Friday, February 20, 2015

"One Woman's Winter in Ocean City" Maryland

Why does one choose to spend the winter in Ocean City, Maryland?

After 4 months, I am leaving Ocean City today with high temperatures at 16 degree F. The North East is having a brutal February with snow and temperatures much below normal.

I traveled throughout Europe the first 6 months of 2014, returning to the USA in June. After traveling to Florida,  I returned to Pennsylvania to be close to family for the holidays.
I planned on returning to Europe for additional travel thus looked for a short term apartment on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. I found the perfect apartment in Ocean City, MD.

The apartment: #3488963

Apartment with a view of the ocean, well appointed studio with balcony, near the Convention Center.
The building has a heated pool, exercise room, nice lobby. Owner is available and helpful.

Being a summer resort town, Ocean City is quiet in the winter. Most of the year round residents live in West Ocean City across the Route 50 bridge. On the island, there were several residents in the condominium building primarily on the weekends until January. From mid January through February there are fewer residents.

Ocean City in the winter, is primarily for someone looking for solitude, relaxation and have projects to work on such as writing, photography. It is peaceful and I enjoyed being here.

November and December are pleasant months, warm enough to walk the boardwalk and beach. A few shops are open on the boardwalk, bike rental is available. For the holidays, there is a parade and Festival of Lights. January and February are colder and not as pleasant to walk the boardwalk.

What to do in winter?
I spent the days working on my blog, editing and organizing my photos from trip, did some online courses, reading, walking and browsed the outlet stores. I joined World Gym in January.

I found the residents friendly and talkative and enjoyed knowing them.

Restaurants open:
Holiday Inn 17th street
Sunset Grill at the Inlet
Segrets open Thursday-Sunday
BJ's on the water
Outback Steak House in West Ocean City
Fausto's Antipasti-Closed in February, excellent menu, owner is Italian however is high priced

A View of the Ocean, a short drive to the inlet, a short block to the beach 

                                                 Sunrise from the Condominium

View of the Boardwalk and the Beach in Winter

                                                               Cloudy Sky

Ocean City Inlet

Stormy Ocean

Rough Waters Ocean City Inlet

Sunset Inlet

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Istanbul Part II

                  View of fishing boats on the walk to St. Savior in Chora

      Man Transporting pretzels

 Mosque on way to Chora Monastery

On the way to Chora you will walk through a working class neighborhood

Chora Monastery

Chora Museum is significant in terms of Byzantine art of mosaic and fresco. This technique was used in many churches and monasteries in Europe after the Chora church.  It is thought to be built before the construction of the city walls in 413. The church was converted into a mosque in the 16th century. In 1958, the mosque was converted into a museum. It is small but considered as one of the 30 must see museums in the world. The mosaics depict the lives and works of Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ. Th most remarkable ones are the Mosaic of Pantocrator and the mosaic of Deecis. The mosaics are simply beautiful!

Mosaic of Pantocrator

Dome covered with mosaics in the esonarthex

Walking away from the museum, to the right on Nester Sok. Arrive at the land walls. Straight ahead is the monumental Gate of Charisius, the portal into the Byzantine Empire and the entryway by which Mehmet the Conqueror arrived into defeated Constantinople. Walking along with the walls to the left are The Theodosian Land Walls. There is a very nice, relaxing tea salon at the top of the hill overlooking the Bosphorus.

The entire walk can be found on
It is Walk Tour 3.

Along the Bosphorus, A celebration of a birth, large gathering with dancing and music. The two ladies waving were very jovial and friendly.

The ladies introduced me to a group of men nearby for photos.

Turkish feast at the party

A Day out of the city
Princes Island

The islands are in the Sea of Marmara. They are twenty kilometers from the historic peninsula. There are nine islands. There is regular transportation to the Princes' Islands by ferry from the Kabatas, Kadikoy and Bostanci. The closest island to Istanbul is the Proti (Kinaliada) which is the smallest of the four inhabited islands. It is followed by the Halki (Burgazada) and then Antigoni (Heybeliada). Lastly the largest island which is Principe (Buyukada). I followed the suggestion of one of the passengers and went to the largest island. 
It is a lovely island without cars. You can tour the island by horse drawn carriage, bike or walking. 
I did not spend much time in the port area, it is crowded and touristy. It was a lovely day, walking away from the port there are several fish restaurants overlooking the harbor. Beautiful view of the harbor! Attentive waiter! The trout was excellent! With all the sightseeing it was a welcome change. With the relaxation, I walked a bit and found a nice bench to nap for a bit. 

Last Day in Istanbul

Turkish Hamami (Hamman) is a must do while in Istanbul. 

I went to the Tarihi Galatasaray Hamami. The full treatment included a shampoo, exfoliation, foam washing and an oil massage.You are provided with towels, pesternal (loin cloth)  and takunya (wooden shoes). You will sit for about 20 minutes to sweat, lying on the heated marble platform for the treatment, followed by a rinsing. You will be lightheaded after the treatment and the wooden shoes are slippery however you will be accompanied by the massager and directed to sit before changing. There were a few women with bikini bathing suits rather than the loin cloth.

Treated to tea by the apartment owner and his family at the tea house in the Gulhane Park
Beautiful setting with a view of the Bosphorus

Enjoyed a glass of wine at the Rooftop of the Marmara hotel
Beautiful view of the city and Sunset  

Sunday, February 8, 2015

ISTANBUL, Turkey Part I

In the words of a Turkish poet, one life is not enough to see and be saturated in this city.

