Showing posts with label Ottoman Empire. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ottoman Empire. Show all posts

Monday, January 12, 2015

"Midnight at the Pera Palace" with the Istanbul Global Minds Book Club

If ever there was a book that was a perfect match for my Istanbul "Global Minds Book Club" it is this one: "Midnight at the Pera Palace: The Birth of Modern Istanbul" by Georgetown International Relations and Government professor Charles King.

We selected it for our January read this month, because a reporter and photographer from Ankara, Turkey, were flying into Istanbul to do a photo shoot and cover story on our book club for Tempo Magazine.

We wanted to pick a book that Turkish readers of the magazine would also find interesting, so that we as a book club had done everything we could to help promote reading culture in Turkey.
Red carpet? Of course.
The dapper staff
immediately greets everyone
who walks in the door,
happy to help you make the most
of your visit
"Welcome,
to the Pera Palace
of Istanbul"
To make our day and the photo shoot extra special, we decided to meet at the glorious, historic Pera Palace itself. The Pera Palace is the hotel that was built by the creator of the luxury train line, the Orient Express, which used to transport glamorous passengers in style from Paris to Istanbul. Upon arriving in Istanbul, passengers would be hand-carried to the hotel from the Sirkeci train station, in a Turkish tahtırevan, or palanquin, as it is known in English.
Imagine seeing Istanbul
for the first time
through the windows of a
Turkish tahtırevan
The Pera Palace Hotel
boasts of the second-oldest elevator
in all of Europe,
installed in 1892,
only three years
after the elevator
in the Eiffel Tower.
It's still operational.
One special little nook
in the hotel
is the Patisserie de Pera
We didn't meet here,
but the little patisserie
is such a happy room
I can't resist
sharing photos of it.
 The colors!

The friendly workforce
know how to make
every visit fun,
and who doesn't fancy a
festive fascinator?
Spring flowers
abound in the lobby.
 What could be more dazzling
to a book club
than a spectacular library
between the lobby and the bar?
 Our group was meeting in
the Orient Bar
Who else has enjoyed
the Orient Bar
before we arrived
for our special day?
Atatürk,
the founder of the Turkish Republic,
Ernest Hemingway,
adventurer and famous macho man,
plus Agatha Christie,
bestselling mystery writer
 Giggling with friends
before everyone else arrives
Our second generation
club organizers,
Matt Howell
and Nilüfer Tufanoğlu
Our club member
Filiz Kavak,
made the day a delight
by arranging press coverage
and booking our spectacular setting
With triple our normal turnout
it was nice that the bar
had been set up
in small discussion groups
Bookish brain food!
The Global Minds Book Club
prides itself on being
 people from around the world,
discussing books
from around the world.
On this day,
with thirty people present,
we had five continents represented
and fourteen different countries.
It helped to have at least
one Turk at every table.
We had such a
riveting, spirited discussion.
Nationalities represented
in my group:
Turkish, Russian, Polish,
Netherlands, Venezuelan,
American, and Chinese.
What made "Midnight at the Pera Palace: the Modern History of Istanbul" such a fun read is that it was written by a yabancı (a foreigner to Turkey). All of the angst that would go into the description of one's own history wasn't there; it was the fantastic storytelling that remained.

I describe 'Midnight' as an expat history of expat and refugee Istanbul. The book felt so alive and relevant when I was reading about White Russians refugees in Istanbul during the 1920s while the ruble was crashing this month. The club loved reading about the musicians, diplomats, spies, feminists, and future statesmen who contributed in their way to the city Napoleon described as the capital of the world, if the world had one.

I found the central metaphor of why the book was called "Midnight at the Pera Palace" stunning. I won't spoil it by sharing it. Some of our members wanted more Pera Palace stories in the book, and one of our Turkish members said she was surprised that there were no historical surprises. The history in 'Midnight' of 20th-century Istanbul and Turkey was more-or-less as she had been taught. 

I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Istanbul and Turkey. One of our members said "sequel, please!" Personally, I think this author needs a movie contract. The cinematography of this setting, this time, and this history would be irresistible.

Would you like to learn more about the Global Minds Book Club? I am so proud of our book club founder and inspiration, Clarence Lomot Nartey, of Ghana. It isn't easy to create a lasting legacy as an expat. Clarence did. Global Minds Book Club is now starting its fourth year. Clarence, you would have been deeply pleased with yesterday's success.

