May. 16th, 2013 07:38 pm
roadrunnertwice: MPLS, MN skyline at sundown.  (Minneapolis - Sunset in the city)
I went to NYC for a week of vacation! It was excellent. I had a fantastic time. A little bit of museum stuff, a little bit of nightlife, a whole SHITLOAD of just hiking around and soaking in the atmosphere of, I dunno, I must have hit at least fifteen neighborhoods. Ate a bunch of cool food. Had a couple of cool drinks. Met up with some old friends, and crashed on the couch with Shane and his boyfriend Dusty and their housemate Lee, who were all just unbelievably nice and gracious and generous.

It was the shit. I got back on Sunday. Hi.
roadrunnertwice: Ray pulling his head off. Dialogue: "DO YOU WANT SOME FRITTATA?" (FRITTATA (Achewood))
Let's go ahead and start with the intestines, because I know someone is going to ask me about that. There, it's out of the way. (They tasted fine, but I don't want that texture in my mouth ever again.)

Anyway, I tend to do a mostly vegetarian thing when I'm in the States, but that dog don't really hunt here, so I've just been eating what everyone else eats and figuring I'll balance it out later. Roll the film, please:

  • Dürüm, a meat and vegetable roll-up of sorts made with extremely thin (~1mm) flatbread.
  • Ayran, a salty diluted yogurt served as a beverage.
  • Baked quince in honey with clotted cream.
  • Pide (stuff-baked-on-top version).
  • Pide (bare version, i.e. just flatbread).
  • Helva with Antep pistachios.
  • Quince braised with meatballs (both kinds of quince I had were pretty unbelievable; gonna have to learn how to wrangle that fruit myself, now).
  • Dolma (tasted like dolma!).
  • A ton of meze and salads I didn't even get the names of. (We went to this great restaurant in Istanbul called Çiya. Highly recommended.)
  • Şeker (sugar) oranges, which are these seedless manderins with bright green or yellow rind. They taste exactly like the satsuma oranges we can get in the winter, but the contrast of green to shocking orange looks really alien and cool.
  • Non-Cavendish bananas! Which tasted like... Bananas. OK!
  • Lots of olives, mostly during breakfast. They sell uncured olives in the markets here, too, which are inedible but that's still kind of exciting. I'm at where olives come from! (When I was walking around outer Antep, I saw a group of older women and kids sitting on the sidewalk outside of a park sorting through a little wash-pool full of raw olives, which was yet another thing I'd never seen before. Dunno whether they were prepping them for sale or for curing.)
  • Turkish white cheese and sheep's milk cheese.
  • Pomegranates. Better than the ones we get here.
  • Adana kebap. (I was actually about to just say "A couple kinds of kebap," but then Kate got on my case about it, and I totally should have recorded it so you guys could hear.)
  • A COUPLE KINDS OF KEBAP, which I am now totally allowed to say, because we went to Imam Çaǧdaş after I wrote that last line and ordered the mixed grill, none of which did I have the training to recognize. It was all delicious, though.
  • Also at Çaǧdaş, we had what was possibly, depending on who you ask, the best baklava in the world. (This is apparently part of an ongoing rivalry in Antep, which mostly produces the pistachio type rather than the more common walnut type. I don't know anything about the other contenders, but this was pretty fucking good.)
  • A strange relative of baklava that looks like a shrimp and is composed of like 70% air and which collapses like a fatally-punctured diving bell when you put it in your mouth. (By the way, the waiters at Imam Çaǧdaş are really nice and bring you tons of free stuff you didn't order.)
  • Lahmacun, which is a kind of loosely pizza-like dish except that the crust is really really thin and verging on crackery in texture; like with a New York slice, you eat it folded in half, except that you tear off a chunk first and put parsley and lemon on it. We actually made this the last time Kate was in Portland, and I think we got pretty close, although my crust was definitely too thick compared to the real thing.
  • American-style oatmeal with fried apples and hazelnuts.
  • SO MUCH TEA. The way the Turks make it is actually kind of weird to me: they stew it to undrinkability, then dilute it and add sugar. (No milk.) I was kind of worried that I'd be a mess of tannin stomachaches, but apparently diluting stewed tea magically negates its bad effects? Or maybe sugar helps neutralize tannins the same way milk does, except that doesn't really make sense. Or maybe I've partially outgrown that reaction, which might be an ok tradeoff for the onions thing. Okay, now I'm just rambling. -_-
  • Börek, a flaky pastry roll filled with just about anything, which changes its character quite a bit depending on what it's being used for. There's greasy meat börek, sweet pistachio börek, cheese börek that resembles nothing so much as a macaroni and cheese croissant, and egg-and-yogurt börek that is almost quiche-like. …I ate a hell of a lot of börek, now that I think about it.
  • Walnut cookies! Simple and good.
  • Eggplant, which Turks cook better than I've ever had before.
  • Soupy egg scramble alongside bread with honey and clotted cream.
  • Muska, a dessert made from pistachio paste wrapped in a leathery skin made of dried and floured grape molasses. (Bringing a kilo of this home, if anyone's curious.)
  • A hot yogurt soup with sheep meat and micro-dumplings, garnished with mint oil. I'll have to ask Kate about the name of this one again, because I can't quite remember it.
  • Çi köfte, i.e. raw meatballs in lettuce. Surprisingly great!

