Olde City Tour – Istanbul

I’m convinced that that best way to see Istanbul is with a guide — unless one speaks Turkish. We hired a government approved tourist guide who gave us a seven hour tour around and through the old city section of Istanbul. His name was Cengiz (pronounced Ghengis — really). Cengiz was terrific. He spoke terrific English — he’d lived in the USA for several years prior to losing a business. Well-educated and secular in perspective his opinion was informative.

Our tour began with a visit to the Sultan Ahmed (Blue) Mosque built between 1609-1617. Only we Westerners call it Blue because of the blue tiles located throughout the structure. The prayer area is immense — the the main domed ceiling is 141 feet high with a circumference of 75 feet. Entirely carpeted it can hold 10,000 worshipers at a time. Its a beautiful building with 30 separate domes that flow from the top like a tumbling stream of water thus distributing the weight without a lot of columns — 26 is all that hold it up.

One Islamic ritual is washing one’s feet and hands before praying everyday outside the mosque:

Cengiz provided a religious history lesson while we gazed at the strucure. Briefly, Islam, Judaism and Christianity are all cut from the same cloth: all use the Old Testament, Torah and Koran as the source material for their beliefs. Abraham, Jesus and Mohammed are all important figures. Muslims are of two main sects — Shite and Sunni. In many ways their split mirrors that of Catholicism and Lutheranism. Historically, religion has been a major driver for war and destruction, for conquest,”redemption”,  for  obtaining wealth and power. And so it goes..

This board  shows the connection between the three major world religions:  starting with Adam and Eve the muslim story mirrors Judaism and Christian beliefs:  Upon leaving the Blue Mosque we entered the site of the hippodrome — if you’ve seen Ben Hur the movie you’ll recall the chariot race (think  Charlton Heston in 1959). Its been said that over 25,000 spectators could enjoy the races at any given time —  the oringinal site rivaled the Coliseum in Rome.  The  “citizens”of Rome  were able to attend horse and chariot races .This edifice built in 200 A.D. by the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus . Of course, sometimes more important uses came into play like the execution of 20,000+ individuals who supported the wrong regime nearly 1,600 years ago.

Yesterday’s  Hippodrome–see the oblesk in the drawing:

This is the Hippodrome today:

This obelisk still stands today– was referenced above:


From the Hippodrome Cengiz to the Hagia Sofia (translation — holy wisdom) Mosque — constructed  between 532 and 537. This structure was originally a church built by the Emperor Constantine. However, depending on “who was in charge” its been either a Church or a Mosque since then — now its a museum. Besides being beloved for its architecture in the past 100-years mosaics  have drawen interest.  These have been found during the many ongoing periods of restoration.  These 13th century examples are of Christ flanked Mary his mother and John the Baptist and Christ flanked by Mary and the Emperor Constantinople the first Roman emperor to support Christianity:

 Scaffolding was everywhere as the entire building is being restored. One standout feature is the worship box for the Ottoman Sultan. He used this to pray away from the masses — he was fearful of an assassination attempt  — typically a knife in the back.  This is filigreed marble: Mosiacs discovered in the Haiga Sofia  from its Christian orgins:
The Arabic that was written when the church became a mosque.

Picture of Mohamed the Prophet — founder of Islam—notice its words since all photos would be considered  idolatrous:

All women must be covered while in a mosque–scarves (robin’s egg blue) are provided–see ladies below:

Later we lunched at the Pudding Cafe for an authentic meal–lamb donar kabobs that were delicious: 

The final historic site we visited was a cistern. There are 500 cisterns scattered beneath Istanbul. Originally built to store the city’s water eventually it evolved into a tourist trap of sorts. Enterprising folks drained most of the water, re-built or replaced the columns that hold up the ceilings and “invited” tourists to visit. It looks spooky with the mood lighting bouncing off the remaining water (2 ft. deep) and the columns. Interestingly, carp can be seen swimming in the water — even a hand-full of goldfish.
See these “spooky” photos — the fish:       and especially the floating head:

and the ever spooky floating head (me):

One thing I really like about Turkey is its respect for its past–antiquities  are not bulldozed out of existence –rather  ruins are salvaged and re-used or left as is:

