Posted by inka on Oct 31, 2010 in Istanbul sights
, Turkey Travel
When you visit Istanbul you have got a problem: where to start? Not for nothing is the city one of Europe’s Capitals of Culture 2010. Wherever you go, which corner you turn, one of the sights you have seen a hundred times in photographs, books and movies appears before your very eyes, beckoning you to come and take a closer look. Unless you can spend weeks in Istanbul you have to make a choice and one place you definitely must not leave out is the Spice Bazaar.
A section of the spice market
Be prepared for a pleasant assault on all you senses and one piece of advice before you go: venture out with an empty stomach! You won’t be able to resist the many slivers of this that and the other which are constantly offered you to sample. When I finished my gourmet promenade, I just wanted to roll home and not move again for the rest of the day. The place may be called Spice Market, but there is much more to it than pepper, paprika, curry and coriander.
My co-glamourgran Wendy is a passionate cook, always on the lookout for exotic spices and dishes, so it was a given that we tackled the spice market first. With sensible shoes on our feet (because of the sometimes slippery and cobbled alleys which criss cross the bazaar) we boarded the streetcar which runs along Divan Yoglu, in the center of the historical Sultanahmed district. We alighted at the Eminönu stop and walked through the underpass leading away from the waterfront and the Galata Bridge. You come out near the formidable New Mosque and even if you would walk with your eyes closed, the mixture of scent wafting out would lead you without fail to the arched entrance of the Bazaar, also known as the Egyptian bazaar.
First come the spices, piled up high in a composition of color and display which is a work of art all by itself. Vendors come out and invite you to sample their very own spice mixtures as wells as teas. Dried fruit and nuts are next and you can taste by the handful. I wonder how many painters have secretly been inspired by this place without letting on.
Color symphony of spices
Alleys branch out from there and that’s where the symphony of Turkish Delight starts. Forget about a pink or white concoction cut into tiny cubes and sold wrapped up in cellophane with a bow attached. Here you find the real McCoy. Huge cones of every imaginable color, dotted with pieces of orange, mandarin, banana, kiwi and many other fruits.
Cones of Turkish Delight with fruit
Vendors wield huge, sharp knives, cut off paper-thin slicers and poke them into your face to taste. Believe me, you do. Then: “lady, lady,look”, a mustachioed shop keeper points with a wink and a rather saucy grin. What he is pointing at are figs stuffed with walnuts lying next to Turkish Delight wghich looks like sausage. No end to the imagination here.
More Turkish Delight looking like sausage
Another jumps out and shouts: “Viagra”. Huh? Ah, no, he is pointing at yet another variety of Turkish Delight. They are a lively bunch and you get a lot of entertainment along with a fuller and fuller stomach.
Just when you think you have seen it all, you exit at a side entrance and find the cheese market. Countless varieties beckon, some looking like spaghetti, others filled with nuts or tiny, white balls soaking in brine. Naturally, you have to sample a few of those as well.
Cheese with pistaccio
Slightly dazed and loaded up with more than a few tiny parcels of spices, teas and Turkish Delight, we took refuge in a café under a canopy of wine leaves and, with a glass of Turkish tea, started the slow process of digestion. But what a wonderful afternoon it was.
Posted by inka on Oct 30, 2010 in Austria
, Day trips
After last night’s rain, a brilliant summer day was dawning over Munich’s rooftops. The leaves were polished and shining and when I looked out the window everything seemed to whisper to me: come out, this is the ideal day for a trip. On the spur of the moment, I decided that I wanted to take the train to Salzburg which I hadn’t visited in a long time. Salzburg and a summer day are just too enticing to be missed.
An hour later I was at Munich’s Hauptbahnhof and boarded the EC to Salzburg. The trip takes less than 2 hours and leads through the wonderful countryside of the Priengau, passing by the Chiemsee, historical Traunstein and other towns which would be well worth a stop, but not on this occasion.
It’s an open border between Germany and Austria which means nobody comes and looks at your passport. You don’t even notice that you are in another country except for the switch of server on your cell phone.
Salzburg’s Hauptbahnhof is undergoing major construction which will last for some time and is a bit tedious to negotiate. Just follow signs (they are a bit small though) which point you in the direction of the city center and you come out in the Rainerstrasse. From there you can’t go wrong, it’s a straight run towards the Salzach with her many bridges across into the historical part of Salzburg.
On the right is the entrance to one of the most beautiful places in Salzburg, the Mirabell Garten. It’s a huge park with artful paths, fountains and statues and when I entered I got a surprise: a wedding was in full swing. Who doesn’t adore to see the happy couple in their great outfit, surrounded by their guests in the most perfect setting imaginable and, the crowning glory, brilliant sunshine. A horse drawn carriage was waiting to whizz them away and I silently sent them my best wishes.
A wedding in Salzburg's Mirabell Garten
Somehow the wedding had put me into a festive spirit too and when I came to the Salzach, Hotel Sacher caught my eye. I couldn’t resist a stop at the legendary hotel and to sit down in the café and sample a Sacher Torte with Einspänner (coffee with milk).