Here are some posts about past discussions:



Want to find out how you can help promote reading culture in Turkey? Read this post:


Want to learn more about the Pera Palace Hotel, now owned by the Sheikh of Dubai? Check out the web site. Their memorable video actually does a great job of capturing what our day was like.

Want to know where 'Midnight' author, Charles King, goes to eat first when he comes to Istanbul? Culinary Backstreets blog has the lowdown.

Looking for another great book from this side of the world?
Here's three I recommend:




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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Back in print from 100 years ago - Turkish and American women reflecting on their cross-cultural experience


I came across this marvelous book series "Cultures in Dialogue" the other day, and wished I could park myself down immediately to see what had changed for American female expats living and writing in Turkey 100 years ago, and what was the same.

Here's how the series publishers describe it:
Cultures in Dialogue returns to print sources by women writers from the East and West. Series One considers the exchanges between Ottoman, British, and American women from the 1880s to the 1940s. Their varied responses to dilemmas such as nationalism, female emancipation, race relations and modernization in the context of the stereotypes characteristic of Western harem literature reframe the historical tensions between Eastern and Western cultures, offering a nuanced understanding of their current manifestations.
Obviously, the Ottoman Empire is no more, so it would be impossible to see the Sultan at Yıldız Palace as Anna Bowman Dodd did.

Anna Bowman Dodd, the author pictured above, traveled throughout Istanbul and shared her impressions of household management, education, slavery, marriage, women's rights from a female travel writer's point-of-view.

The eternal conversation on cross-cultural female emancipation will still be occurring in some form 100 years from now. How interesting it would be to see the progress from 100 years back.

Even today, only 12% of Turkish women have been out of their country. How fun it would be to read Zeyneb Hanoum's impressions of Europe as she visited it at the turn of the last century or to read the memoirs of the famous feminist from the early Turkish Republic, Halide Edib.

So many books, so little time! Kudos to the publishers for bringing these historical voices back to the conversation.



You may also be interested in these posts:

#EnSonNeOkuyorsun What are you reading lately?

"My Little Library in Anatolia" by Kaya Genç

"The People Who Go"

Follow Empty Nest Expat on Facebook to ensure you'll never miss a post! See you there.

 

Friday, May 23, 2014

A Fete for Fulbrights and Friends


 My Turkish Breakfast
If someone were to ask me what I did this last weekend, I could only reply "have breakfast." Besides the uplifting breakfast I had at Olga's on Sunday, I also held a small 'Fete for Fulbright Scholars and Friends' on Saturday.
Three incredibly dynamic young women
who inspire me:
Dr. Öykü Üluçay (she is Turkish),
Caitlin Nettleson, an American
about to finish her Fulbright year,
and Cassandra Puhls,
a Fulbrighter interested in
international education policy.
When I was young, it was always older people who inspired me. Lately, I've been finding it's the twenty-somethings (including my own children) who are touching my heart and filling me with hope for the future.

In Istanbul, I realized I knew several young Fulbright Scholars. I wanted to celebrate their excellence and give them an opportunity to meet or see those who are from a different year than theirs, plus introduce them to a few other dynamic young people who also inspire me. Not all of them could come. For example, one of them was getting married that day. 
"The Fulbright Program, including the Fulbright-Hays Program, is a program of highly competitive, merit-based grants for international educational exchange for students, scholars, teachers, professionals, scientists and artists, founded by United States Senator J. William Fulbright in 1946. Under the Fulbright program, competitively selected U.S. citizens may become eligible for scholarships to study, conduct research, or exercise their talents abroad; and citizens of other countries may qualify to do the same in the United States. 
The Fulbright Program is one of the most prestigious awards programs worldwide, operating in over 155 countries. Fifty-three Fulbright alumni have won Nobel Prizes; seventy-eight have won Pulitzer Prizes. More Nobel laureates are former Fulbright recipients than any other award program. 
The program was established to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries through the exchange of persons, knowledge, and skills." ~ from Wikipedia, May 21, 2014 
I was grateful for a spectacular Spring Day
so we could enjoy the garden.
American Fulbrighter
Abigail Bowman,
and her Turkish friend
Mert Tuncer.
Fellow Iowan Abigail Bowman graduates this June with her M.A. in Ottoman History from Sabancı University here in Istanbul.

