A Travellerspoint blog

Glorious Vienna

Grand architecture, coffeehouses with domes and marble columns like mosques and Turkish kebabs as fast food

sunny 59 °F

I have been in Turkey for 7 months and am taking my first trip out of the country the end of October to attend a class in Stockerau, Austria, a suburb of Vienna. My good friend Jean is traveling with me. We will visit Vienna and then take a train to Prague to stay for 4 nights. Until this trip I had not focused on the connection between the Ottoman and Habsburg Empires. Both dominated the region and lasted for hundreds of years. Twice the Turks were at the city walls of Vienna but were not successful in capturing the city (1529 and 1683).

The Ottomans had the first military bands and it is said that when the Ottomans were pushed away from Vienna the bands left their instruments on the field of battle, and that is how the Holy Roman Empire (and therefore the other Western countries) acquired cymbals, triangles, and bass drums.

The other legacy is that the croissant was invented in Vienna, either in 1683 or during the earlier siege in 1529, to celebrate the defeat of the Ottoman attack of the city, with the shape referring to the crescents on the Ottoman flags. This version of the origin of the croissant is supported by the fact that croissants in French are referred to as Viennoiserie, and the French popular belief that Vienna-born Marie Antoinette introduced the pastry to France in 1770.

After the battle, the Austrians discovered many bags of coffee in the abandoned Ottoman encampment. Using this captured stock, Franciszek Jerzy Kulczycki opened the third coffeehouse in Europe and the first in Vienna where, according to legend, Kulczycki himself added milk and honey to sweeten the bitter coffee, thereby inventing cappuccino.

In modern time (1964) the Austrian government opened up an office in Istanbul to recruit guest workers. Today 70,000 people in Vienna speak Turkish and 4% of the population are originally from Turkey. The Austrians have adopted the doner and kebab as fast food and you see many Turkish water pipes and scarfs in the shop windows. While I was there I met several waiters and taxi drivers that were originally from Turkey.

There is an old worldliness about Vienna from the days when it was the capital of a vast, multinational empire. Today the population is 1.5M. The city seems to be built for a much larger population. The avenues and city squares are not so crowded especially compared to Istanbul with 18M people and no large boulevards and few large public squares. It seemed like the people were on holiday and out of the city, but that is the norm. I did not see major traffic on the roads or the sidewalks. It is usually rated as one of the most livable cities.

Austria is also a supremely law-abiding nation, where no one jaywalks or drops litter, and the trains and trams run on time. I had to restrain myself to wait till the light changed to cross the street. It is much more free form in Istanbul!

The country is 80% Catholic and opening hours of the shops are controlled by the government. In Stockerau, the shops closed at 5 except on Thursday when they stayed open until 8PM. All shops are closed on Sunday. Vienna seemed to have longer shopping hours.

Pictures of a few of their grand monuments and buildings.


I was very impressed with the Kunsthistorisches Museum. It has a fabulous collection starting with an Egyptian collection through Greek and Roman including a mosaic floor that was found in a Roman house in Salzburg. The national art gallery is also there. It was originally built as a museum and the interior is fabulous and competes with the collection as a work of art. I spent the day and thoroughly enjoyed it. There is an Ephesus Museum that houses some of the statues that the Austrian archeological teams brought back to Vienna. Austria has been the country that has been excavating Ephesus since the 1800's.


The winter hats are quite lovely in Vienna. Very stylist and expensive. large_antalya_505.jpgantalya_499.jpgantalya_506.jpg

We attended the Sunday service at St. Augustine. It is in Josefsplatz near the Hofburg, winter palace of the Habsburg Dynasty and where many of the royal family were married and buried. They have wonderful music with full orchestra and choir as you would expect from the city of Mozart, Schubert, and Beethoven. The pews are wonderfully carved. Other picture is of the organ and choir loft.

We were fortunate to get tickets for the opera and a concert at the Musikverein, the golden hall where the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra plays every year on New Year's Eve listen to 2011 concert here.. It was a much smaller hall than I expected and the only tickets we could get were standing room only, but it was a treat to be there. I now know that you need to order tickets on line months before performances.
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We enjoyed the Naschmarkt which has existed since the 16th century in Vienna and sells all kinds of fresh meats, cheese, vegetables, fruits, vinegars, and pastries. The Naschmarkt is a unique mixture of Austrian traditions and oriental influences. Viennese shrewdness meets bazaar mentality as one guidebook put it.

We had one meal at Sperl Cafe, one of the coffee houses from the 1800's near our hotel. Lots of atmosphere. Vienna194__42_.jpg
We had our final meal in Cafe Central, opened in 1860, Josip Broz Tito, Sigmund Freud, Alfred Adler, Adolf Hitler, Vladimir Lenin, and Leon Trotsky (the latter two being regulars) were often there.