The day ended with a visit to a rug shop owned by a friend of the guide. At first the visit seemed innocous  until the hard sell started — then we ran for our lives– the salesman followed me out of the sop and onto the street.  Wow, just got out with my scalp intact –almost purchased a genuine handmade Turkish rug. Still the rug shop was educational I was introduced to the ancient art of rugmaking. Its the cost of the labor that drives the price.  The second major factor is the material used to construct the rug  — silk, wool or cotton.  It can take up to three years to make one rug.   The weaver typically works  3-4 hours a day. This is the process–see how a true craftwoman makes a  rug one inch at a time:

  The hard sell and the willingness to barter nearly ensnared me — common sense prevailed. See the flying carpet below–he should be selling pizza:

 The tour ended in the Instanbul grand Bazaar. This gigantic market is one of he largest in the world.  One can purchase a variety of household goods, tools, touristy stuff, clothing, food — spices, teas, etc.   The hard sell immediately begins when one approaches any type  of shop.  Turkish culure requires one to barter which for some can be half the fun:


Finally the sun began to set and this eye opening day was drawing to close. We  were all exhausted and ready to head to our next destination. We said our goodbyes and wished Cengis well — he was returning to America in January — he and his wife had recently obtained  US Green Cards . This time he would have a green card and a job in a rug store in Sherman Oaks, CA. He was looking forward to leaving Turkey–and sanguine at the same time.

Soon we hailed a cab and headed to our next destination.

Whew, I’m tired!

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Imagine That!

St. Petersburg, FL has s growing list above average art museums. One of my new favorites is the “Imagine Museum”. This Contemporary Studio Glass museum is barely a year old. It’s exhibits were thoughtful, dynamic and beautiful — the museum:

Housing more than 500 pieces of American Studio Glass and notable special exhibits like one created by American artist Karen LaMonte called Floating World. It’s comprised of bronze and glass sculptures.

The exhibit represents her exploration of the physicality of the human body and its environment. Over a period of seven years LaMonte completed her work — traveling to Japan to study kimonos like this one:

and she traveled the Czech Republic to “fire” her works– see her complete art pieces below:

These pieces look feminine and robust. Fascinated with clothing — LaMonte worked in a variety of mediums including sculpture, drawing and printmaking. To create her work.

The ongoing exhibitions include works from 10+artists including Oben Albright, Rick Allen and others. Below are photos from the museum’s private collection:

The Imagine Museum is at the top of my list of places to go to in Florida. It even includes works by the master of modern glass– Dale Chihuly — see below:

I told you it’s unbelievable–Mo’s photos:

A strength of this museum is the lighting was wash piece– it’s simply brilliant — each piece.

In fact, I’d say it’s one the most unique museums I’ve ever seen.

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The Other Side of the Coin

The second floor of the Holocaust Museum was taken over with an exhibit on Wulf Wolodia Grajonca aka Bill Graham– the famous Rock and Roll impresario:

Wulf, er, Bill came here from Germany via France in order to escape the Nazis at age of 10. He was never adopted, rather he lived with a foster family. Graham attended high school and college in New York.

He moved to the west coast in the early 1960’s. In 1965 he managed a mime group called “The San Francisco Mime Troupe”.

Soon thereafter he teamed with Chet Helms (a noted band manager) and Family Dog to promote a benefit concert. This began a long career of promoting concert events at the Fillmore West and Wonderland. Graham worked with many legendary groups including: Santana, the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and the Holding Company to name a few — see photos and original posters:

Jefferson Airplane/Grateful Dead poster:

Walls showing posters and photos of both groups:

Jerry Garcia sans beard:

Etta James and Martha and the Vandallas posters:

A poster for a concert by Jimi Hendrix/John Mayall/BB King:

Graham loved Jimi Hendrix:

Clothes worn by Jimi Hendrix:

Two of Graham’s favorite female performers — Grace Slick and Janis Joplin:

Another Graham favorite — The “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin:

Graham promoted many of the Stones tours. At one point Graham tried to halt the Stones concert at Altamont Race Track to no avail:

Graham promoted acts for Woodstock in 1969 — like Santana:

He also promoted Live Aid — to battle world hunger in 1985:

He managed the Philadelphia part of this concert that involved hundreds of acts including:

Crosby, Stills and Nash:

Bob Dylan and The Band (Graham later managed the Dylan/The Band Final tour including the Scorsese film titled the “Last Waltz”):

Of course, Neil Young:

And last but not least U-2 — see Bono:

He also promoted other charitable causes like California Earthquake Relief — here with Bob Hope:


The cause for Black Freedom in South Africa with Nelson Mandela:

Along the way he gathered a few awards — Robin Williams was one presenter at the MTV Awards:

Graham overcame his past and built an amazing life in the US. And he was Jewish. Yes, that’s right he was a Jewish refugee. This man refused to cow to the forces of evil. Didn’t he build an amazing life?

