Sunday, 22 November 2009

Birmingham Palace

We went to Birmingham Palace three weeks ago. No, you didn’t hear me wrong: Birmingham Palace! We have a palace in Birmingham. Actually five years ago, when I was chatting on MSN and told my Turkish friend, who was living in China then, that I would go to Birmingham to study, he said ‘oh send me a photo from Birmingham Palace!’ and I said ‘Birmingham Palace? There isn’t such a thing! There’s Buckingham Palace!’ and he said he found it on google search and took a photo of his desktop and sent that photo to me: and yes on google search there was Birmingham Palace, but it was actually Buckingham Palace! I think a Chinese guy remembered the name wrong and put it on his blog as ‘Birmingham Palace’ :) but hold on! I’ve been to Birmingham Palace! Well, it’s not called ‘Birmingham Palace’, it’s called ‘Aston Hall’ but if there is any place to be called Birmingham Palace, it should be Aston Hall. It’s only open only from mid July till the end of October. You can have more information on If you like cavernous dreary old mansions from bygone years where the ghosts of rich people complain in whispers about the poor taste of the peacock meat and the cold draught coming from window in the orange room (actually it’s a bedroom with a ceiling full of orange tree carvings; this is where it takes its name from), then you might like it ;)

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Drink of Happiness

Hot chocolate!

If I put on weight during my studies in Korea, there were two reasons for this!
And the first one was: Hot chocolate!
God, I loved the hot chocolate that I bought in Seoul National University (If I remember it right, from the café under the Business school) and Yonsei University (the café in Global Lounge). Lovely hot chocolate made with real dairy cream and topped with either chocolate sauce or pistachio nuts.. yummmmm!!! And I used to pay only 1000 or 1200 won!

The best served hot chocolate, I drank in Brussels. I went to a café in Ixelles (15 mins from the European Parliament) and of course I ordered hot chocolate and the waiter brought a tray with a cup with hot milk in, a small porcelain spoon like shovel (full of chocolate chips) and a biscuit!! So I poured the chocolate chips into my hot milk and they melted! And became yummy hot chocolate! I was really impressed.

And in Russell, NZ there is a small ice-cream & drinks shop at which my family is addicted to drinking hot chocolates (specially the hot chocolate named ‘Nutty Irishman’!!!) and they are yummm too! Generally each cup of hot chocolate is 5 NZ$ (so quite expensive compared to the ones in Seoul but for that gorgeous view I think it’s worth it!) Also, in NZ I discovered something between hot chocolate and energy drink (which turns out to be quite famous in Asia as well): MILO ! It was harder to find it in the UK last year, but this year I can find it in most of the major supermarkets. You add two spoons of milo and milk and hot water, and preferably a teaspoon of sugar and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

How about hot chocolates in the UK? Well, to tell the truth in this capitalist, everything-franchised economical system, what you can find is Starbucks, Costa Café etc. It’s so hard to find small cafés here; at least in Birmingham! I should say hot chocolates don’t taste that nice at all, because when you drink something in a franchised shop, you don’t feel special! You feel like you are just a part of the commercial world that sells you a cup of coffee to add another shop or swimming pool to their lives not to make you happy with a special cup of hot chocolate! :)
After writing what I wrote above, we hit the town and went to a Viennese Patisserie in Bull Ring and ate some yummy cakes, and guess what I ordered? Of course, hot chocolate!!! :)
Well, the cake was nice, but tasted a bit stale to me. They put real dairy cream on the hot chocolate! But it wasn’t sweet, it tasted heavy.. and they put too much salt in my hot chocolate! Yes, you heard it right: not sugar, salt!
Oh, how hard it is to find a nice cup of hot chocolate in this country!

Sunday, 25 October 2009


In Turkey, we have henna nights. Henna is a symbol of celebration. Whatever we celebrate, we use henna to show people that we are celebrating something: a wedding or a circumcision ceremony. Henna is a very mysterious substance.
When you put a measure of henna on your palm, you don't know what kind of pattern or colour you'll get..It might be really disappointing, or something that you really love like a bracelet or a ring..

