I walked on most streets completely alone, only accompanied by the occasional street cat. Perfect.

    Daily life in "Old Town." I always wonder how people, who live in the "historic area" of a city, feel about the whole thing. Do they appreciate it? I grew up in the historic area of San Francisco -- and I didn't appreciate it until I grew older and left home.

    Some more daily life -- fascinating and mundane simultaneously.

    I met these really cool guys in Plovdiv (from London) who, coincidentally, had the exact same heritage: Fathers from Ghana, mothers from Bulgaria, and a childhood in London with a lot of fantastic Cockney humor. They met as children, when spending summers in Plovdiv with their families. Anyway, they asked me to go get these special Bulgarian pancakes with them, which I expected to be an exotic discovery. When the food came, I exclaimed, "Oh, they're blintzes!" They asked, "What's blintzes." I said, "Basically, they're this."

    Okay, I know this *just* looks like a peach and espresso. But let me just say that this was maybe the best peach I ever ate in my life. It was purchased at a small farmer's market in Plovdiv ....so good. The espresso was from a bohemian-type cafe with a buxom, curly-haired lady behind the bar (yay!).

    I just loved this -- whatever it was ...an entrance to a cafe, restaurant or hotel ...I don't know. The photo was taken in Old Town Plovdiv.

    A more full shot of Plovdiv's impressive Roman Theater. I wonder what bawdy humor, fantastic tales and epic tragedies graced this stage. Really, I never get sick of Roman or Greek theaters.

    A shot through the columns.

    There was so much beauty in this shot -- the columns, the house and all the green. In fact, a Bulgarian TV show took place in this very spot (in that very house), and the opening credits featured an image similar to this one.

    A Sofia doorway.

    I took this picture in Sofia with no knowledge of its content. I was simply drawn to the image. But, on the bus from Plovdiv, I asked about the posting. Well, it's a death notice. Rest in Peace, whoever this woman was or may have been...

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    September 3rd, 2010adminEconomy, Food, Mundane Everyday

    Bulk packs of çay (or "chai" in English) sold at a grocery down the road from my apartment.

    This grocery store isn’t special. Or extraordinary. It’s just the local market down the road from my apartment. But, for that reason, it’s interesting, specifically because it’s not the biggest and best. It’s just an average market — a place where locals buy çay (tea), şeker (sugar), lavaş (pita-type bread), peynir (cheese), yoğurt (yogurt) and other Turkish kitchen staples.

    Yogurt is serious business in the Eastern Mediterranean countries. Turkey is no exception. My breakfast favorite is as follows: yogurt, muesli and chopped peach. Yes, it is common to find muesli in Turkish markets. I assume this came about with the influx of Turkish migrants in Germany, who first arrived in the 1960s.

    If you’re interested, check out the prices. How do they compare with hometown prices in, say, San Francisco or New York? Food is cheaper here. The markets aren’t dirt cheap. But things are generally much more affordable, especially when you convert from dollars to Turkish liras!

    A wonderful reminder that Dorothy is not in Kansas anymore. Divine figs and dried fruits.

    As a side note, I’ll be taking a short trip to Bulgaria soon — probably Sofia. So, look out for pictures in the weeks to come!