When Abby was in 7th grade, she had to write a paper on a revolutionary or a reformer. Her uncle suggested the founder of the Turkish Republic, Atatürk.

Abby's paper and presentation made it all the way to 8th place nationally in America's National History Day competition. The Atatürk Society of America was so thrilled that this young student honored their leader, they sent her to Turkey to experience the country when she was a 9th grader. A lifelong interest in Turkey began to grow.

Anybody who knows Turkey can imagine how Turkish people respond to Abby when she says she wrote a paper on Atatürk in 7th grade.
I was so happy Fulbrighter
Elizabeth Rocas could come.
She brought her visiting American
friend from the States, Jacqueline.
Fulbrighter Niko Dimitrioğlu
 and Elizabeth Rocas
discovering they both speak Greek.
What else does Niko speak?
English, French, Uyghur,
Afghan Persian (Dari),
and Manderin Chinese.
Visiting Texan Shane Largo
represented another
inspiring young American
living here in Istanbul
but unable to make it to breakfast:
her daughter
Katy Herrera.


These young Fulbrighters who are sent out into the world to contribute to, explore, research and develop expertise in different countries are such a wonderful investment in America's future. Frankly, it is such a strategic investment. What could save America more money on wrong moves internationally than subject experts who can advise policy makers on given countries and cultures?

You'd think that would be an easy sell in Washington D.C. You'd be wrong. America simply does not invest as much as other countries in its international experts, even much smaller countries like Russia! For example, the Russians have over 16 ambassadors with more than five years of experience, the Americans have none! (Political scientist Ian Bremmer, Twitter, May 2014).

Salon puts current funding for the Fulbright program at around $234.5 million a year. Next year, a $30 million cut is proposed.

There is no constituency to argue for increasing the funding, save the alumni. The Fulbright Program doesn't create any jobs at home. It doesn't result in hefty contracts for American corporations. 

So this blog post is a message in a bottle to my fellow Americans. When I read about how the Fulbright program funding is in trouble, and I know the quality of the people who go through the program, I want to share with my fellow Americans a wish to keep this program not just alive, but growing.

It seems like common sense to invest in folks who understand other countries and cultures deeply via a non-militarized way. Intercultural exchange is a way to promote a more peaceful and prosperous world. I ask Americans to support continued, and even increasing, funding of the Fulbright program from now until the future.


I invite you to follow the Empty Nest Expat blog on Facebook!

You might also be interested in reading:

Talking about "My People, Iowans," to the Travel Junkies

Why the Obama Presidential Library Should be Built in Springfield, Illinois

President Obama in Prague!

"We are here because enough people ignored the voices who told them the world could not change" 




Thursday, December 5, 2013

#EnSonNeOkudun What are you reading lately?

If one stays in a country long enough as an expat, it's easy to see places where one could contribute.

Turkey recently had its 90th anniversary and it got me to thinking about Turkish reading culture as Turkey approaches its centennial as a Republic. Reading culture here is still a flame in need of kindling, simply because of the incredibly interesting history of the Turkish language.

Turkey used to have an alphabet that looked like Arabic script. It was hard to read because it wasn't consistent, and it contained many loan words from Arabic, Persian, and French. Often court language and the language in the hinterlands wasn't the same.

Atatürk reformed the Turkish language by adopting the Latin alphabet. Think about what a gigantic change that was for Turkish people to absorb! And that was just one of the reforms he was undertaking at the time. When the Republic was formed, only 10% of the population was literate (it was an empire, after all).

I often tell my friends Atatürk and his generation changed the language so people could learn to read, the next generation did exactly that, and now the third generation's job is to learn to love to read.

I meet Turkish "reading role models" everywhere. As a librarian, I nurture, support, and help create reading communities. I thought that Turkey and the Turkish language needed a Twitter hash tag like the English-language one that celebrates reading culture called #Fridayreads. To use a Turkish hash tag that suggested #Fridayreads had religious connotations, so after another false start I finally settled on #EnSonNeOkudun.

I know people will be enthusiastic about something they just read and share it with this hashtag 24/7. But, because Friday is one of the heaviest volume days on Twitter, our beginning community of readers will concentrate their reading celebration all on one day, Friday, every week. Someone looking for a good read for the weekend is sure to find one. Weekly rituals become just that, rituals!

