Homer's Travels: November 2022

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Six Years ... Just Like Yesterday

It's been six years now and sometimes it feels like it was yesterday.  I wonder sometimes, knowing how you did not suffer fools well, what you would think of the world today.

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Weekly Ephemera #36

  • 2022 Christmas Tree (Lights only for now).
     On Tuesday I bought an early Christmas present for myself.  I replaced my aging Lenovo tablet with a new Samsung Galaxy Tab A7 Lite.  My old tablet went a lot of places with me including all my Appalachian Trail attempts and our 2022 Fall Travels.  All of my AT posts were written, and photographs edited, on that tablet.  Unfortunately I started running out of memory and kept having to delete things on our travels.  So, out with the 16 GBytes of memory, in with the 64 GBytes.  I'm sure my new tablet will serve me well on our travels and will be my book while at home (the tablet is 8.7 inches about the same size as a large paperback book and the same size as my old tablet.)

    I ended up getting a good deal too ... 40% off.  I ended up ordering it online from Samsung and picking it up at Best Buy an hour later.
  • On Thursday we had Thanksgiving lunch at Mom's place and stopped the Wife's Brother's house to say hi and give travel gifts to the kiddos.  Lots of good food was consumed.
  • I usually don't decorate for Christmas until after Thanksgiving but this year felt a bit different.  On Monday I put up the Christmas laser lights, garlands, and wreaths outside.

    On Tuesday I put the balls in the oak tree (Pictures will come sometime this week).  Over the next few days only four balls were blown out of the tree which I am pleasantly surprised.  One year more than ten blew out the night I put them up.

    On Sunday I put up the Christmas tree and wrapped it in lights.  The Wife will be decorating it later.

    The Holiday Season has begun!
  • I walked twice this week for a total of 17.7 miles (28.48 km).  It felt good to do more than one walk this week.  I was wondering if I would ever manage more than one walk in a week.
  • After Thanksgiving and decorating I decided to take a short break.  We resubscribed to Netflix and I binged a few things.  Because of this my next Travel post will be delayed even more.  Not sure when I will restart but it won't be Monday like I said in my last post (sorry).  I will have to get started because I want to finish by the end of the year and my schedule is a bit full, fluid, and somewhat unpredictable.

Friday, November 25, 2022

We Interrupt This Posting ...

If you were expecting my next post about our Fall Travels in Egypt, I am sorry to say I decided to take a short break.  My next travel post should be on Monday.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Happy Thanksgiving

To my friends and family in the United States, I hope you have a peaceful and healthy day of Thanksgiving.  The Wife has spent the last day or two cooking a thanksgiving meal for Mom, her stepson, and us.  Thank you for doing that.

The Wife and I will spend some of our day with my Mom before going over to the Wife's niece's house.  I'm sure overeating will be involved.

Let the Holiday season officially begin!

Monday, November 21, 2022

2022 Fall Travels, Part Three - Egypt - Cairo

Cairo from the Mohammed Ali Mosque.
We flew into Cairo in the late afternoon and were met by our facilitator before we entered passport control.  Egypt was the only country that allowed us to be assisted before baggage claim.  It made things a lot easier.  We sped through the airport and were dropped off at our hotel overlooking the river Nile.  Like in Israel and Turkey we had a free day to acclimatize before our tour started.  These off days saved us I think.  They gave us time to regroup, for me to edit photos, and for us to recharge before going back on tour.

View of the Nile and Cairo at night from our hotel room.
On our free day we were going to take a walk around the area of the hotel.  Our facilitator and the doorman of our hotel both repeatedly warned us about being careful while crossing the street.  I wondered about this until I realized that there were no stop signs or stop lights.  I can understand a traffic roundabout not having stop signs but even the four way intersections had no signs.  You soon learned that the way to cross the street was "to walk with purpose and a prayer."  People just stepped out in the street and walked across.  It was up to the drivers to watch out for them.  Note, they do not have formal driver's ed in Egypt - they are all self taught.  As far as I could tell the order of vehicles going through a four way intersection was solely based on the size of the vehicles.  Trucks and buses had the right away.  Cars just got through when they saw an opportunity.  Pedestrians just walked with purpose.  Oh, and there wasn't a single horn honking.  The whole city transportation system was just organised chaos.

Colossal statue of Ramesses II.
We didn't walk too far.  Our hotel was in the embassy area .  We ended up in Tahrir Square where the Arab Spring protests took place.  We later walked to a coptic christian church not far from our hotel.  The guard at the door would not let us in and stopped us from taking pictures of the outside.  Not sure what the deal was but there has been violence against coptic christians in the past.