Sacher Torte and Einspänner
You can either sit outside on the terrace facing the river or, as I did, inside, because I just love the old-fashioned atmosphere. It seems that time has stood still since Salzburg’s poets, journalists, writers and other celebrities stopped by here on a daily basis to see and be seen. As is documented by the Wall of Fame with its many signed photographs. Certainly a touch of glamour in this place.
Cafe Sacher's Wall of Fame
Salzburg and Mozart go hand in hand and I looked at the composer’s birthhouse and the place were he lived, both small museums today with period furniture and many memorabilia. Listen closely and you may hear the strains of Die Zauberflöte (the magic flute) if only in your imagination. You can’t possibly leave Salzburg without buying a box of Mozartkugeln. I never found out if they are called this because he actually liked them or whatever else the reason is.
A box of Mozartkugeln in the shape of a violin-what else?
Crossing over a foot bridge into the old part of Salzburg I happened upon a beautiful flower shop. Tiny side streets and alleys criss- cross this part of Salzburg and each one is dedicated to something else. One is called Goldgasse and features jewelry shop after jewelry shop, another has art galleries and antiquities and so on.
An intersting clock in Salzburg
I had every intention of climbing up to the mighty Burg(Festung Hohensalzburg) towering over Salzburg, but got distracted by all the things to look at and admire around the Domplatz, like the Residenz, a quirky clock, fountains and dirndl shops. When I discovered a pretty boutique hotel in the Goldgasse called Hotel am Dom which is quite reasonably priced (EUROS 90 for a single room in high season) I knew that I could come back and tackle the climb to the Festung another day.
Reception Hotel am Dom
Sunshine, a wedding, Mozart and Sacher torte, I couldn’t have hoped for a better combination to enjoy a perfect summer day in Salzburg.
Posted by inka on Oct 29, 2010 in Morocco
, Travel tips
The name alone evokes images of the magic and mystery of Morocco. Let the syllabs roll slowly over your tongue: Ess-a-ou-ira, savoring every sound. White beaches on one side, wild rocks on the other, tiny alleys criss- crossing the Medina, dotted with workshops, art galleries and cafes, the smells and sounds of the souk with black veiled women hustling along in their colorful djellabahs, and dread locked hippies left over from another area still dreaming the day away. Or maybe they were left over from the Gnaoua World Music Festival which is often called the Woodstock of Morocco and takes place every year in the last week of June.
My fellow glamour granny Wendy and I missed the festival by ten days, but we exchanged memories of Woodstock, Jimi Hendrix and Orson Welles, two other celebrities for whom Essaouira became a much loved hang out. To our young Berber taxi driver who took us on the straight road from Marrakesh they were only legends and he couldn’t hear enough of our stories. There are definitely advantages to being an older woman traveler!
But he could reciprocate by telling us about the watersports activities for which Essaouira is also famous. The city of wind and light as it is often called, attracts kite-and windsurfers from all over the world and as we approached the modern part of the city the wonderful white and broad beach came into view, dotted with sun worshippers and the brightly colored sails of the surfers and kiters.
Beach of Essaouira
Although there are traces of settlements in Essaouira which date from pre-historic times, the city as it is today was only built in the 18th century particularly to serve as Morrocco’s most important sea and trade port. Caravans brought the goods which were shipped here all the way from Timbuktu across the desert and over the Atlas mountains. Jews were encouraged to settle in the city and take care of the trade and we visited the Jewish quarters and the large Jewish cemetery.
Ramparts with canons surround the Medina, but before we dived into the labyrinth of alleys, we fortified ourselves with fresh fish, an absolute must when in Essaouira.
The fish market is on the other side of the beach facing the island of Mogador and the rocks and cliffs where the waves crash with mighty force, sending spume and spray high up into the air and over the sea wall.
Seawall and habor opposite Modador island
Freshly caught fish is displayed on stall after stall with tables and benches in between. You stroll along, point at the fish you want, then sit down on one of the communal tables, order your drink and salad whilst the fish is grilled over charcoal fires and served to you with a flourish. You eat with your fingers, drink out of a can or bottle and engage in conversation with your fellow guests.
Fish market Essaouira
Then we entered the medina through one of the massive gates in the ramparts and just idled along, already infected by the leisurely pace and laid back atmosphere of Eassaouira. Everything happens in slow motion here as opposed to the city life of Marrakesh. We stopped at the workshops of cabinet makers and wood carvers for which the city is famous as well as art galleries, silver smiths and the small boutiques offering the most wonderful hand embroidered bags and slippers. A few items ended up in our shopping bags.
Art gallery in the medina
We ended our tour in a café near our starting point and listened to a trio of traditional Moroccan musicians who moved from café to café entertaining the many visitors with the strange and monotone sounds of Moroccan melodies.
Trio of Moroccan musicians
Maybe next year we will make it back in time for the festival or we might give windsurfing a try. Both of us are strong swimmers anyway and you are never too old to learn something new.
Festival or not- people were having FUN!