I hope to create conversations about books, blogs, magazine and newspaper articles and help readers discover reading culture and just plain help people find great things to read. People tweeting using this hashtag won't be only using Turkish because there's a sizeable population of Turks reading in multiple languages. Plus, there's a whole expat community in Turkey who also wants to get in on the fun. They'll be tweeting in their native languages.

One of my very favorite things about the idea is that it brings people together, rather than polarizes them. Turkish folks could use some of that right now.

I have messaged friends and my tweeps I've never even met "Can you help me launch dun? Let's celebrate Turkish reading culture - tweet your read each Friday in Turkish or English. Thank you."

The response has been so touching. People say things like, "What can I do to help? Thanks for asking me to participate. I will ask my friends to do it too." Truly, it makes me tear up. I think the phrase "what can I do to help?" maybe even more of a set of magic words than please and thank you.  It's fun to build something together with people.

So I ask you, Turks and the Turkophile community: #EnSonNeOkudun? What are you reading lately?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Turks and their Hammams - a couple stories of how they use them

Recently, I enjoyed my first Istanbul hammam at Çirağan Palace Kempinski, the famous Ottoman Imperial Palace hotel on the Bosphorus, which I described in the following two blog posts: part one and part two.
The aesthetic beauty of a hammam space
 is part of the attraction.
Zeynep, the Sanitas spa manager at Çirağan Palace Kempinski, credited the Romans with the development of public baths; she said the Ottomans simply absorbed and carried on this tradition. If so, the Ottomans perfected it, because the experience is worthy of becoming globally famous. Since the advent of water in every home though, hammam culture is threatened as Turks no longer need to use it as their bath. Instead, they treat it as a quarterly or semi-annual treat.

It's interesting to me how differently some Westerners view a hammam than most native Turks. A Westerner tends to appreciate the skin exfoliation AND the extended massage that happens afterwards. The last thing I want to do in a hammam is talk to anybody. To me the whole point is to zone out in solitary bliss.
Tools of the hammam: soap, peştamal,
kese (the scrubbing mitt),
and a  tas (water basin for rinsing).
According to Zeynep, local customers don't see it that way though. Turkish customers view the skin scrubbing as the point of the hammam and all of the extra massage features as superfluous. Çirağan Palace Kempinski Hotel's spa offers a 40 minute skin scrubbing as an entry service, because for many Turks maintaining healthy, glowing skin is what they want and expect from their hammam. It is the tourists who sign up for the 55 minute and 80 minute experiences that include massage.
The Turkish bathing tradition includes running water,
not the Western tradition of sitting in still water
contained in a bathtub.
In Ottoman times, women would gather in the hammam as one of the few places out of the home where they could spend time together. They could be there all day, eating, enjoying their friends, socializing and gossiping. Mothers of sons, would often suggest a potential bride for their sons based on their observations in the hammam. That sounds a bit creepy, but mostly these mothers were checking to make sure a potential bride was a healthy woman.
A traditional hammam bowl
for pouring water over a bather
Zeynep remembered going to the hammam with her grandmother and socializing with family and friends. They would bring in food and enjoy an extended period of relaxing after the heat and water and conversation. She also described a wonderful tradition where the bride is taken to the hammam with her female family and friends to prepare for her wedding. Her hammam is completed with a henna party where beautiful designs are drawn on her hand in henna ink for her wedding day.

One of my teenage Turkish friends described the perfection of his weeklong hammam experience with friends at basketball camp. He said "everyday at basketball camp we would play two basketball games. At night our team would go to the hammam and relax. One friend brought his guitar and he would play it as we all sat around, and relaxed and discussed how we did that day in the games. We'd bring in food and eat there. Imagine one whole week of getting to do what you love all day [play basketball], going to the hammam at night to hang out with your friends, and no parents to ask you to do this or do that. It was very, very nice."

Listening to him, I really appreciated the wholesomeness of the hammam experience. His North American teenage counterpart might be likely to go drinking at basketball camp once evening came. While I'll stick to hammam service my way, zoning out in solitary joy, I admired the wholesome way Turks used hammams to make the most of the moment, enjoy each other's company, using time together to do something physically healthy.
The heated marble slab in the center
is where a hammam visitor
is scrubbed and washed
It will take both the Turk and the Westerner to preserve hammam culture.  If you come to Turkey, and choose to experience a hammam yourself, you are truly giving back to your hosts by helping them preserve a beautiful intangible cultural heritage.