When we weren't walking around we were most likely at the rooftop pool swimming and eating.

The tour started.  We met our tour mate.  We were surprised that our tour group was only three people.   We thought Egypt would have attracted a larger group.  Our guide, we had three on this tour, were all Egyptologists, very knowledgeable, and actually fun to be with.  It turned out the Israeli guide had been an anomaly.  Our facilitator met with us every morning before handing us off to our guide.  We even met the tour company representative a couple times.  Egypt, and our local tour representatives, were trying very hard to sell Egypt to us.  Tourism is important in Egypt and Covid has not been kind.

First stop was in the city of Memphis where we visited a small museum where we saw the colossal statue of Ramesses II.  We learned about Egyptian sculpture style and the symbolism in their statues.

Saqqara Necropolis Gate.
Next we went to the Saqqara Necropolis where we entered a recently discovered burial chamber where we admired the vibrant paintings on the walls.  We then visited the oldest stone structure in Egypt, the step pyramid of King Zoser (Djoser).   The pyramid is four thousand six hundred years old.  There are older structures but only rubble has survived.

Lunch was approaching so we stopped at a hotel with views of the pyramids to have lunch.  We used possibly the most sumptuous bathrooms I've ever seen.  The only negative thing was the over eager bathroom attendant who practically washed my hands for me.  I can wash my own hands, thank you very much.  Back in the restaurant Egypt fed us well though not as extravagantly as Turkey in my opinion.

The Step pyramid of King Zoser.
Next on the itinerary was the highlight - The Great Pyramid of Cheops.  The pyramids were exactly what I expected.  We could have paid extra and gone in the pyramid but the interior is unadorned and my head was still tender from the low ceilings on the Cappadocia underground city.  The idea of being crouched over and smacking my head on random rocks didn't sound appealing.  It was actually hard to get a good picture of the pyramid of Cheops because it was so big.

Pyramids everywhere.
We next drove to a viewpoint where you could see multiple pyramids in a line.  This was also where we were to ride camels.  I want you to know that I had zero desire to ride a camel but the Wife insisted that we would ride camels in Egypt.  We got on and I hated it from the start.  I constantly felt like I was falling off.  I kept looking down trying to find a piece of ground without rocks where falling off wouldn't hurt too much but there wasn't such a place.  Not only did I feel like I was falling off but every step of the camel sent a jolt up my aching back.  Did I say that I hated it?  Well, I hated it.  It is something that I will never do again ... ever.

The sphinx and a pyramid.
The last stop of the day was the Sphinx.  It is smaller than you imagine but it was not disappointing.  We walked around it to get some good shots of the Sphinx with the pyramids in the background.

The dome of the Mohammed Ali Mosque.
The second day of our Cairo tour took us to the top of a hill in central Cairo where we visited the Citadel and the Mohammed Ali Mosque.  Mohammed Ali is considered the founder of Modern Egypt.  There were nice views of the city from the top of the hill.

The interior of the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities.
Coptic Church Mary.
After the Mosque we toured the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities.  We saw lots of interesting history there including King Tut's golden mask.  The Wife and I had already seen the mask and other Tut treasures when they toured the US.  We saw them in Los Angeles sometime before 2006 I think.  This is the old museum.  The Grand Egyptian Museum is not open yet and the opening date keeps slipping into the future.

After lunch at a local restaurant we visited the Hanging Church, a Coptic Christian Church.  We walked through some streets lined with shops before stopping at the Khan El Khalili Bazaar.  The guide pointed out some mosque minarets and said we could use these to guide us back to a coffee shop where he would be waiting for us.  We did some shopping and when it was time to go back we looked around and realized the bazaar was ringed by mosque minarets.  It took a bit of lucky navigation to get us back to our guide but we managed to find our way out of the maze.  Our tour mate wanted to visit a scented oils shop which we visited on the way back to our hotel.

It was a busy day and we were ready to go to the next part of our Egypt tour - A cruise down the river Nile.

Pictures can be found in my Egypt 2022-09 Google Photos album.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Weekly Ephemera #35