Posted by inka on Oct 28, 2010 in Florida trips
My friend and neighbor Claudia who hails from Buenos Aires, is the proud owner of a red vintage Corvette. We both live part of the year in Miami, and our favorite trip is a drive from Miami across the 42 bridges of US1 also known as the Overseas Highway to Key West. It goes without saying, that the Corvette’s top comes down so that we can enjoy the sights , the wind and the sun .And have our fun with the other motorists who can’t resist to ogle the two glamour grannies in their red sports car.
Setitng off on the trip to Key West
The entire 113 miles from Miami to Key West are not only a wonder of nature but also a drive which is packed full of Southern Florida history. Henry Flagler springs to mind without whom and his ambitious enterprises the entire south of the state would have remained a sad, undeveloped, ‘gator and mosquito infested swamp instead of the fabulous destination it has become.
He managed to fulfill his most ambitious dream which was to build a railway from Miami all the way to Key West. But, Mother Nature thought otherwise. The Labor Day hurricane of 1935, one of the worst ever to make landfall in the Florida Keys, put paid to the enterprise. Tracks and bridged were blown away and never did a train run there again. Instead the Overseas Highway now connects the metropolis with the tropical paradise of the Florida Keys.
Skirting the Everglades and spotting herons and the odd alligator by the road side, we came to Key Largo the first of the Upper Keys. One of the typical beach cafes which are no more than glorified shacks but serve excellent snacks and coffee invited to a stop.
Taking a break in Key Largo
We were looking forward to Islamorada and a visit to the Theatre of the Sea, a sanctuary for creatures of the sea, a world all in itself which gives a perfect overview of the multitude of marine life which has, luckily, been preserved in the Keys.
Theatre of the Sea Islamorada
Then, it’s time for the drive alongside the famous 7 Miles Bridge which connects Marathon with Little Duck Key. The old bridge is not in use but many parts can be accessed and are populated by fishermen casting their rods. For miles you drive literally over water, nothing but every imaginable hue of blue to your right and to your left. It will be hard to find a comparable view anywhere else in the world.
7 Miles Bridge
One of my favorite stops is the Shell Shack near Islamorada. I love ‘Florida Kitsch’ and here you find an incredible selection of the finest. Shells in any form and shape, ceramic parrots, frogs and seahorses, you name it, you’ll find it there.
Kiss me and I'll be your prince!
The sun was setting when we reached Key West, just in time for the daily sunset celebration in Mallory Square. We spent the night and another day of enjoying Key West before looking again at the many marvels of the Overseas Highway in reverse order.
The drive takes approx. 4 hours but you can easily spend a few days. Each Key is different and entices to stop and look or engage in the many water sport activities. You can dive, snorkel, fish, sail or simple sit on the beach and enjoy the ocean. Time loses its meaning once you enter the world of the Florida Keys.
Posted by inka on Oct 27, 2010 in Morocco
, Travel tips
The short answer to this is: in style! ‘Oh well, ’I can hear you sigh, ‘that’s easy if you have a million Dollar in your bank or just won the lottery’. Let me assure you, traveling in style does not require a big budget if you are smart and know where to look.
Two magic words, as I found out on my recent trip to Marrakesh are: day pass. Who ever visits the magic city can’t help but dreaming about the world famous La Mamounia Hotel. So did my travel companion and I. We stayed in a lovely enough little hotel in the old town of Marrakesh, but we longed for the glamour and luxury of the Mamounia.
The tiny pool in our hotel!
The room rates were definitely out of reach, but to our delight we discovered that you can enjoy a full day of luxury and glorious surroundings by purchasing a day pass.
The Mamounia lobby
For approx. $70 you have access to the gym, the tennis court if you wish and, above all the pool and surrounding areas. The pool is huge, the daybeds extremely comfortable and the attendants take the concept of service to a higher level: you just wave your hand and everything from fresh towels to drinks from the bar to free icecream is brought to you. Want your umbrella moved? Just say so. Forgot your suntan lotion? It’s fetched from the shop (you have to pay for it, though).
I love to swim and do it daily to keep in shape. However, in the pool I did little swimming because I got into conversations which hotel guests who had such interesting stories to tell, I nearly forgot about all exercise.
The pool bar and restaurant offers a buffet lunch to die for. Lobster, salmon, fresh oysters, hot and cold dishes of Moroccan as well as international cuisine, fruit, ice creams and the deserts…. Eat as much as you possibly can, but bear in mind that the lunch is not included in your day pass and costs a bundle. If you don’t want to splash out on that, you can have a snack.
Come evening you go to the lavish changing rooms, shower, slather yourself with all the lotions and potions arranged on gorgeous shelves, put on your glad rags which you have brought with you and enjoy an evening in the hotel bar listening to the piano player. The drinks are not even expensive considering where you are.
Enjoying a drink in the cocktail bar
Day passes are available from Monday to Thursday. You can also buy weekend passes or a weekly pass. You are requested to wear casual chic..as if you wouldn’t anyway.
A curiosity: the Mamounia is one well guarded hotel. The guys in black suits, sunglasses and a button in their ear are everywhere. It’s quite an accomplishment to get past them on your way to reception to actually buy your day pass. But then, a glamour granny has her ways.