In Tunisia, I recognised a mysterious pattern common to henna designs, doors, chairs, and windows.. Unlike current Turkish henna styles, they have floral designs made with dots and the designs that they put on their doors.. The way that they prepare henna is quite different than the Turkish way as well. Tunisians put lots of interesting herbs and spices into the henna mixture and keep it on a piece of burning coal until the sun reaches the same point on the next day. The result is an extremely small bottle of black henna (like eye-liner) to paint and decorate hands, feet, and bellies.. Obviously, in the Ottoman harem women drew flowers and various designs on their bodies, but obviously along with many other things, modern Turks forgot about it..

You can find different henna designs that belong to various oriental cultures at this link:

Henna is a form of art like tattooing, but more mysterious, challenging, and creative.
Picture 2: Tunisian women (they are just waxwork statues) having a henna party
Picture 3: Preparation of Tunisian henna

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Brussels..a city of life is...

In 2009, I've been to 10 countries, spoken five languages, used eight different currencies...2009 has been the year that I've learnt to appreciate the value of life more than any year...
I've experienced that life is short, transient and unexpected...
Therefore, I am announcing the secret of a professional tourist: while travelling
1.If you intend to buy any souvenirs/pressies/or anything for yourself buy the first reasonable one on first sight. Never fool yourself, saying 'I might find a cheaper one later'!!! It never happens; if it does, then buy that one as well! It's better than regret!
2. Even if you live in that city/country temporarily, go to the places that you want to visit most (museums, nearby cities, parks etc.), take photos of the places you live, take some shots in the area that you live or work. Never postpone anything till later! Life is too short and unexpected! (One day you think you'll be in that city for another two months and feel homesick, the next day you hear that your father had an accident and had the worst possible brain trauma and is in intensive care and you leave everything behind: your clothes, asthma medication, incense sticks, the new sauce pan, the waffles and cheese that you just bought yesterday; and take the first flight and go to take care of your father who is in a coma and who can't remember who you are or what your relation is to him when he wakes up. One day you are employed in your dream career, the next day you are a carer. One day you are homesick, the next day you are in your home but life tasteless and sorrowful..) Life is too short, too unexpected!
So, never postpone anything in your life! Live your life to the bottom! unfinished adventure.. or an adventure 'to be continued' for me..
Brussels, or Belgium, has been the only country that I have been to in which, when you go to tourist information, you have to buy the tourist map (5€). If you know about it and if you ask for it, they might provide you a basic map that shows bus and train routes as well, but I should say, that map is not that useful for finding your way around town.
I lived in many countries, even in countries that I don't speak the language of. However Brussels has been the only city where I constantly got lost! Logic doesn't work in Brussels! You think 'Well, I came this way that much, so if I go along this parallel street this much I should be able to get to that place that I want to go!' No!No!No! Logic doesn't work in Brussels! It's like a carousel, a labyrinth, a magical place where everywhere is connected to each other in a minute and in an hour!
Well, the best thing to do is to buy a proper map in Brussels from the kiosk, or the tourist information!
Brussels is a city of comics: there are many stores that sell second- and first-hand comic books, magazines and toys of cartoon characters! If you don't know, Belgium hosts many artists of many comic books, such as The Smurfs, Tin Tin, Lucky Luke, etc. In Brussels you visit churches and you find that the biblical stories are depicted as comics!!!! Actually, it's not that unusual! In Korea, you go to churches and you find out from the paintings at the church that Jesus the Christ had eyes and a beard like an ancient Korean and he wore the traditional Korean outfit, Hanbok!