  • The Earth's population crossed over the eight billion mark this week.  Haven't decided if this is good or bad.
  • On Monday we replaced our water heater.  I'd thought it was new when we moved in (2008) but, reading the tag a bit closer, I think it was manufactured in 1996 (This makes sense since our house was built in 1997).  So the heater was over twenty-five years old or over fifteen years over the usual ten year lifespan of a gas water heater.  This may explain why the first person to take a shower in the morning always had a lukewarm shower.  The new one heats up quick, is very hot, and we love it.  I'm just kicking myself for not replacing it sooner.
  • I hung a shelf over my computer desk to hold a few of our travel treasures.  I used command strips to hang it.  They should have easily held the weight but I think I had one of the sticky strips slightly wrinkled when I put it up and not long after it came crashing down.  It broke the bezel of the computer flat screen.  It still works ... it just has a hole in the plastic.  I rehung the shelf, this time with screws and anchors.  D'Oh.
  • I was supposed to go to see Wakanda Forever on Thursday but I apparently got the time wrong.  So I tried again on Friday and managed to see it.  I thought it was good.  It had its faults and I wouldn't call it great but it was good enough.
  • I was planning to walk twice this week but the movie mistake changed those plans.  I only walked once this week for a total of 7.2 miles (11.6 km).  I am creeping longer and longer but I am not anywhere close to where I was last spring.  My endurance is not what it used to be.  I'm not sure if it's just a consequence of my age or I am not trying hard enough.
  • The Wife went to a Notre Dame game with her brother and cousin this weekend.  It was snowing and one of the coldest weekends so far this year and Notre Dame won in a blow out ... and the Wife had a great time.
  • Sunday was a warmer day so I trimmed a few branches off a fur tree in the backyard.  Without those branches more ground will be exposed under the tree so I can plant more under it in the Spring.
  • This week I intend to put up all the Christmas stuff.  This week is going to be warmer than last week.  My rule is usually not to put up decorations until after Thanksgiving but I think that rule will be bent this year.

Friday, November 18, 2022

2022 Fall Travels, Part Two - Turkey - Izmir, Ephesus, And Bodrum

We left Cappadocia, a hard act to follow, and flew to Izmir on the Aegean Sea coast.  We were picked up at the airport and dropped off at our hotel In Izmir.  This day was a travel day which is always tiring.  After arriving at our hotel the Wife and I took a short walk to the sea wall to see the Aegean.

Prayers left at the home of Mary.
The next day our guide (the third guide in Turkey ... all three were great) picked us up and we drove to Ephesus.  Our first stop was one of the houses where it is believed Mary lived after Jesus' crucifixion. 

The library of Celsus in Ephesus.
We then walked through the remains of the city of Ephesus.  It was a hot day and it sucked the energy out of all of us but the history and architecture was very interesting and we found water and ice cream along the way.  On the way out we passed through some shops where we bought more magnets, souvenirs, and the Wife bought a couple dresses.

We were supposed to go to a vineyard but, since we were tired and not wine drinkers, we skipped it.  Instead we went to a modern shopping center so the Wife could buy some blue shoes to go with one of her new dresses.

The sunset from our restaurant.
That evening we went to Adabeyi, a restaurant near the waterfront located in a building designed by Eiffel (of Eiffel tower fame).  The Wife wore her new dress and shoes and looked magnificent.  The rest of us looked pretty shabby next to her.

The restaurant on the lake.
The next day we drove south towards Bodrum.  We stopped at a restaurant on the coast of a lake for brunch.  Unfortunately we hadn't known we were stopping for brunch and had all had breakfast before we left Izmir so we really didn't want to eat any more.  I think our guide and driver were a bit disappointed.

The Bodrum Castle.
In Bodrum we stopped at an amphitheater (our ... I've lost count ... third amphitheater?) before going to the Bodrum Castle, location of the Bodrum Museum Of Underwater Archaeology.  You could probably spend all day exploring the exhibits in the castle but we are not museum people and our tour mates weren't either so we zipped through at a fairly quick pace.

Our last stop of the day were the windmills on the hill overlooking the city.  The mills used to grind flour in the 1700s and 1800s.  Their location gave you a nice view of the city and Aegean waters.

The sunsets on the Aegean coast were always spectacular ... this one is from our hotel.
We checked into our hotel and ate a late lunch/early dinner at the bar on the beach.  We later walked down the beach looking for shopping (which we never found).  The path we took followed the coast and we had a great view of the setting sun.  We got back to our room after dark.

Our gulet.
The next day we took a gulet and cruised the Turquoise Coast.  The gulet stopped at four different spots along the coast where we jumped off the boat into the water.  I swam around the boat and had a good swim at a couple of the stops.  We ate lunch on the boat and, when we weren't eating or swimming, relaxed on the lounge cushions on the deck.  I would have to say this was the most relaxing day on the Turkish portion of our travels and possibly the entire forty-four days of our fall travels.

The turquoise coast.
The next day we flew back to Istanbul.  We had a free afternoon before we went out for our goodbye dinner.  We were picked up by this giggly girl with a purple fake fur coat.  She took us to a rooftop restaurant where, for the last time in Turkey, we were over fed.