Istanbul is a diverse, beautiful and intriguing city. It is 2600 years old, one of the oldest cities in the world. It is the only city which was the capital of two great empires of the world for almost two millenniums. The prehistorical era dates back to 3000BC. Followed by the migrants of Megara who settled around Kadidoy. In 7 BC others settled around Sarayburnu which was named Byzantine. Ruled by the Spartins for two years in 478 BC The city was then ruled by its own people in a form of democracy for several centuries until it was affiliated to the Roman Empire in 196. It was declared the new capital of the Roman Empire by Constantine in 330. and the name Byzantine was changed to Constantinople.
After the division of the empire into West and East in 395, the city remained as the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire from the 4th century until the 15th century. In 1453, the Byzantine era was closed and the Turkish-Ottoman era started. Istanbul became the capital of the Ottoman Empire from the 15th century to the 20th century.
It is the only city which resides on two continents (Europe and Asia) connected by the Bosphorus Strait and the Marmara and Black Sea. Three-fifths of the city stands on Europe, while two-fifths stands on Asia.

 Taksim Square and Istiklal Avenue
Taksim Square is the center of modern Istanbul. It is a lively and crowded square which leads to IstiklalAvenue. The monument in the center of the square consists of the figures of the Ataturk, the founder and the first president of Turkey. The monument also features figures Voroshilov and Frunze, two Russian generals. There are figures of soldiers and women on the sides of the monument.

Istiklal Avenue is a lively boulevard filled with cafes, restaurants, bars, retail stores, boutique type speciality shops and thousands of young people wandering about the streets. The adjacent streets to Istiklal consists of the nightlife scene with numerous bars and restaurants to keep the young occupied until dawn.

The buildings are constructed in the art-nouveau style of the 19th century. In the middle of the avenue is the Galatasaray High School which is the oldest western school of Istanbul where the sons of emperors were also enrolled. Passing by the high school, the avenue leads to the Saint Anthony of Padua Church, the most famous Catholic church of the city.

For shopping, it is best to browse in the morning before the crowds appear

Taksim Square

Taksim Tunnel nostalgic streetcar

Galata Tower

The Romanesque style tower was built as Christea Turris (Tower of Christ) in 1348 during an expansion of the Genoese colony in Constantinople. The 360 degree panoramic views of Istanbul are Spectacular. Be aware, the wind can be quite intense. Alas, the battery in my camera was not charged so I have no photos.
Located at Galata Square (Galata Meydanı), Şişhane (go straight down hill at the end of Istiklal Caddesi). Open daily from 9 AM to 5 PM (7PM in summer). There is an admission fee.
View of  Galata Tower from Old Istanbul

The area surrounding the Tower is nice for exploring a few shops. There are also a few cafes with a view of the Tower however are overpriced. I stopped at a cafe on one of the side streets which was pleasant and relaxing after a long tedious walk.

From the Galata Tower,  it is easily walkable to Galata bridge where locals fish, walk across the bridge to Old Istanbul. I learned how to cross the very busy street safely in Istanbul. Attach yourself to a local and dart between the cars, buses, taxis.
The New Mosque is located here which is an example of Turkish-Ottoman architecture.
The Spice Bazaar is the market place of the New Mosque. It is much smaller than the Grand Bazaar and has a variety of spices, herbs, teas, cheese and shops selling jewelry.

View of the fishing boats Old Istanbul

Food carts are evident throughout the city at the squares
Corn, roasted chestnuts, pretzels yummy for a snack

 Fresh fish by the Bosphorus

Sultanahmet Square
The most important places of interest in Istanbul are in Sarayhumu and Sultanahmet regions in the center of the Historic Peninsula. During the Roman Empire, Byzantine and Ottoman periods, the heart of the city was always this region where palaces of the emperors were built. The biggest church,  the most glorious mosques and the greatest museums of the city are in this area. Two of the seven hills within the historical peninsula are in this region. On one of these, the Topkapi Palace, and the other the Blue Mosque. One can easily spend a few days in this area to visit the Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Sultanahmet Mosque, Archeological Museum, Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts and the Mosaic Museum. The streets surrounding the area are also enchanting to explore. 

Touring the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace, Bosphorus Boat trip, lunch and exploring the surrounding streets was a full day. 

The Sultanahmet is the most splendid and largest mosque of Istanbul and one of the leading works of classical Turkish-Islamic Architecture. It is called The Blue Mosque due to the color blue in both china and other ornaments. The construction of the Mosque began in 1609 until 1616.
The main space is illuminated by 260 windows. More than 21,000 pieces of Isnik china were used in the interior decoration. There are ornaments on the upper level of the windows are floral patterns of authentic Turkish-Ottoman art called hand drawing. The mosque has six minarets. The two minarets at the ends have two muezzin balconies. 

                Sultanahmet Mosque (The Blue Mosque)

View from the Bosphorus

Views from the Bosphorus boat trip

Dolmabahce Palace is on the shores of the Bosphorus. Its style combines German rococo, French  baroque and English neoclassical architecture. The construction began in 1842 until 1856. It covers and area of approximately 250,000 m2 including the garden. The grounds are gorgeous with a view of the Bosphorus. The palace consists of 284 rooms and 44 halls.

Dolmabahce Palace 

The Dolmabalice Clock Tower built in 1890
                                                           in front of the gate to the Palace

 Lion Sculpture on the grounds

           Enjoy! Stay tuned for Istanbul Part II
  • Tea-a way of life in Turkey
  • Turkish delights
  • freshly squeezed juice
  • fresh fruit
  • variety of food
  • Shoes are not permitted in the mosques. The Blue Mosque provides foot coverings.
  • Be sure to carry a scarf with you to enter the mosques
  • Turkish scarf is called a Hijab
  • Istanbul is built on seven steep hills, make sure you are wearing comfortable shoes

Here is a video with a nice overview of Istanbul