…I think that's most of it.

Lag Me Not

Nov. 11th, 2010 04:35 pm
roadrunnertwice: Yoshimori from Kekkaishi, with his beverage of choice. (Coffee milk (Kekkaishi))
To take a break from the travelogue for a while (yes, I'm still working on some posts; yes, I'm back home), let's get back to something I mentioned in passing earlier.

The jet lag had me worried, a bit. This was going to be a fairly short trip, I did not want to waste any more of it than I had to on recuperatory bullshit, and all the talk of being useless for one day per zone freaked me right out. (And I knew I was susceptible, because I got the nasty lag going east to Ireland back in '04, and it really did leave me unable to do much but play Game Boy in bed for half a week.)

Anyway, initially what I kept finding were the news reports from earlier this year about how maybe, possibly, fasting for 16 hours before landing could keep The Lag at bay. So I was going to try that, except I didn't really have a lot of hope for it, since all those stories turned out to be based on a single study that involved injecting DNA-modifying virii into the brains of mice. ("If you've got jet lag and you're a mouse, we can help.") But then I ran across this.

Ignore for a minute the vibe of the site, which is somewhere between herbal supplement huckster and horoscope generator; the instructions are fairly simple once you strip away the explanatory text, and they're actually backed by a history of human testing (pdf link). And the whole shebang was developed by a dude at the Dep't of Energy's Argonne "Look At Our Fucking Death Ray" National Laboratory, which, you can't beat that heavily-irradiated pedigree. (Also it's apparently been used by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Canadian National Swim Team, and Ronald Reagan. [?!])

The theory behind it is also kind of awesome: basically, in addition to your main bodily clock, you have a gastric clock pegged to local food availability, which seems to exist in order to forcibly override and reset the main circadian clock in extreme situations. The goal of the diet is to deliberately trigger that override at a time of your choosing without suffering too much shock in the process. Very clever. In a nutshell, you do an alternating pattern of feast days and fast days, with breakfast on the final feast day triggering the reset.

Long story short, it fucking worked, and I completely evaded the lag in both directions. Eastbound lag is supposed to be the worst kind, so I did the full version of the diet before the trip; on the backswing, I couldn't really be bothered to do it right (I was surrounded by delicious food), but the half-length version seems to have worked anyway.

Needless to say, pulling this off is a lot easier if you can actually sleep a little bit on the plane, and I think I can recommend this ridiculous-looking shit in good conscience; it worked far better for me than it looks like it should have, and was totally worth the dough. Also, spending as much time as possible outdoors on the first day seems to be a good plan, as does obeying the rules about caffeine (only between 3 and 5 PM) and alcohol (don't do it; presumably this also goes for weed).
roadrunnertwice: Hagrid on his motorcycle, from Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone. (Motorcycle (Hagrid))
By the way, in case you couldn't tell, I've been in Gaziantep for the last few days. I am going to keep bouncing back and forth here, because you're not the boss of me.

Like most places outside the U.S., Turkey scandalizes with what it's willing to call a two-way street, but that's only scratching the surface of the transportation situation here: what actually surprised me most were the motorbikes. Well, probably something like 60% scooters by volume, but you get the idea. Little 125 CC buggers, mostly with underinflated knobby tires and usually laden with some ridiculous amount of cargo. Need to move five nineteen-liter water tanks (full) across the neighborhood? Leave the car at home and scoot that shit. You can carry two in your lap, right?