Our last day in Turkey was spent sitting in the lounge/bar waiting for our airport pickup.  It turned out to be the purple fur coat girl from the night before.  Things went smoothly at the airport.

Turkey was a much more relaxing trip.  Unlike Israel, the pace was more leisurely.  Part of that was due to the long lunches and dinners that gave everyone some time to rest and recuperate.  All our guides were delightful and knowledgeable.  I had a good time in Turkey but I was now tired of Roman history.  It was time for a change.

We left Turkey behind us and flew to our next destination: Cairo, Egypt.

Photos can be found in my Turkey 2022-09 Google Photos album.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Book: Kazuo Ishiguro's "Klara And The Sun"

I'd heard of the next book on a podcast.  Kazuo Ishiguro's "Klara and the Sun" is a science fiction book that takes place in the near future.  Parents "lift" or genetically augment their children to give them an advantage.  People live isolated lives.  Robots called Artificial Friends (AF) keep children company and socialize with them.

Klara is an AF purchased by a mother for her lifted child (Josie).  We learn that the lifting process can result in lingering illness and potential death.  How far will future parents go - and how much will they risk - to give their children an advantage?  As Josie gets sicker and sicker we learn of a desperate plan of her mother to replace Josie if she doesn't survive the lift.  The plan is not malicious but an act of desperation of a person who already suffered great loss.

The book is written mostly from Klara's perspective.  She cares for her child (Josie) and would do anything to help her.  The book also explores the possibility of an artificial intelligence experiencing religion, spirituality, and faith.

This is an odd little book.  A hint of dystopian life with a dollop of hope at the end.  Not an action packed book but one that makes you think about how our creations will evolve.

I gave this book four of five stars (my typical score for a good, but not great, book with few issues) on Goodreads.  I think this may be one of those books you either love or hate.  I liked it.

Monday, November 14, 2022

2022 Fall Travels, Part Two - Turkey - Cappadocia (Kapadokya)

 While Istanbul is a fascinatingly city full of history, the Cappadocia region of Turkey was my favorite part of Turkey.  We left Istanbul and flew to Kayseri.  There we met our wonderful local guide.

Fairy Chimneys.
Our first stop was the Pasabag and Devrent valleys.  Here we saw our first Fairy Chimneys - large rock and tuff cone formations.  Tuff is relatively easy to carve and some of the cones and fairy chimneys had homes carved in them.

We stopped at a restaurant in an historic house and, once again, were over fed.  While travelling in Turkey, eating is just as important as seeing the amazing sights.

A church carved into the rock.
In the afternoon we visited the Goreme Open-Air museum.  Here we toured cave churches with incredible painted walls.  Unfortunately photography was not allowed in the churches.  The churches are nearly one thousands years old.  Unfortunately it was both hot and crowded the afternoon we were there and it took longer to see things.

One of the views from our hotel.
We checked into our very cool hotel, the Argos, where the rooms are carved into the cliff walls.  The restaurant offered beautiful vistas overlooking a canyon.

The sunrise and a balloon or two.
The second day in Cappadocia was an early one.  We got up before the sunrise and took a short drive to where we would be taking an hot air balloon ride.  The Wife and I had already ridden a balloon in Kenya so we knew what to expect.  Our tour mates had never done it and were a bit nervous about the whole thing.  They had nothing to worry about and had a great time.

Balloons everywhere!
When we did our Kenya balloon trip there were two balloons.  As we slowly rose over the landscape you could see dozens of balloons everywhere.  Our pilot said there were one hundred and fifty balloons scheduled to be aloft this morning.  It was amazing.  The view of the fairy chimneys from above was cool and we came amazingly close to a few missing them by only a foot or two.

The balloons added to the amazing landscape.
Along with the incredible landscape there were people, mostly women, having photoshoots with the balloons in the background.  You could also see a few couples getting their engagement pictures taken as well.  Several balloons, including ours, buzzed the photoshoots to give them a chance for a thrilling shot.

Our pilot landed on the trail just like this one did.
When it was time to land (our Kenyan balloon landing had been … interesting) we saw trucks pulling trailers.  I'd seen the baskets being transported on those trailers during our drive to the launch site.  I figured we would land on a field and a group of handlers would wrestle it onto the trailer.  Nope.  Our pilot put the basket done onto the trailer.  The truck driver then slowly drove to an area that was safe to deflate the balloon.  At one point, while the truck was still moving, the driver stepped out, grabbed some dead grass, and tossed it in the air to gauge the wind before getting back into the moving truck.  I think he'd done this before.

