Friday, December 19, 2014


Last week Harika quietly turned six. Whether you just stumbled upon my blog or have been a habitual reader, thank you so much for coming along with me on my adventures. I have deeply appreciated your kind words and all the ideas you have shared with me over the past six years. Here's to more drawing, more travelling, and more tea— here's to seven!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

beautiful amasya

the places birds take you

We were making good time on our way to Amasya, and so decided to take a detour to a river delta that Pedro had meticulously mapped out in his birding notebook. The thickening clouds made the air cool and moist, a wonderful respite from the blazing heat of the east. We were in farmland that bordered the Black Sea, somewhere in Samsun, and while I watched Pedro get out of the car with his telescope in hand, my mind wandered back to all the places birds had taken us on this journey. I would have never gone to Demirkazık, Akseki, or Doğubeyazıt— places that now hold in my memory as favourites, places I had never heard of previously. And here I was, looking at a herd of water buffalo silhouetted against a watercolour sky, while Pedro was being invited by a curious and friendly farmer to visit his house when we return.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

the sight of the sea

The first sight of the sea made me giddy with joy. I had no idea how much seeing those waves would excite me— I grew up with the Black Sea, and only realised at this moment how I had taken it for granted.

into the fog

In the Spring of 2012, Pedro and I took a smaller road trip around the Black Sea and Kaçkar Mountain regions with the ultimate goal of seeing the Caucasian Black Grouse in the alpine meadows of a dot on the map called Sivrikaya. Sivrikaya was not an easy find— no one seemed to know where it was. When we finally found the forgotten town, it was being swallowed by a fierce fog at sundown, and with nowhere to stay, we had to turn back. No grouse, no meeting the mythical Mustafa, who could take us to see the birds.

This time around, we knew exactly how to get there, and though it was a completely different season, the fog situation remained the same.

We did however, meet the very friendly and gracious Mustafa, who invited us into an old wooden tea house that clung to the edge of a very steep hill. Through the haze of smoke from the wood burning stove, I spied the craggy faces of several older gentlemen leaning heavily on their hands, waiting for the azan. Mustafa explained that this was a very difficult season to see the grouse— especially with the fog, and so we shook his rough hand and promised to return in May.

One of these days, we'll get that grouse!

ottoman fashion

A beautiful collection of Ottoman ladies' clothing was on display at the Yakutiye Medresi in Erzurum. I love learning about the fashions of bygone eras, and the colours and patterns of the fabrics and embroidery made me swoon!

Imagine the time and care it took to create such details, and how lovely the ladies looked! When back in Istanbul, I might need to revisit the Sadberk Hanım Museum in my old stomping ground, Büyükdere, which has an outstanding collection of Ottoman women's clothing and a current exhibit on shoes.

Monday, December 8, 2014

remember these?

For you youngsters out there, back in the old days, people would mail each other handwritten letters. Letters were an art— the loops and swashes of your loved one's penmanship, the weight and smell of the paper, the miniature works of art that you'd moisten on your tongue... Oh to receive a letter!

a first time for everything

I've never actually had someone point and laugh at me before— even when I had pink hair and dressed a little differently. There is always a first time for everything, and here in Erzurum, that time had come. First, I would like to mention that neither Pedro nor I were wearing anything odd, revealing, or noticeably "foreign." As we passed three young women sitting on a park bench, one of them glared at me, then looked us up and down before bursting into laughter with her index finger thrust toward our faces. It was perplexing to say the least, and perhaps I would have forgotten it, but later while looking for a room to spend the night in, a receptionist at a hotel gave us a glance and claimed that there were no rooms available.

We then headed to another hotel, but this time Pedro stayed in the car while I went in alone. The receptionist assured me there were plenty of rooms, but when I mentioned that there would be two of us, his spine stiffened. He asked me if I would be staying with a man, and when I said that I would, he grew a little flustered, and politely announced that the price would be doubled. As he explained it, a "man-woman" stay is "harmful" to the people of Erzurum. This was the first time in our entire trip that we ran into trouble staying in a room together. No one here seemed to believe we were married, and I'm not sure why. Was it because we are foreigners? It took us a while, but eventually we found a nice place where we were welcome.

I really don't know what to think about Erzurum. There are some beautiful examples of Seljuk architecture and some very nice hills, but the odd interactions we had with some people and the blatant anti-Armenian propaganda in the city's archaeological museum, made me feel uncomfortable. I know I can't judge a place on a few hours of experience, even though I felt judged on sight. Still, I did love the architectural attractions, and the Yakutiye Medresi had a wonderful exhibit of the nation's postage stamp designs and women's clothing from the Ottoman era.

And then there's this:

I do appreciate a good sense of humour!

Monday, November 24, 2014


the road to erzurum

Just as the forests seem to creep up out nowhere, they disappeared, and barren rock formations rippled across the landscape. Some of the striations twisted like rope and folded like fabric, incredible that such a hard, immovable substance could become plastic.

Just as we were marvelling at the scenery and discussing the ease of driving in this region, we hit a massive construction project, and the road was swallowed by dust.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

roadside corn

As is so very often the case, you can find food in the unlikeliest of places in Turkey. People are quite entrepreneurial here, and on the side of a lonely stretch of road near some dam, a cheery moustachioed man was boiling up corn on the cob on a stove that looked homemade. His make-shift café clung precariously to the side of the cliff, and he had somehow diverted a small stream into a kitchen tap with an actual sink. We squeezed our car against the guardrail, climbed over it, and sat down at a tiny table for some corn and mountain stream çay.

into green

As the landscape changed from wide grassland to green forest, a little river began to run parallel to the road, and we couldn't resist leaving the car on the side of the road to investigate.

I waded into the river, the water wrapping around my thighs. Balancing carefully on the slippery rocks, I untied the sweaty handkerchief that hid my dirty hair, and soaked my head in the cool water. As I watched the current carry my hands away like the branches of green that grew within it, I was overcome by a feeling of peace. Road trips have a funny way of teasing out all the things your brain buries during the routine of daily life. There had been so many conflicts, questions, and realisations running through my head, but now... now, the sight of an electric blue dragonfly gently bobbing up and down while clinging the water milfoil was all there was.

There was this fine frog too.

a last look at ani