He was present at so many seminal moments of Rock and Roll. Who didn’t he know? Who didn’t he promote? When a cause needed someone to support it — he seemed to always there.

In 1991, he was working to promote a benefit for California fire relief. He’d signed Huey Lewis and the News for the event. The helicopter he was traveling in crashed killing Graham at the age of 60.

Clearly, Graham’s untimely death is offset by his talents as a leader, friend, father confessor and promoting maestro.

Graham will always be one for the ages!

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Sad, But True

It’s seems rather odd how often I’m compelled to see life’s downside; yet enjoy wherever I may be.

Today was one of those days. St. Petersburg, Fl was warm and the air felt like spring. So why was I compelled to see a Holocaust Museum?

Wherever I travel, be it in Europe or the USA, if a town has a museum or an exhibit dealing with this issue I visit it. Perhaps it’s the masochist in me or perhaps it’s my conscience. Whatever it is forgive me and my editorial statements as I briefly share a picture of total evil.

It starts with imaging the difficulty of pushing 140 people into this train car — some would be in rags. Others in their finery. Only a can in a corner for a toilet–not many can get to it — what a way to start a journey to hell!:

Entering the museum we all smile and joke with the staff. Then we are each given a personal radio wand filled with anecdotal information. This separates us. Now each of us has to experience the stories, the pain and yes, the shame of our humanity. this museum alone. Without skipping a beat anti-semitism through the ages is succinctly explained–ouch:

“The History of Hate”. Jews have been scapegoats for hundreds of years from the Spanish Inquisition (15th century) to Henry Ford (and Charles Lindbergh) in the 20th century:

Of course, it was Adolph Hitler and the Nazis who carried out the “Shoah or Final Solution”:

From 1930 until 1945 the Nazis attempted to extinguish the Jews using any means possible:

At first the plan was to let Jews go to whomever would take them; however the rabidness elements of the Nazi Party chose a more permanent way to solve the Jewish question.

This first led to “Kristallnacht” or the night of broken glass — the burning of 1,000 synagogues, 7,500 Jewish owned businesses and the arrest of 30,000 Jews. This activity was followed with blatant identification — Jews are forced to wear the Star of David on their clothing:

Eventually Jews were forced into ghettos:

By the mid-1930’s, the Nazis were arresting Gypsies, homosexuals, political opponents, clergy and Jews. Most were sent to concentration camps to perform hard labor–such as working for the arms industry.

However, many were often murdered just for who they were. Over time Special labor and death camps were established in Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungry — below is a model of Auschwitz both a labor and death camp — many camps like this one and Dachau had the inscription “Arbeit Macht Frei (Work Sets You Free)” over the entrance:

By 1942, Nazi leadership determined that a “Final Solution” had to be implemented to rid the world of all Jews. The Wannsee conference decided the final fate of all Jews within the purview of the Third Reich and it’s allies–named “Operation Reinhard” after an assassinated Nazi:

Now all Jews would face either bullets or gas — below people are shot by guns such as this and buried in mass graves:

In the camps Nazis kept order with weapons such as whips as did special Jewish police who were selected by Nazis to keep prisoners in check:

Nazi doctors ignored their Hippocratic Oath performing horrific experiments on prisoners–these “tools” belonged to Dr. Josef Mengele — the “Angel of Death” of Auschwitz–he was never captured:

Meanwhile, the rest of the world failed to take action to stop the horror. As the Nazis killed 6 MILLION people everyone in the world seemed to look the other way.

The US government finally notice when a Jewish cabinet member angrily forced the issue with FDR. Treasury Secretary Henry Morganthau convinced the president to establish a Refugee Board — alas, too little and too late:

Jewish prisoners did attempt to escape the camps — but uprisings were handled with deadly force:

The end of WWII finally saw the liberation of the death camps by Allied forces:

Was it too late? Yes, for many it was — still some vainly tried to help:

Though many perished — some of those below risked their own lives to save others:

These are only a few of the heroes that worked to thwart the Final Solution.

What can we learn from this terrible situation? Hate must be met with love. No one should ever turn a blind eye to antisemitism or for that matter racism. Especially now–we all must face down the bigotry of those who fail to understand the pain of the past, and of today.