Our host's home.
After returning to our hotel for breakfast we went to visit a family in their carved house.  We were offered apple tea which, to my surprise since I am not fond of tea, I found to be delicious.  We asked questions about their home and the rugs on the floor (we'd been to a rug factory earlier).  Some of the rugs were quite old, passed down generation to generation.  There was an abandoned church in the top of the house and the owner let us look at it.  He knew it was something special and was doing his best to preserve the paintings there.

The tile I bought.
We visited a pottery factory which has some truly beautiful pieces - works of art really.  We saw a demonstration by a skilled potter and we had a chance to peruse their store.  I was the only one who bought anything - a red and turquois painted tile of a dervish.

Next we visited and the Kaymakli underground city.  Early Christians carved these cities to avoid the Romans.  This particular city was eight levels deep though only four levels are excavated and open to the public.  It was interesting but I came out with an aching back and a sore head … some of the corridors were a bit cramped.

We ate another huge meal at a family owned restaurant where everyone in the family was either a chef or training to be one.  The food was amazing (I know … I'm using 'amazing' way too much but it was.).

One of the longer corridors in
the underground city.
We were really tired at this point (most lunches were not only very long but also late) and we debated asking our guide to skip the next couple of things.  We decided to trust our guide and, sure enough, it was worth it.

Our first after lunch stop was a coffee shop located high up the side of a valley with beautiful views of the carved buildings.  There was shade, refreshments, and ice cream.  It was completely relaxing and we had a nice time talking about what we'd seen so far in Turkey.  The second stop was the workshop of a local artisan.  What she does is hard to explain but basically paint is floated on a thickened water bath.  Paper, canvas, or cloth is then carefully laid on the surface where it picks up the paint.  The effect is unique, beautiful, and interesting.  We bought several things from her including a paining of Mary on a old Iranian text … also hard to explain.

The Dervishes.
(Picture taken by the Wife.)
Our last stop in Cappadocia was at a dance ceremony of the Mevlevis … what most people think of as the Whirling Dervish.  The ceremony is a lot more serious than I expected.  It is a serious religious ceremony where everything has a deeper meaning.  Very interesting.  While photography was not permitted during the ceremony, they did permit photography at the end which caught me by surprise so my pictures of the dancing are limited.

The next day we would be leaving the wonderful Cappadocia region and heading to the Aegean Sea coast.

Photos can be found in my Turkey 2022-09 Google Photos album.

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Weekly Ephemera #34

  • I got my COVID bivalent booster and flu shots on Monday.  I feel safer now.  Coincidentally I received a call from a CDC pollster the same night asking about my vaccination status.  The Wife got her COVID bivalent booster on Tuesday (she got the flu shot a week or so ago).
  • All my prostate biopsies (twelve samples were taken) came back "Negative for malignancy" which made me dance a happy dance (in my head).  I don't have to go back for another year.
  • The elections on Tuesday were a mixed bag.  I'd been telling people for a while that the midterm elections would tell us where our country is going.  A decisive win by the crazy party, you know which, would have been a very bad omen.  Instead we had only a slight shift from the status quo.  Some pundits are saying this bodes well for the future and that Democracy has been saved.  Has it though?  The people who were trying to tear down our Democracy are still there.  They haven't gone anywhere.  They are just licking their wounds and declaring that they've been cheated once again.  The danger I was worried about has just been postponed.  We will now have to wait two more years to see where our nation is heading.  The encouraging thing was the youth and the independent vote.  They both came out and voted for Democracy and Rights.  This gives me cautious hope.
  • Winter seems to have arrived a bit early this year.  The temperatures this coming week will barely get above freezing.
  • You know what is nice when it's cold?  A nice hot shower.  We are getting a new hot water heater installed on Monday.  I think our current one was built in 1996 (our house was built in 1997) which might explain why our water isn't always as hot as it should be.
  • I walked once this week for a grand total of 6.75 miles (10.86 km).  The cold weather was actually nice.  I didn't sweat as much.  I do need to walk more than once per week though and for longer distances.  I need to light a fire under my butt.

Friday, November 11, 2022

2022 Fall Travels, Part Two - Turkey - Istanbul

 We left Israel behind and flew to Istanbul, Turkey (Their official name is now Türkiye. To avoid confusion I will stick with the old name of Turkey).  We arrived late afternoon , were picked up, and dropped off at our hotel overlooking the Bosporus.  We had two full days on our own before our tour started.  We'd asked the BM and MoH for ideas of what to do as they'd been to Turkey a few years ago.  The Wife came up with two places.  The first, a church, was closed (it is being converted into a Mosque which is a whole can o' worms).  The other was the Great Palace Mosaics museum.