In case you missed them:

My first Hammam in Istanbul at the Çirağan Palace Kempinski Hotel, Part One

Part Two of My First Istanbul Hammam Adventure at Çirağan Palace Kempinski Hotel

Photos courtesy of Çirağan Palace Kempinski Hotel and Sanitas Spa

Friday, February 22, 2013

Part Two of My First Istanbul Hammam Adventure at Çirağan Palace Kempinski Hotel


There are some discoveries in Turkey that are so delightful, they bring the immediate thought, “why aren’t these global? Why doesn’t every country have these? The Ottoman Hammam, or traditional public bath, is one such Turkish cultural institution. Anywhere the Ottoman Empire conquered and ruled, hammams and hammam culture remain.



I had come to the famous luxury hotel Cirağan Palace Kempinski to experience my first Istanbul hammam courtesy of the hotel. I entered the Cirağan Palace spa on the lower level and enjoyed the beautiful Indonesian statuary everywhere. At first it seemed so incongruous with Turkish hammam, but I learned later that due to the international nature of  Cirağan Palace hotel, many kinds of massage were offered, including Balinese massage. Indeed, just as there were Turkish hammam specialists in the spa, the hotel also had Balinese masseuse staff available for an Indonesian-style massage if that is what guests want.

The spa lobby itself was small yet very inviting. I could see beyond the room through a window to the very well-appointed fitness room which had every piece of equipment someone would need for a great workout. On the coffee table, a tray with pitcher of refreshing water garnished with orange slices awaited spa visitors. Gülay, the receptionist, knowing the unfamiliarity of North Americans with hammams, came from behind the desk and walked me through step-by-step what would happen during my visit.

A Turkish peştamal

Knowing that some visitors could be uncomfortable with nudity, Gülay pointed out there was disposable underwear provided in each locker to wear along with the abundant piece of cloth called a peştamal that hammam visitors strategically use to cover themselves as they move through the process. Peştamals are thin pieces of Turkish cloth specifically designed for the Turkish hammam experience. They are large enough to cover someone's entire body; they don't get heavy when wet and they also dry quickly.

I entered the luxurious locker room and changed into the big white fluffy bath robe provided and took my pestamel. I love these grand hotel locker rooms because, like every part of the hotel, every possible need a human could have had been anticipated. Did you need to sqeeze the water out of your swimming suit? There was a machine for that. Weigh yourself? There was a medical-quality scale. Do you hair? Every possible hair product was there waiting: combs, hair spray, blow dryers, etc. Every possible tooth care product was waiting too: toothpaste, brushes, floss.

Hamam visitors have a choice of prepping their skin in either the steam room or the sauna before going into the hammam. I chose the steam room. Sri, one of the Balinese masseuses dressed in a beautiful Indonesian dress, instructed me to take off my rings and slip them into my bathrobe pocket before I entered. The ultimate luxury provided was trust. I knew I could do that and they'd be there when I got back.

Those five minutes in the steam room help soften the skin for a scrubbing, yet they are pleasurable anyway because of the slowness of the experience. There is deep silence, semi-darkness, and the luxuriousness or warm marble with intense heat and intense steam. Do we have enough moments like that in life - where our only job is to slow down, take deep breathes, and do absolutely nothing but concentrate on restoring ourselves. I felt gratitude for the moment.

Sri came to get me all too soon and introduced me to Gül, my Turkish hammam specialist. Gül was wearing white shorts and a white swimsuit top. During the next hour she would be working very hard in a very warm room so this attire made complete sense. I was immediately comfortable with her. I entered the all marble hammam and took in the beauty of the marble fountains in the side walls, the large marble slap in the center of the room for hammam guests, and the heat.


Gül asked me if I wanted a soft, medium, or hard scrubbing. I chose hard, although it didn't feel hard. It felt just right.  Using a special bath mitt, Gül proceeded to slough off my winter skin. I felt like a baby kitten! It was fantastic and I knew my face and body would have a new rosy glow when she was done. My relaxation deepened.

Next came a foam massage, unlike any massage I've experienced anywhere in the world. A giant sleeve of effervescent foam is squeezed out along the length of the body and accompanied by a rush of  warm water to make a magnificent sensory experience. With the warmth from the foam and the water still present, the therapist slowly massages aromatic jasmine oil into the skin, starting at the feet.