Monday, 12 October 2009

Sidi Bou Said - part 1

Sidi Bou Said..
a district in Tunis..
One of the most beautiful districts in Tunisia..possibly in the world as well..
Extremely touristic! You feel like the whole district is specially designed for the tourists..In Korea, there are villages where residents don't need to pay any taxes or fees for schools for their kids. They are free as long as they carry on a very ancient Korean village life style (I haven't seen any ipods, Samsung or LG mobile phones, or Hyundai cars in those villages, which is quite contrary to the 'image' of Korea nowadays). A similar thing must be valid for Sidi Bou Said as well, because the whole district is in blue and white and extremely well-looked after. You can see similar designs on the doors and windows of houses in many different districts in Tunisia, but not in such a harmony and richness as it is in Sidi Bou Said. The transportation is really easy from Tunis; taking the train from central Tunis to Sidi Bou Said costs only 600 Tunisian dinar return (1£=1.900 dinar as of August, 2009). The day that I spent there was extremely hot, and I kept on losing myself in the streets as I normally do in Istanbul, and then suddenly I found myself on a hill in front of the light house. It had the best and most refreshing breeze I've ever faced in my life.. the breeze coming from the turquoise Mediterranean Sea took all my exhaustion and sorrow.. I just sat there for a long time, with an old woman with whom I couldn't communicate in terms of words but looks.. she understood me and I felt how she felt.. we both stared at the sea and I weeped, washing my grief with the help of the blue breeze..and looking at the oldest, most jaded house and the one having the best view and breeze...
Sidi Bou Said is full of art shops, galleries, beautiful stores full of handmade accessories (yes some of them are made in china as it is wherever you go in this globalised world but many of them are from Turkey as well) and teahouses.. I had a traditional Tunisian mint tea with lots of pinenuts on it and it was yumm!! For some reason in that extremely hot weather (I mean I lived the first 18 years of my life and on top of that various summer holidays in one of the hottest regions in the world. I am used to 40 degrees Celsius normally but even for me Tunisian hot weather is extremely hot and humid!!!) mint tea works miraculously!! It relaxes you and soothes your heat down :) Another interesting thing with Tunisia is, as far as I've experienced, that Tunisians just close their thick curtains during daytime and stay indoors, with no air-conditioner, no fans (well, they have those but they are not used as much as they are used in my hometown, for instance, which is another Mediterranean city).

If you happen to go to Sidi Bou Said, make sure that you visit Dar El Anninabi (entrance fee is 3000 dinars) and drink a cup of free mint tea (no pine nuts).Tevfik (you can see him in the pic above with the nice Tunisian white cage) served me my mint tea; he was an extremely sympathetic and nice gentleman who showed me Tunisian friendship :) Dar El Anninabi was like a dream house to me, a house that I would like to live in.. every corner of it was ornamented with delicate art.
Sidi Bou Said is like an open air Madame Tussauds: you visit every single house and want to have a photo of it or a photo in front of it. You go to every single building and want to read its story from the dots on its door, and you hear its story in its breeze and dust.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

traditional Tunisian scarves

I arrived in Monastir, Tunisia Airport in the middle of the night (thanks to Thomson fly delay due to a ridiculous staff shortage). My friend Samira was waiting for me at the airport with her family. We got out of the airport and then I saw this, the most beautiful, Tunisian, mystical woman.. My first exclamation to Samira was "what a beautiful mum you have!" We had another 2.5 hours to get to Zaghouan where Samira and her family lives. One evening, Samira showed me the point in her village that, when she was a child, she thought the earth finished.. and it was true.. this was exactly how I felt.. I felt like there is nothing beyond that point, because the world feels flat. This is how northern Africa felt to me. When I was a child, all the times I read history books saying that in old times people believed that earth is like a tray: flat, I remember myself thinking 'come on they must have been idiots to believe that!' But no! in Tunisia, this is how you feel: the earth is flat like a tray... and you and people in your village are the only people surviving in this world, cos this is your world!
Interestingly, I met Samira in a completely different part of the world, in South Korea! This feels amazing, that little girl who thought 'the world stops over there' made her way to Korea! I made my way there as well, but I was well-aware of the fact that there are many different civilisations and countries and I wanted to discover them all.. But I find what that courageous girl did amazing!
Another thing showing the globalised world we are living in nowadays is this:
I saw many Zaghouan women wearing very bright coloured scarves (like the green one that Samira's mum is wearing on the photo), and I thought it is a traditional scarf and I wanted to buy many of them for myself as well. When we went to Tunis (1.5 hours away from Zaghouan) and when we asked the shopkeepers where we can find the scarf, they said that the scarf is not Tunisian, it's Egyptian.. and we couldn't find any.. on the day that I left, Samira's lovely family came up with three different colours of that scarf: green, red and white.. and gave me as a pressie.. and on the scarves I read: made in Japan :)

Here I start

Since I've known myself, I've always wanted to travel..
Travelling, learning, exploring, sharing, finding the same patterns in cultures&languages..
Trying to seek out the elements that create a culture..
and I've been travelling to many places for a while and living there and trying to understand the culture via studying its art, music, customs.. I've been picking up all these elements and putting them into my heart-shaped bag.. and comparing, analysing..

Here I start.. sharing what I've found so far..

All the articles will be about moments.. not in a chronological order, random..this and that..

Here I start..