None of us is immune to bigotry. It is in everything that surrounds us. And at times its hidden within us. But if we are honest we must call it out and move forward with a genuine openness to our fellow man. Our failure means these people perished in vain and I refuse to accept that — do you?:

No matter where one travels people have been, or continue to suffer no matter the reason. Whether it’s in the Sudan, Sri Lanka, China or the US so say it now with me “the Holocaust must never happen again!!”

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Getting out of Dodge

After a terrible winter escaping to Florida for a couple of weeks was just what the doctor ordered!

Spending time near Sarasota — home of this statue:

based on the famous Life Magazine photo of this event reminds one that spring will eventually come.

Being in Sarasota enabled a visit to the Ringling Circus and Art Museum. Starting at 10:00 am (opening) ’til 5:00 pm (closing) no stone was left unturned. The grounds admission allows for visits to the Ringling Mansion and grounds; the Ringling Circus Museums; and the Art Museum.

No inside photos of the Ringling Mansion are allowed. Called Ca’ d’Zan (Italian for “House of John”) it was built in the 1920’s. This was the original swimming pool — it’s now a reflecting pool:

The house is constructed of terra cotta, concrete, stone and brick with many features:

It looks like a palace in Venice, Italy:

The Circus Museums are a quick walk from the mansion and include hundreds of posters:

A circus built to scale shows what a circus used to be like prior to 1955 with a big top, trains for transport and everything else one can imagine:

It’s still a work in progress 50+ years later! The details are amazing.

The museums focus on every facet of a circus–clowns, animals, human feats of agility and strength:

From the earliest known clown–Philip Astley (1768):

to more recent clown props:

There are also different interactive displays that enable one to walk a tightrope, see scenes from the film “The Greatest Show on Earth” and view clothing and furniture owned by General Tom Thumb, a 3.25 foot dwarf discovered by PT Barnum in the 1840’s.

The final stop of the day was the Ringling Art Museum that’s now part of the University of Florid. It features unique exhibits, in addition to art collected by John Ringling:

He was a noted lover of art –especially fond of the Baroque period.

Even the grounds contain statuary:

Visiting the Ringling estate is always at the top of my to-do list in Florida!

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Bits ‘n Pieces…

Spending two plus weeks searching for Route 66 artifacts is generally fun. Fun, that is, if both hunters are in the search together.

Well, as the end of the journey got closer I could see that I was into it but, my companion was ready to say “enough”.

Lesson #1 is get complete buy-in! Lesson #2 is you’ll never get complete buy-in! Ok, so what does one do? This is a touchy. It calls for cajoling and sincere promised that the last day is indeed the last day–I’m sure you all know the drill — right?

Now, I’d like to share a variety of photos because I find them interesting and entertaining (please forgive any redundancy with past blogs):

Saw this car in Springfield, MO — loved Ghostbusters:

Seen in an antique store in Joplin, MO — reminded me of my childhood — my paternal grandma always had 7up on hand in the small bottles — really fit my hand:

Reminiscent of family road trips from my youth — anyone ever go to the”Dells”?:

Isn’t this the truth about life in general?:

Being silly isn’t a bad thing — yeha:

Look pretty normal — right?:

Eating a wonderfully greasy, incredibly sweet piece of a gooey Winchel’s apple fritter is one of life’s great joys; and one we can only enjoy in LA! — yummy!! — thank god!:

Love this “forever” photo — and driving across the USA:

Talk about diversity — where else but in California can one see a street sign in English and Chinese for a Latino hero:

These grapes were right off the truck:

Halloween and “Day of the Dead are closing in on Christmas in popularity:

This was in the movie 500 Days of Summer:

Love the idea of large food halls:

Really loved eating at this place in the food hall:

Great Chicken!

Sorry, couldn’t help myself — this made me laugh:

Gotta love Toy Story — saw this in traffic in LA — funny:

Best donuts ever — in Portland, OR and now at Universal City:

City Walk at Universal Studios is craaaazy!:

Spent a day at the USC science museum–in the spider house — the spider is almost three inches in length — it’s fed worms daily and is blind — so we were told:

Loved seeing these skeletons too!:

And these as well — an amazing collection:

Nothing could top the day, except smelling roses — if you are like me you mourn the scent less flowers we buy in most flower shops. There was a garden adjacent the museum with hundred of fragrant roses — for a little while I was in heaven:

Saw a TV shoot with ” Ice Cube” for NCIS LA in downtown LA — bang, bang:

That’s it for now!