I almost started to doze off as my relaxation could not get any deeper. I was so content and in such a wonderful meditative, joyful state, I hardly noticed when the spa music started to taper off and the room became completely silent. I waited for the next record to start.

A complete surprise! Completely unexpected by me, Gül, my therapist, started to sing a long, slow Turkish ballad. This is what it must have really felt like to be the Sultan, to not only enjoy the physical sensations of the hammam, but to also have a beautiful female voice singing out and silencing all thought with beauty! She sang a beautiful Turkish song called Berivan.

Later, Gül lead me out of the hammam to a sitting area to rest and recover. She gestured with her hand that the sultan's divan before me was where I should rest. I marveled to myself at the perfection of the experience. While I sat there drinking my tea, I understood instantly that the story of Hürrem, Sultan Suleyman's slave who was so inspiring she became his wife, was the Turkish equivalent of the fairy tale Cinderella. I had just received treatment worthy of the best Cinderella tale every written.

I was filled with contentment and expressed to Gül just how beautiful I found her singing and my hammam experience. "Actually, my song is my gift to you. I don't do it in every hammam, the energy has to be right. For example, if a male guest says, 'I don't want to use my peştamal, I want to take it off, the energy becomes wrong and I don't sing. But your energy was fantastic." I'm so glad!

Later, I was explaining to a friend that everyone thinks of soldiers as the great patriots, but truly, Gül, my Turkish hammam specialist, is for me, a true Turkish patriot. In one hour, she communicates and transmits one of the most beautiful aspects of Turkish culture to visitors and sends folks raving about the glories of Turkey all over the world when they get back home.

In case you missed part one of this adventure:

My first Hammam in Istanbul at the Cirağan Palace Kempinski Hotel, Part One

and if you're interested in reading Turks and their Hammams: a couple of stories of how they use them

Hammam photos courtesy of Cirağan Palace Kempinski
Peştamal photo courtesy of callixto.com

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Sunday, February 17, 2013

My first Hammam in Istanbul at the Çirağan Palace Kempinski Hotel, Part One

in the snow
In my new Beşiktaş neighborhood in Istanbul, not five minutes from my house, is the only Ottoman Imperial Palace Hotel in Turkey. It sits right on the Bosphorus shoreline. In Turkish, it is called Çirağan Sarayı Kempinski. In English: Çirağan Palace Kempinski. It boasts exquisite views once reserved exclusively for the Sultans.
The original Imperial Ottoman Palace
as seen from the Bosphorus.

The Grand Ballroom,
 frequently the site for weddings,
is on the top right
enabling guests to get a magical view of the grounds
and the Bosphorus Bridge
while dancing the night away.

This very special palace
also holds eleven magical suites.

I am crazy for historic luxury hotels and love to hear the stories of a property well run, especially those properties beloved by guests, community, and staff alike. Properties like this are larger than their mission - indeed, I would go so far to say these places are as close as businesses can come to having a soul.

I've visited many iconic hotels like this in my travels. To name a few favorites: the Banff Springs Hotel, Chateau Lake Louise, and Empress Hotel in Western Canada, the Homestead and Greenbriar, in Virgina, the Pink Hawaiian, on the island of Oahu in Hawaii, and the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

You can really tell if someone knows Istanbul, by whether or not they know this hotel. Only the most erudite Americans do, as Kempinski, the hotel operating company that runs it, runs hotels in locations exotic to the American traveler.

Indeed, this was my first introduction to Kempinski. I knew for them to be trusted with the operating the premier hotel property in Istanbul, a city Napoléon deemed worthy of  serving as "capital of the world," they had been judged incredibly worthy stewards.
John F. Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette
on their wedding day
Some Americans already knew of the property though. The lobby walls are filled with photos of celebrities who have chosen to stay there.

John F. Kennedy Jr. brought Carolyn Bessette here on their honeymoon on the recommendation of no less a style icon than his mother, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis.