Posted by goodearth 10:48 Archived in Austria Tagged vienna Comments (0)

Kurban Bayram, Feast of the Sacrifice in Southeastern Turkey

Religious Holiday in Turkey

70 °F

November 12 Deronda, my American friend living in Istanbul, and I left early for our 8AM flight to Gaziantep in southeastern Turkey. We both were interested in seeing this part of the country far from the carpet shops of Istanbul. The terrain is very different with jagged peaks, scorched plains, and few tourists. We would have 10 days that included the Kurban Bayram holiday to explore. Before the Selcuks and Arabs conquered this area, the Persians, Alexander the Great, the Romans and the Byzatines all left their imprints on the region.

IMGP2213.jpg Welcome to Gaziantep.
Gaziantep is considered a food mecca. As the city where bakalava is from, there is a shop every 20 feet selling bakalava and it is delicious! They also have lots of dried vegetables, pistachios, fruits and spices for sale. SE_Turkey_016.jpgSE_Turkey_011.jpgSE_Turkey_019.jpg Pistachios in the barrelsSE_Turkey_020.jpg

Traditional way of transporting Turkish breakfast snack of semit. Amazing how they are stacked and his ability to walk at a quick pace.


We enjoyed a meal at Iman Cagdas which is known for their meals throughout Turkey. The city has an old bazaar and a wonderful spice market and copper market. We met a very nice man and his family who had his sons lead us to the restaurant we were looking for. The boy is holding dried red peppers.

The big attraction in Gaziantep is the museum of mosaics from the Roman site of Bekis-Zeugma. The mosaics were removed before the site was flooded by the Birecik Dam. They are from the 3rd and 4th century BC. This is the Gypsy Girl which is one of the most well known mosaics from Zeugma. Nova has some pictures of the mosaics and video of house where many were found. Click on the link. large_SE_Turkey_054.jpgSE_Turkey_049.jpglarge_SE_Turkey_042.jpgSE_Turkey_035.jpg1SE_Turkey_031.jpg

Additional background on the mosaics can be found here.
Gaziantep has a fortress built on the hill and beautiful sunsets. SE_Turkey_066.jpgSE_Turkey_071.jpg

Next stop Mt Nemrut. We left by dolmus, shared taxi, for Kahta via Adiyaman. The next day we arrange for a driver to take us to Mt Nemrut A German engineer hired by the Ottomans to assess transport routes, found the site in 1881. Excavations did not begin until 1953. The summit was created when a pre-Roman king cut two ledges in the rock, filled them with colossal statues of himself and the gods (his relatives as he thought), then ordered an artificial mountain peak of crushed rock to be piled between them. The guide books all say travel in Nov is risky because of the potential for snow. We dressed warmly but as you can see had a beautiful warm day with clear blue skies and great views.

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Earthquakes have toppled the heads from most of the statues, and now many of the colossal bodies sit silently in rows with the 2 meter heads on the ground. You can read more here on Mt Nemrut.

We had given ourselves a day to travel to Urfa. Click for background, a pilgrimage city as the birthplace of Abraham and area where Job, Jethro, and Elijah also lived. The history of the city dates as far back as 8000 BC. It was the cradle of earlier Mesopotamian civilizations. The Hittites ruled this area beginning in 1370 BC. King Nemrod is thought to have founded the city and Christianity was adopted by the people prior to its becoming the official religion of the Emperor. It is influenced by its proximity to Syria and has a middle eastern flavor. We wanted to find a place to stay prior to the Feast of the Sacrifice holiday. It is similar to Thanksgiving or Christmas for us. People travel to be with their families (so the roads are crowded) and most stores and restaurants are closed. We did not want to be traveling that day and we hoped to find some restaurants open. We found a very nice pension in a 1700's stone house in the old section of Urfa (Aslan Guest House). The architecture is similar to Syria.


Streets are very narrow and a small door leads through a room and into an open courtyard with rooms of the house opening off the courtyard. High ceilings in the rooms.


The night we arrived the streets were full of people doing their last minute shopping and all the stores were open late. As we headed down the street to the Bazaar we were surprised to see the tops of cars being used to display merchandise.


The next day we saw everyone dressed in their best clothes as they were going to have dinner with family and friends. We also saw the sheep being prepared for sacrifice. Click on the link for background.Feast of the Sacrifice is a special religious holiday in Turkey.


Urfa does not have the restrictions on performing the sacrifice in the streets that Istanbul has. We saw the remains being hauled away and a pile of sheepskins the following day stacked on the corner. I have read that they are donated to charity. It is the custom to divide the meat from the sacrifice into three portions. One is for the poor, one for relatives and neighbors, and one is kept for the household.

The next day we visited the mosque that is built over the cave where Abraham is thought to have been born and saw the cave that had separate areas for women and men to enter and view. Views of the Abraham Memorial Pools.