Also, these short-haul freighters have some uncanny slowriding skills. Which comes in handy when they ride on the sidewalks or through one of the semi-covered bazaars. I am not exaggerating for comic effect. All comic effect in this post is supplied by unvarnished reality. I have never ever seen the flesh pylon slalom played the way they play it here.

Adding to the surreality of it all is that, here in Antep at least, they like to coast. Well, okay, it's a medieval fortress city built on a bunch of enormous hills, so use what you got, but it's still weird to have a two-stroke scooter in shitty repair cruise past you in utter silence.

Buses are worth a mention, too. I never figured out the system in Istanbul, and we mostly took foot or tram, but here in Antep, they have these little mini-buses that flow as thick as red blood cells. There is no real system, as far as I can tell: the buses have incomplete lists of where they're going posted in their windows, but mostly you just ask the drivers when you're getting on and you can board or jump out basically anywhere. It kind of blows my mind how convenient it is; no one seems to wait more than a minute and a half for a bus to show up. In short, total chaos that works better than it seems like it should. Turkey!

There aren't many bicycles.
roadrunnertwice: Ryoga from Ranma 1/2. Image text: "*Now* where the hell am I?" (Lost (Ryoga))
Right, so anyway. Let's start from the beginning. I deplaned in Istanbul, paid my $20 US for my 90 day visa, meandered through passport control, collected my bag (20% coffee and microbrews by weight), walked out of the terminal, and was met by a shout of "Nick!" and a hug that I'd been craving for, well, a while now, let's just say that.

Modulo some minor directional confusion (nothing above par for my course, except that I happened to be really hungry and towing a bag and may have pouted at [personal profile] katealaurel a bit), we arrived at our hotel without incident. We'd ended up at an apartment-style place with one suite per floor, in a tall narrow building in a quiet and peaceful neighborhood (well, comparatively speaking) more or less inside Beoǧlu.1 We were later told that the area half a block downhill from us wasn't safe to go into, but I wouldn't have guessed it.

Istanbul is full of grand, abandoned old wrecks, beautiful stone or concrete or brick buildings whose age I can't even guess at that have been left to fade and go to seed. Some of them are cored-out and broken-walled and barren, like the one just out our window, and others seem mostly intact but have boarded-up doors and windows stuffed with broken lamps or mannequins. At home they'd be called blight, but they're everywhere, here, even on the busiest and glitziest thoroughfares and shopping rows.

There's also a species of wood-slat buildings that look like sculptures left by some long-departed people, of which barely any are still usable or even salvagible. Kate tells me they're a traditional Istanbul style, but are fiendishly expensive and difficult to restore, and it's more lucrative to let them rot until they can be condemned and then build something modern.

Not that I have the eye to tell the somethings modern from the somethings old, yet, and they're all crammed in shoulder to shoulder, making oddly dark canyons of the streets. (In Istanbul, you go five stories high or you go home.) The ground floors are crowded with commercial bustle, and it invades the upper floors too, sometimes as storage space, sometimes for extra seating, sometimes fitting whole other shops in there. Then there are the rooftop cafés, which I hadn't really guessed the number of until we got up on the Galata tower and looked down on them.

This town is Built Up, is what I'm getting at, and it is BIG, stretching practically from horizon to horizon. It's big and it's tall and it's older than hell, and while I wouldn't call any real city truly knowable, Istanbul has the bad grace to rub your face in it. I kind of love it for that.

1: For some reason, the iPad doesn't seem to have any good way to get Turkish characters, so an earlier version of this post had a bunch of em-dashes and apostrophes dangling around.
roadrunnertwice: Protagonist of Buttercup Festival sitting at a campfire. (Vast and solemn spaces (Buttercup Festiv)
I'm going to skip ahead a bit so that this part doesn't contaminate the rest of some other post.

Late on Halloween morning, Kate and I were sitting on a bench under the Galata Tower when we heard a very nasty-sounding crash. The kind that makes everyone in the neighborhood go quiet for a moment, we're talking. "Probably construction," Kate said, shaking off the hush. "Huh; ok," I said. But no: it turned out to be a guy blowing himself up at the police station in Taksim Square.

So yeah, baby's first suicide bombing. Reports were still hazy the last time we checked, and neither of us have kept up on the news about it; some analyst said it was definitely PKK, a PKK spokesman said he hadn't heard about it until they called him to ask about it, and there were somwhere between 22 and 32 injured, of which 10 or 12 were police; no one killed on the scene aside from the bomber.