A tiger mosaic at the Great Palace Mosaics museum.
On our first free day we took a taxi to the mosaics museum.  It was raining when we left the hotel but the rained turned to drizzle and then stopped all together soon after arriving at the museum. The museum is located near the Arasta Bazaar, the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia.  We explored the mosaics museum.  It is small but interesting.

After learning about the mosaics we perused the shops in the bazaar and started our magnet and souvenir purchases.  I asked a man about some candy they were selling.  The person who picked us up at the airport had given a box of it as a welcome gift.  It was Turkish Delight.  I'd heard of Turkish delight before but I'd never actually seen it before.  There are many varieties and I did partake during the two weeks we were in Turkey.  We bought our first cool souvenir: a porcelain dervish (yes, it survived the next five weeks without damage).

The Hagia Sophia as seen from the Sultan Ahmet park.
The Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia were both on our tour itinerary so we took some exterior pictures only.  We sat on a bench in Sultan Ahmet Park and people watched.  We heard the call to prayer while we sat there - the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia took turns chanting back and forth.  It was a nice relaxing way to start in Istanbul.  We walked to a nearby taxi stand and went back to our hotel.

The view of the Bosporus from our hotel room.
The next day I wanted to just relax, rest up for the tour, and go through my Israel pictures.  The Wife went to a Hammam and was pampered like a Turkish Princess.

We were met by our Istanbul guide (each region of Turkey we went to had a different guide) and a couple from Georgia who would be our tour mates.  We headed back to where we'd been a couple days before and toured the Blue Mosque (currently being renovated so parts of the interior are hidden behind scaffolding).  Next we crossed the park and went into the Hagia Sophia.  Both places were magnificent and full of history.

The interior of the Hagia Sophia.
It was lunch time and we went to a local restaurant serving food from Turkey and Crete.  The served us too much food.  This would start a trend.  The Turkish people, and our guides, wanted us to feast at nearly every meal and I don't think we had any meal shorter than two hours long. It was all so good but way too much.

We visited one of the underground cisterns which were all lit up and looked amazing.  I dropped my camera lens cap in the water and had to wait for someone to fish it out for me ... kind of embarrassing. 

The Basilica Cistern was made using recycled columns.
We ended the day with a relaxing cruise on the Bosporus where we could see all the palaces built along the water.

Armor at the Topkapi Palace museum.
Our second tour day in Istanbul we explored the Topkapi Palace, home of the Ottoman Sultans.  The palace is now a museum with several displays of Ottoman history.

Next we went to the Grand Bazaar to do some shopping.  It was busy, crowded, loud, and a bit overwhelming and we left there empty handed.  The group walked from there through the narrow streets of Istanbul to the Egyptian Spice Bazaar.  By the time we got there we were all tired and we didn't spend very much time there.  I did buy some Turkish Delight there.

The next day we would leave Istanbul and begin exploring the amazing land of Cappadocia.

Photos can be found in my Turkey 2022-09 Google Photos album.

Tuesday, November 08, 2022

Book: Dirk Collier's "The Great Mughals And Their India"

This year I am on an asian history role.  After reading about the Ottomans and Genghis Khan, I decided to read about the south asian Mughals. 

Dirk Collier's "The Great Mughals and Their India" is about the descendants of Tamerlane and Genghis Khan who ruled India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan between 1526 and 1761.  The book filled in a hole I had about Indian history.

As I was reading this, rather tragic, story I realized the three history books I read had something in common.   Each of these empires start out religiously tolerant.  Their governments were a mix of nationalities and different religions.   All three empires declined as they adopted a single religion and persecuted or abused other religions.

I can't help seeing a parallel here in America.  Anti-Semitism.  Anti-Muslim.  Anti-anything not Christian.  America is moving towards religious intolerance and this is leading us to authoritarianism.  This rarely ends in a good way.

I gave this book four stars out of five on Goodreads.  It was well written, filled in more holes in my education, and taught me a lot.

Monday, November 07, 2022

2022 Fall Travels, Part One - Israel - Bethlehem, Masada, And The Dead Sea

The next day we spent part of the morning visiting Yod Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center.  Our guide had never entered the exhibits ... and he did not enter this time either.  I think it would have made him think and that might have proved difficult for him.  The museum was well put together but I think the one in Washington D.C. evokes more emotion.

The "Manger" where Jesus was born.
After the museum we went to Bethlehem.  Bethlehem is in the Palestinian zone so we picked up a Palestinian guide when we entered the city.  First stop was the Church of the Nativity where Jesus was born.  Here you learn that the manger, often likened to a barn, was actually the deepest part of an inhabited cave where the animals were kept.

After the church we joined our Palestinian guide at his home for a homemade lunch.  The tour company we use always includes a meal with a local family and our guide's meal was one of the best such meals we've ever had.  We wanted to talk to our Palestinian guide about their relationship with the Israelis but the presence of the Israeli guide prevented us from talking candidly.