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The tables seem even lower than in Istanbul. Similar to what I saw in Vietnam. The stool is very comfortable and gives support to the lower back.


Harran is an hour south of Urfa and is believed to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited places on earth. The book of Genesis mentions Harran where Abraham lived for a few years in 1900 BC.


After three nights in Urfa, we go to the bus station for our three hour trip to Mardin which is perched on a hillside dominating Mesopotamia, midway between the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers.

The history of Mardin is said to have dated as far back as the Flood. The city was under the rule of the Hurri-Mitani, Hittites, Surs, Babylonians, Persians, Romans, Arabs and the Seljuk Turks. Mardin was formerly known as "Marde" by the Persians, "Mardia" by the Byzantine, "Maridin" by the Arabs and "Merde-Merdo-Merdi" by the Syriacs. The name of the city became "Mardin" after the Turks occupied the area. It is the smallest of the towns we visited with 55, 000 people vs a million or more in the other cities.

IMGP2532.jpgIMGP2456.jpgIMGP2450.jpg Views of the plains looking toward Iraq.

We knew accommodations were short in the city but were surprised we could not find a single room for the night. So we headed to Diyarbakir which is a much larger city and many more hotels. We were fortunate to run into a couple that had stayed in the same pension in Urfa and had taken a day trip to Mardin from Diyarbakir where they were staying. We rode back with them and stayed where they were for a couple of nights enjoying the bazaars and ancient city walls of Diyarbakir that still encircle the older part of the city and then returned to Mardin.


We stayed in one of the boutique hotels on the hillside of Mardin.Antik Tatlidede Konagi

We enjoyed seeing the architecture of the honey-colored stone houses and the old churches. The views from the hills are lovely.

There are many churches and monasteries in the region.

For the final night of our trip we were fortunate to find a restaurant with a large courtyard open to the sky that had a band playing traditional music with an opportunity for dancing. It was a lovely evening.


We saw a lot in our 10 days and it was hard traveling, but we walked away with an appreciation for this part of the country, the warm hospitality of the people, and the many cultures that have inhabited this land over the centuries.

Posted by goodearth 16:42 Archived in Turkey Tagged nemrut mt mardin sanliurfa diyarbakir gaziantep Comments (0)

Antalya - Heaven on Earth

Discovering the Mediterranean Coast of Turkey

sunny 25 °F

According to tradition, in the 2nd century BC, the Pergamum king Attalos II ordered his men to find "heaven on earth". After an extensive search, they discovered Antalya as it is known in Turkey today.


September arrived and I was in desperate need of a vacation. I had thought I might go to Spain but I decided against Spain because I did not have the energy to plan and navigate a new country. I considered Mykonos, but there was no easy way to get there from Istanbul at this time of year. So on Thursday I booked a flight to Antalya for the following Friday morning. One of the most impromptu vacations I have ever taken.

I arrived in the middle of the day and it felt like Florida. There was a slight breeze and smell of the sea. Lots of sunshine, palm trees and blue skies. I found the bus into town and met a fellow traveler from New Zealand who had come to hike the Lydian Way, Turkey's Appalachian Trail. Very interesting because one possibility I had thought of was to spend a day or two on the trail. We found our way to Kaleici, the old section of narrow cobblestone streets with houses of Greek and Turkish origin. The city walls surround it and the ancient harbor is at the base.

There are many restaurants, gift shops and pensions. The season was winding down when I was there, so no problem with getting a room. There are many retirees from northern Europe who come to stay for the winter or year round in Antalya.

There was a lovely park a short distance from where I was staying that overlooked the Mediterranean Sea and the Tarsus Mountains. This watch tower was lit at night.

The city was founded in the 3rd Century BC and became a part of the Roman Republic in 133 BC.
Hadrian's Gate was constructed in 130 AD to commemorate Emperor Hadrian's visit to the city, Christianity started to spread in the region after the 2nd century. Antalya was visited by Paul of Tarsus, as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles: "From Perga, Paul and Barnabas went down to Attalia and sailed from there to Antioch after preaching in Pisidia and Pamphylia" (Acts 14:25-26). It was a major city in the Byzantine Empire and was conquered by the Turks in the 13th Century. So quite a history.

My plan was to take it easy and enjoy the slow pace and soak in the history. There is a wonderful museum in Antalya that has great sculpture from the surrounding Hellenistic and Roman cities of Perge and Side. I was very impressed with the richness of the art in these cities.

I wanted to see Side, one of the other ancient towns that is on the coast and about 3 hours by bus from Antalya. This is one of the places that Cleopatra and Mark Anthony met. There are the remains of the ancient city there and a wonderful beach that is favored by the English.
The harbor is very picturesque. antalya_167.jpg
The other landmark is the Temple of Athena with its dramatic setting right on the shore.