For the rest of the trip, we saw a lot of riot police. And more than a few demonstrations and marches, too—some of which seemed kind of obscure (the tekel [bodega/package store/liquor store] workers' union was out in force one night—guh?), but I wouldn't be able to explain American politics to a Turk either, so whatever.

Also, that night we ended up walking past a hospital where some of the wounded were being treated, and there was a vigil on.

They re-opened the public transit hub at Taksim the next day, and those of us who didn't get blown up got on with our business.

I don't have much more to say about it. Hell of a thing, though.
roadrunnertwice: Silhouette of a person carrying a bike up a hill (Bike - Carrying)
And the word is, NO JET LAG. Fuck yeah, I am a dynamo of awakeness. That's pretty much all there is to say about that. (Well, there's more, but I'm going to leave it until I have time to write about stuff that isn't exciting foreign locales.)

I'm in Istanbul on the morning of my third day here, writing this in our hotel apartment while Kate types some emails. I'm having to re-think a bit how I interact with a new city, simply because I haven't traveled in so long, but so far I think I'm absorbing an okay amount of it. We've gone to the Ayasofia, walked around the old town, sat in cafés, eaten some amazing food, seen the insides of two incredibly old and cool mosques (including the "new" mosque, which, well, that name writes its own punchline in this town, doesn't it), not-shopped at the grand bazaar and the spice market (both tourist central) as well as the pet market and the highway underpasses and really pretty much anyplace where there's enough free space on the ground to set a cigar box. (The entrepreneurial spirit, she is alive and well in Istanbul.)

I've NOT been interacting much with the Turks, which I do feel somewhat guilty about; this is also the first time I've traveled with a guide (of sorts), and I'm leaning on her, possibly too much. Still, I'm here for less than two weeks, so I'm not going to get over-ambitious re: cultural exchange.

At any rate, we've been spending a lot of time wandering the streets, dodging scooters laden with water tanks and dancing around and between families and couples and clusters of bros. The streets are crowded here, it's kind of unbelievable. I think even more so than the chain of big European cities I rushed through back in '04, though it's tough to compare across so much passed time.

More soon.
roadrunnertwice: Yrs truly surrounded by trees. (Default)
My little brother and sister are graduating! And I'm going to Massachusetts (for the first time ever) to watch and hang out.

It occurs to me that most of the people reading this have never seen Target Corporation's headquarters building. It's just a blocky sort of tower, but at night, they turn on this crazy lightshow, and it's one of the things that, for me, defines summer nighttime strolls around my neighborhood. Anyway, I took some videos a few nights ago. (One, two. Pardon the shake, I am not a filmmaker.)
roadrunnertwice: Yrs truly surrounded by trees. (Vast and solemn spaces)
Back in my apartment, and it feels pretty good. I think this may have been the first time I've broken this place in as "home." You know, the "I've just traveled 1300 miles, and can't wait to get some sleep in my own bed" effect. Having it be the endpoint of some epic journey, instead of the midpoint.

Anyway. I did manage to make the number 2 (second-to-last run of the day, hot damn), so I didn't have to ride to downtown and then either walk ten blocks or try some funny tricks with the 18. Once I got back, I dropped my stuff, repacked the little bag, and set out as a man on a mission—it was 1:30 AM, my last real meal had been half a spinach-feta turnover and some fruit at around noon PDT, and I was going to get myself a tempeh Reuben from the Hard Times Café. (First had to deposit a check at the downtown ATMs and withdraw some cash.) I ALSO would have really appreciated a beer or two, but it was pretty much last call by the time I reached the ATM, and I didn't really want to drink before eating, so no dice. Oh well.

So yeah, I had a kickass and thoroughly Twin Cities meal, and am now about ready to pass out on my keyboard. Massive thanks to everyone for making my visit back to the PNW an amazing one.
roadrunnertwice: Yrs truly surrounded by trees. (Default)
WOW. I'm looking at flights and trains right now, and Sun Country Airlines only charges $135 for a one-way SEA -> MSP. Even if you cut it as close as Feb. 24th. 135. That's the same price as a one-way on the Empire Builder. WTF.

Well, I have options now.


roadrunnertwice: Yrs truly surrounded by trees. (Default)
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