Our last last stop in Bethlehem was for shopping.  We were expecting a nice market with lots of shops and a good selection of stuff to buy.  Our guide practically told us this is what we would see.  Instead we got one store that sold only olive wood sculptures (which happen to be on our list of things to buy) that were all overpriced.  We were so disappointed.  After we returned to Jerusalem for the day we all walked back to Old Jerusalem, went to the Arab quarter, and bought just about everything we wanted from a couple very nice vendors and got reasonable prices.

While we were in old Jerusalem we visited a tattoo place the Wife had heard about and had wanted to go to for a long time (She had asked our guide to take us but he refused saying it was out of the way and would not be easy to visit - more likely it was because it was owned by an Arab).  It turned out it was near the entrance to the city, a thirty second walk from where we had been on the tour.  The Razzouk Tattoo parlor has been tattooing pilgrims since 1300.  The Wife didn't want a tattoo but she did get one stamped on her arm in ink.  We talked with the owner and had a few laughs.

It was shabbat so lots of places were closed but, since many of the service workers were Palestinian, you could still find places to eat and shop.  Our hotel had half of their elevators in shabbat mode - they stopped at every floor and you didn't need to push a button to call it so you could use them without violating shabbat.

Food in Israel was a bit odd since there were so many rules.  Dairy was only available for breakfast (which explains cheesecake being a breakfast item) but not during other meals.  Our guide told us a story about a tourist that liked butter on their meat who had snuck some from breakfast to use during dinner.  A devout Jew saw her put the butter on the meat and, not only were the entire tour group kicked out of the restaurant, but they were kicked out of the hotel.  The restaurant had to close to be cleansed properly and silverware had to be thrown out.  Fortunately, on shabbat, we found a good restaurant to eat at.

Masada - the fortress on the top of this plateau.
Our last day in Israel took us to Masada.  Masada is a fortress built by King Herod on a plateau looking over desert and the Dead Sea.  You take a cable car up to the fortress where you take in the magnificent view and learn the history.  A group of Jews stayed here until they were besieged by the Romans.  The Jews chose to commit suicide instead of becoming slaves.

The view from Masada - a dry desert and a salty Dead Sea in the distance.
After Masada we visited a resort on the Dead Sea and went floating on its salty water (you are so buoyant you can't really swim in the normal sense).  The Wife and I had done this before during our Jordan trip so we enjoyed it through our tour mates.

Floating in the Dead Sea.
After our swim we had lunch at the resort.  It was a well stocked buffet.  As I was going to the dessert bar I discovered that my shoe tread and the slightly salty marble of the floor were not very compatible.  I turned a corner and my feet went out from under me.  Ended up with a painful lump just below my left knee and a slightly over extended left wrist.

Wadi Qelt and the Monastery of St. George.
On the drive back we visited a viewpoint to see a fifth-century Monastery of St. George.  The monastery is on the left side of the panorama and you can see a close up here.

Back in Jerusalem we had our goodbye dinner.  It was next door to where we'd eaten the night before.  Like the welcome dinner, our guide did not join us.  By now we'd all decided this wasn't such a bad thing.

Israel turned out to be very interesting and very exhausting.  I am not a religious person but even I was in awe of the history we experienced.  In my opinion another day needs to be added to spread things out a little more.  By the end of our days we were all hot, tired, and half dead on our feet.  Our guide, while very knowledgeable, had his faults and irritants.  He also got us to places before the crowds showed up and made sure we had a good experience wherever we went.

Israel was behind us as we flew to our next destination: Türkiye (Turkey)

Photos can be found in my 2022-09 Israel Google Photos album.

Sunday, November 06, 2022

Weekly Ephemera #33

  • On Tuesday I had a prostate biopsy.  It went a lot quicker than I expected and the aftereffects were not nearly as bad as I'd anticipated.  Having said this I really don't want to do that again.  Results should be out this week.  I have a follow up to discuss them on Thursday.
  • We were supposed to have our first snow early Saturday morning.  They were forecasting 2 - 4 inches (5 - 10 cm).  When we got up Saturday morning we were disappointed to see zero inches.  Not even any snow flakes.  I guess we will have to wait a little longer for the first snow this year.
  • I walked once this week.  It was very short - only 5.6 miles (8.9 km) - but it was a start.  I was going to walk on Friday but we had on and off rain and it was a cold rain so decided to stay inside.
  • I am an avid Twitter doomscroller and I was disappointed when a billionaire with few redeeming values bought the social network this week.  I decided to look at other social network options and chose to experiment with Mastodon.  Mastodon is decentralized, not owned by any company, and gives the users some more control.  It is still a work in progress and there is a learning curve to overcome but I think it shows some promise.  At this stage it helps to be a computer geek.  I'm sure that will change as more people join.