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The End (sniff) of this Journey

You know how you look back and wonder if you would reach a particular goal? You know how you look back and realize that goal has been achieved? We had simultaneous feelings.

We made it to — sunny California.

Before entering Needles, CA we took a detour south Lake Havasu to see the repurposed “London Bridge”:

It actually rained in the desert–Hurricane Rosa effect centered in Mexico.

The bridge was brought over in 1968 by Robert McCulloch, Sr.:

He purchased it after reading that London was planning to tear it down to build a new bridge.

I’ll admit it does look strange (even though does look at home there) to see the bridge in the middle of desert in Arizona somehow it works:

We then got back on this long ribbon of highway and drove through the San Gabriel Mountains toward Pasadena:

We entered Needles, CA later in the day.

Needles has approximately 5,000 inhabitants including many Native Americans. We found the city museum located across from the refurbished El Garces hotel:

No longer a hotel — it’s empty and owned by the railroad. Originally it was operated for the railroad by Fred Harvey:

These are Harvey Girls (they were called this):

These are old photos taken nearly 90-years ago:

I met a man in the town museum who’s mother worked as a Harvey girl. He said she’d loved it.

As we left Needles we saw this mural:

We re-entered I-40 and drove westward.

In Victorville we found the Summit Inn sign — an inn and diner once frequently patronized by Elvis Presley. The structure is gone due to the freeway. This is all that’s left:

Our next stop at a rest area had this warning — won’t see this in the Midwest:

Never did spy any snakes.

Then it was on to Newberry Springs, CA. There we searched for the Bagdad Cafe:

It was in rough shape.

Driving to Pasadena we saw several “dust devils” — a small “twister” of sorts made from wind and sand:

We arrived in Arcadia , CA found lodging and began our final searches– Pasadena was in our sights:

In Pasadena we went the Colorado Blvd “suicide” bridge near the Rose Bowl:

Local officials have put fences on either side of the bridge to prevent suicides — most use to be linked to patients at an adjacent sanitarium– now a hotel.

Next we found the Rose Bowl which has been used primarily for the Olympics and football:

There was information on Jackie Robinson during on his college years:

One final find in Pasadena was this pharmacy and soda fountain — didn’t eat because weren’t hungry:

Nearby was the Marston’s Diner;

Before leaving the town we saw:

City-hall — a beautiful building:

With an inner courtyard that had this fountain:

The men above helped plan civic area of Pasadena.

We hopped onto Highway 134 to make our final run to Santa Monica.

We drove through Los Angeles along the last stretch of Route 66.

In downtown LA We saw Cliftons on Broadway – under renovation;

We continued to drive to the final destination — Santa Monica (Pier):

Only in LA:

This was the last point on our journey west:

We made it!

Rarely does something look so good.

Glad we did it and glad it’s done!

What a trip! Soon we’ll be heading home–wow!

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Lighting the Tunnel

Closing in on the home stretch of this “epic” journey along Route 66. They tell me that Arizona has the longest continual stretch of existing “66” highway. After today I believe ’em!

We left Flagstaff heading west to Williams, AZ:

A rather small and funky community, Williams is a curios collection of shops, museums, motels, diners and curiosities:

Diners like “Cruisers”:

Motels like the “Star and the Turquoise Tepee”:

Can’t forget this notable hotel called the “Canto” — one has to love the sign:

I hope no one leaves their dentures behind in a glass cup!

Museums like “Pete’s Gas Station”:

And curiosities like these seen in a gift shop:

The Grand Canyon railroad departs from here daily for a two-hour ride to the canyon. Maybe someday?

For now it’s on to Ash Fork — a small burg started as a US Army post that became a railroad town. In the mid-20th Century the rails moved and throughout town died:

We continued on to Seligman where we again found some curious places — shops, motels, museums and diners:

Shops like this general store:

And museums like the “Copper Cart”:

Motels like the Supai:

And lastly diners like “Snow Cap”:

And the very popular “Roadkill Cafe”:

Naturally we chose this place for lunch. We split a Barbecue Doe Sandwich with fries:

Playing with this game (anyone remember it?) kept us busy ’til the food came:

After lunch is headed down Route 66 until we got to Oatman. Getting here forced a choice. Either go into the mountains for a circuitous drive on a number of switchbacks or take a detour to Lake Havasu to see the old London Bridge.

No surprise we chose Lake Havasu.

More on this, as well as, the last leg of our Route 66 journey! We enter Needles, CA and then on to Santa Monica.

Bye for now!

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