Oprah stayed here when she took her entire staff and their families, 1,600 people, on a 10-day Mediterranean cruise to thank them for making her show such a success. She threw a fabled party here for her entire crew at the hotel complete with whirling dervishes and an Ottoman Mehteran band. The original palace boasts an jaw-droppingly-gorgeous grand staircase which made it the perfect place for her to make a sweeping entrance with everyone going wild.
 The Hotel Lobby
where guests are greeted
by smiling, professional staff
and the smell of beautiful flowers
exquisitely arranged
The outdoor infinity pool
overlooking the Bosphorus
In keeping with the
international clientele
of the hotel,
pool safety guidelines are posted in
Turkish, English, and German.

The Imperial Palace is straight on
in the above photo
along the Bosphorus
with the
newer hotel facility
 to the right
The pool, the palms, the placid water -
all of it sends one silent signal: relax.
The view to the left
if standing on the shoreline.
And yes, it is possible to arrive by boat.
Entering the hotel and walking the hotel grounds immediately began to increase my serenity. I could feel my whole body slowing down in response to the timeless views of shipping traffic plying the Bosphorus. To the right of the hotel, ferries delivered their fares to appointments on the European side. To the left, is the Örtakoy Mosque, currently being renovated and hidden behind curtains. Behind the Mosque is the iconic Bosphorus Bridge.
The East Garden
While walking the grounds I couldn't help but think of another American celebrity. I thought Martha Stewart would love the orderly allee of palm trees in the East Garden that silently signal prosperity. Each one was manicured with nary a cuticle of palm bark astray and lush with fertile seed pods bursting with demands for a chance at life. 

Showing off the long-term outlook of the management, another allee of plantain trees was planted in the West Garden. One of the pleasures of driving up to the hotel is driving through a several block long allee of plantain trees that line the corniche road called Çirağan Caddesi. Currently, this garden allee of plaintains in between the hotel and the Bosphorus was merely at the adolescent stage. In 100 years, they would be spectacular. I wished them well as they would need luck to survive the relentless quest for unimpeded views of the Bosphorus.

After enjoying the grounds and taking in their beauty, it was time to go find the spa and enjoy my hammam, Çirağan Palace-style, courtesy of the hotel. Cinar, PR Department head for the Çirağan Palace Kempinski hotel had said with a laugh, "just talking about hammams makes me relax." I couldn't wait to experience this incredible Ottoman gift to the world.

My first Hammam in Istanbul at the Çirağan Palace Kempinski Hotel, Part Two

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All photos courtesy of Çirağan Palace Kempinski

Monday, January 7, 2013

Five Most Popular Posts From 2012 for the 'Empty Nest Expat' Blog

I didn't get to blog as much as I wanted last year because I devoted many hours of my time to learning Turkish. Still, I increased my number of posts from the year before. Here are the top five most popular posts written in 2013:
"Hürrem," the leading character
 of the show 
 
1. Ready to Try Some Turkish TV? Watch one episode of "The Magnificent Century"
This soap opera is must-watch TV in Turkey and surrounding countries. The Turkish Prime Minister has threatened to ban it for focusing too much on the Sultan's bedroom, and not enough on the Sultan's time on the battlefield. The Prime Minister's threats of censorship, of course, just increase popular interest.
Maiden's Tower on the Bosphorus
 
2. Time Out for Turkish
This post shares my Turkish language journey and some of the internet resources I have used along the way in my early days of learning. The irony is, now that I've finally paid to attend a traditional classroom, my learning is exponentially faster! It turns out you can't beat a real teacher walking you through the grammar.
 
3. Breaking the Silence on Street Harassment in Istanbul
Single women travellers are one of the largest growth segments in travel. I tried to point out the cost to countries and local businesses when women don't feel safe on their streets.
Here we are discussing Murakami
 
4. Discussing Books with the Global Minds Book Club
When I explain the idea behind the Global Minds Book Club as people from around the world discussing books from around the world, everywhere I go, people get excited. They love that idea! And once you've discussed a book with an international group, it can seem a bit tame to only discuss a title with only people from your own country. Challenge your thinking!
Global activist Eve Ensler
She doesn't look away
from the world's worst situations
 
5. VDay 2013: One Billion Women Rising Globally & .... Dancing!
In 2012, I acted in my first play "The Vagina Monologues" to support Eve Ensler and her amazing, amazing work on behalf of ending violence against women. I loved the experience, the time I spent with the women in the cast, and I look forward to doing my part in Eve Ensler's next big project: #1billionrising which happens next month. I hope you'll participate too.

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