    There are several different mastodon servers out there and I chose to join twit.social which is run by the folks at This Week in Tech (TWiT).  I've been watching their podcasts for a while now and I've been a fan of the head TWiT, Leo Laporte, since his TechTV days. They've been running the mastodon instance for a while now so I made an account there.

    I'm finding a lot of people I followed on Twitter are moving/have moved to mastodon.  If you have a mastodon account and would like to follow me, you can find me at @HomersTravels (twit.social/@HomersTravels).  [Note:  you do not need a twit.social account, just an account on any mastodon server]
  • If you live in the US  don't forget to turn all you non-connected clocks back an hour as daylight saving time has ended.
  • Tuesday is election day here.  If you've voted ... Thank You.  If you haven't but intend to ... Thank You.  If you do not intend to vote ... you are dead to me.  Yes, it's that important.

Friday, November 04, 2022

2022 Fall Travels, Part One - Israel - Jerusalem

We entered the old city on foot.  Old Jerusalem is divided into quarters: The Jewish, Arab, Christian, and Armenian.

Dome over the Holy Sepulchre.
To beat the crowds we first headed to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  We got there before the line to visit the location of Jesus' burial got too long.  It was very impressive.  The church is unlocked and locked each day by an Arabic family who have been doing it for generations.  We saw the immovable ladder as we exited the church.

Bullet holes - the reminders of war.
Next we walked through the Jewish quarter, passing a synagogue destroyed during the Arab-Israeli war (you can see the bullet holes), on the way to the location of the Last Supper.  As we entered the room a church group from Brazil started singing.  In this case it was not special.  This was a solemn location and singing was not permitted.  We had to ask people to move so that we could see the room.  It was annoying.  As we left we passed a group celebrating a Bar Mitzvah - lots of more welcome music and dancing.

Prayers tucked into the cracks of the Western Wall.
Next on the schedule was the Western Wall, the closest point to the second temple.  It is smaller than I expected.  The wall is divided into two parts - one for men and one for women.  The Wife left a prayer in a crack in the wall.  I didn't.

It was a hot day and I know I wasn't drinking enough water.  We were walking a lot (five to ten miles in the heat), I was overheating, and a bit dehydrated.  When these things combine I turn surly.  My normal reaction is to become quiet and, if possible, distance myself from people.  We were walking the Via Dolorosa when a shopkeeper tried to get us in his shop.  Our guide asked me if I wanted to go in (he was hoping I would say no).  I said nothing and looked at the Wife and the other tour members to see if they wanted to visit the store.  Our guide took my silence as an insult to him.  It was a bit testy for the next half hour or so as I walked ahead of the group to distance myself.  The guide eventually caught up with me.  I explained my situation and how I was trying to prevent something worse from happening.  I don't think he bought it and he seemed to think it was all about him (a common trait for this guide frankly).  This turned out to be the one and only personal blow up I experienced the entire forty four days.

Our next stop was the Israel Museum where we learned about the Dead Sea scrolls and where I sat down and cooled off.  I didn't register much at the museum but I didn't miss too much as I'd seen some of the Dead Sea Scrolls in Amman, Jordan a few years back.

We were all exhausted by this time and we still had one more stop on this hot day.  We were going to have street food for lunch at the Mahane Yehuda shuk.  This open air market is full of food vendors and our guide bought tickets that allowed us to sample food and drink from four or five places.  Instead of allowing us to pick what we wanted to try, our guide picked for us (which we considered a bit irritating really).  By this time we all wanted to sit down but street food is made to be eaten standing up.  While I get surly when I'm too hot, the Wife gets faint.  I noticed her get a concerned look on her face and I pointed at a table and chairs outside a booth and told our guide to get us water now.  I think he heard the worry in my voice and got a cold bottle of water and the Wife was able to cool off.  In the end we ended up skipping the last stop since all we wanted to do was get back to our hotel to recover from the crazy busy day.

The light show at the Tower of David citadel.
After chilling out at the hotel, we went to an evening light show at the Tower of David citadel.  The lightshow was cool but with little narration in any language a lot of the history in the show was lost to us.  After the show we wandered around the shops.  For days we'd been asking our guide about shopping.   He kept telling us that shopping in Bethlehem was much better so, since we trusted our guide, we limited our shopping to just looking.

The next day we would be exploring Bethlehem.

Photos can be found in my 2022-09 Israel Google Photos album.