Istanbul is the kind of city where the Four Seasons hotel is in a former palace. Everywhere we went, we came upon architectural marvels – and these are not even the big tourist attractions. These are just moments of beauty. (later posts on the tourist attractions)
Roy & Noah arrived in Istanbul Fri. afternoon after my 2nd talk. We went for a stroll from Taksim Sq. down Istiklal Caddesi (street). Taksim was described to us several times as “Istanbul’s Times Sq.” and Istiklal is a lively, busy pedestrian thoroughfare lined with shops and restaurants.
Fun Turkish fact: Turks love children! Everywhere we went, people touched Noah’s face, tousled his hair, and/or gave him free stuff. At dinner, our waiter took him on a private tour of the kitchen and Noah reported back that the chef spoon-fed him dessert.
Through Fulbright, I had an incredible opportunity to travel to Istanbul last week to present my research and lecture at 3 of the city’s universities. I was in Istanbul for about a week, meeting with my hosts Wed-Fri and Mon. and Roy & Noah met me there for the weekend Fri-Mon. The Fulbright office in Ankara co-sponsored my trip, along with the universities where I spoke. All of my hosts were warm and took very good care of me, including holding luncheons and dinners in my honor, but the universities themselves were different one from the next. The first university I went to was Bogazici U., one of the most prestigious universities in the city, where I gave a colloquium to the psychology department. Bogazici had the feel of an ivy league school, with a quad surrounded by classic university architecture. I stayed in the guest house on campus in a charming gabled room with a view of the Bosphorous and the Fortress of Europe.
The 2nd university was Bahcesehir, which has more of an NYU atmosphere. Its in the heart of the city with campus buildings scattered among other buildings in the neighborhood. Bahcesehir promoted my talk as a “conference”, but I was the only speaker, so it was a Sarah Berger conference. The talk was held in a huge auditorium and I spoke from a podium on the stage. I believe they videotaped the whole thing. And they presented me with a huge bouquet of flowers after my talk!
The 3rd university was Koc U. located about 45 mins drive from the heart of the city. The cab drove to a fishing village, then past the village into the mountains, then along winding roads to the top of a mountain. The campus is sparkling brand-new and there is nothing else around. Everyone seems to live on campus, even the faculty, in a huge housing complex. A person could get a lot of work done with no distractions around, just gazing out the windows at the beautiful views. At Koc, I gave a presentation of my research to the department, and was also a guest lecturer in a MA class.
All in all, it was an amazing professional experience and I am very grateful to my hosts and to Fulbright for the opportunity.
Noah got a new camera for Channukah and has been taking some great photos. He asked to have his own blog so that he could show his photos to other people. Noah chose the name for the blog himself (noahsphotoblogcom) and dictates what we should write for each picture. We spent some time setting it up today, but we only got one post up before he decided it was time for a break. We’ll update it soon. Check it out!
Last week Fulbright hosted another dinner for the fellows. This one took place at a restaurant in Tel Aviv and featured a lecture and discussion with Prof. Eyal Zisser of the Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University. He is a Syria expert and he gave a general talk about the 2 major current existential threats to Israel: Iran and the occupied territories. Since I had to travel to Turkey the following morning, it didn’t make sense to go to Tel Aviv for dinner, go back to Haifa, and then return to Tel Aviv the next day for my flight. So, I gave myself a day off and spent 24 hrs. alone in Tel Aviv. I spent most of the day before the dinner walking around the neighborhood of Neve Tzedek. When Fulbright took us on a tour of Tel Aviv, this neighborhood was one of the stops, but we went through pretty quickly, so I decided to come back at another time when I wouldn’t be rushed.
My hotel was near Nachalat Binyamin, which is a pedestrian walkway with an arts & crafts market on Tues. & Fri. I was able to get there on Tues., but the jeweler who I was interested in finding after my last trip wasn’t there. On other days of the week, when there is no market, the street’s primary function is more clearly revealed – its equivalent to our pre-Brooklyn, midtown neighborhood of the garment district.
I am proud of myself for being able to buy yarn needles (2 for 3 NIS!) so that I can finally piece together the sweater that I started last year. The pieces are finished, but they have to be assembled.
A week-and-a-half ago, we posted about hanging out at home because of the rainy weather. We had no idea what was in store. There were severe wind gusts, hailstorms (3!), and flash flooding. I couldn’t even walk half a block to the bus stop on Monday because the wind was so strong. I almost got hit with a huge metal panel that came loose from a construction site as it blew across the street. It just missed me, but it did hit a car. We suffered our own damage:
We lost the carob tree in front of our apt. that provided the most shade in our front yard. They have since removed the tree and I hope will replant something instead of leaving a gaping hole.
Slightly delayed holiday report, but I wanted to share one last interesting thing about Channukah in Israel that is not seen very often in other places.
It is a mitzvah to light the channukiah in the window for everyone to see, so wherever you go after sunset during Channukah, you can see the candles shining.
Some people use special glass cases that they keep outside in front of their apt. buildings so that the candles are visible right out front.
Last week we went on a culinary tour of the Galilee led by Orly Ziv of Cook in Israel. We worked together to plan a customized day tour of local Israeli food & wine producers. We picked her up at the train station in Haifa and she navigated while Roy drove.
Our first stop was a cheese dairy. We got a tour of the production facilities by the owner’s daughter, and we had a cheese tasting of 4 or 5 different goat and sheep’s cheeses they produce. This dairy used to raise their own animals, but after animals were stolen one too many times, they decided to buy milk from other farmers and just make cheese. Actually, they also produce goat’s milk soap, which we purchased along with some cheese.
Our next stop was a family-owned olive oil producer. They own both the olive orchards and the factory. They also have a small sesame seed press to make tahini and they produce olive oil soap. Both of which we purchased along with a giant can of olive oil.
Interestingly, they have a modern press from Italy, which they’ve retrofitted with a traditional stone press. All of the speed and power without completely giving up the tradition.
Our third stop was Adir Dairy and Vineyard. We started off this visit watching a promotional video about the history of this business. It is co-owned by 2 families who met when they were olim 2 generations ago. The families were so close, that they were like one big family and started the dairy farm. Now the next generation is running the business and they added the vineyard. We had another cheese tasting of 3 goats cheeses of different ages and a wine tasting of several different reds. Our sommelier told us that they are just beginning to produce whites too, but they aren’t ready yet.
Our 4th stop was a special pomegranate winery, Rimon. We had another tasting, but nothing really grabbed us so we didn’t buy anything, though we agreed that the juice was better than the wine. The secret to sweet juice, as opposed to the tart stuff that you get fresh-squeezed on the street here, is a special machine that separates the pomegranate into sections and then blows air inside so the seeds pop out. When a pomegranate is cut in half and put on the juice press, too much of the white pith gets into the juice, voila, bitter.
Our last stop was a late lunch at the restaurant Ezba where we had been during sukkot. But with the cold, drizzly weather, we had a new, seasonal menu. The dishes just kept coming out one after the other. We were not embarrassed to take the leftovers home.