My other excursion was to Termessos, a city high in the Tarsus Mountains. antalya_274.jpg
Alexander the Great surrounded the city in 333BC but failed to conquer it and likened it to an eagle's nest.
The architecture and format of the city was like its neighbors but the setting was one of a kind.
The amphitheater seating 4000-5000 people is perched right on the edge of the mountain overlooking the valley. A glorious setting.
They also have rock tombs like they have on the coast as well as sarcophagi dateable to the second and third centuries AD.


Termessos was my favorite place. antalya_277.jpg
I returned to Istanbul relaxed and rested and with fond memories of the ancient cities on the Turkish Mediterranean Sea.

If you would like to see more photographs of this area, the site below has pictures of Ciracli, Side, Antalya. The woman has a very good camera and takes wonderful pictures.
Click for some wonderful views.

Posted by goodearth 12:58 Archived in Turkey Tagged antalya Comments (0)

Recent Example of Ethnic Strive in the Region

What you learn over lunch..

sunny 86 °F

I have met a bright young Turkish woman, Nazyime, who has a one year internship with IBM that she has just started. She goes to a British University that has the third year be a practical internship. She says that the British schools provide more opportunity for getting practical work experience than you get in the Turkish schools. She speaks excellent English with a British accent.

Today as we were having lunch, I asked her why her family left Bulgaria. Little did I know that the reason was not personal but a result of an attempt at ethnic assimilation by the Bulgarian government.

Her family had been in Bulgaria for many generations from when it was a part of the Ottoman Empire (1396-1878). However in 1985, the government was concerned about the growth of the Turkish population and started a program that required Christian names and prohibited the use of the Turkish language. So her parents could not give her a Turkish name. Her name on her Bulgarian birth certificate and passport is different than the name on her Turkish passport.

Her grandfather was the mayor of the village and led the protests when the police came with the list forcing people to chose a new name. He was arrested and sent to a prison. Her mother decided to leave and come to Turkey. Eventually her grandfather was released and he also came to Turkey. They could not take money out of the country or possessions. She was only two years old when they left.

I asked how her mother managed. She said that she could not write the Turkish language because the alphabet is different here and that the Turkish spoken in Turkey had a different accent than what they spoke in Bulgaria. So initially she had problems with the language as well as starting life over in a new country.

There was a mass exodus of almost 300,000 Bulgarians of Turkish descent in 1989 to Turkey. I was shocked to realize that this happened only 21 years ago.

Because of their status as former occupiers, the Turks have had a stormy relationship with Bulgaria since the beginning of its independence.

Bulgaria decided to no longer recognize the Turks as a national minority, explaining that all the Muslims in Bulgaria were descended from Bulgarians who had been forced into the Islamic faith by the Ottoman Turks. The Muslims would therefore "voluntarily" take new names as part of the "rebirth process" by which they would reclaim their Bulgarian identities.

During the name-changing phase of the campaign, Turkish towns and villages were surrounded by army units. Citizens were issued new identity cards with Bulgarian names. Failure to present a new card meant forfeiture of salary, pension payments, and bank withdrawals. Birth or marriage certificates would be issued only in Bulgarian names. Traditional Turkish costumes were banned; homes were searched and all signs of Turkish identity removed. Mosques were closed. According to estimates, 500 to 1,500 people were killed when they resisted assimilation measures, and thousands of others went to labor camps or were forcibly resettled.

In 1991 a new law gave anyone affected by the name-changing campaign three years to officially restore original names and the names of children born after the name change. The Slavic endings -ov, -ova, -ev, or -eva could now be removed if they did not go with one's original name, reversing the effect of a 1950s campaign to add Slavic endings to all non-Slavic names.

The tensions among the various people of the Balkans covers a larger territory than I realized. I knew the problems in the former land of Yugoslavia, but I was not aware of this recent example in Bulgaria. An excellent book on the Balkans is Rebecca West's Black Lamb and Grey Falcon.

For more information http://countrystudies.us/bulgaria/25.htm and http://www.balcanicaucaso.org/eng/Regions-and-countries/Bulgaria/The-big-excursion-of-Bulgarian-Turks

A nice history of Bulgaria http://www.history.com/topics/bulgaria

Posted by goodearth 11:26 Archived in Turkey Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)


Turkey is blessed with an abundance of fruits and vegetables, lamb and yogurt

sunny 88 °F

Some of the main ingredients in Turkish food are liberal use of olive oil and Turkish natural yogurt. The three main spices are Smaras biber (Turkish red pepper flakes), sour sumac and dried mint. Sometimes they use a little cumin or paprika. The moist crumbly Turkish red pepper is my favorite. It is pleasantly hot: but just as it starts to burn, a sunny sweetness steps in to temper the heat. I add it to meat and to my soups. The ground sumac is made of astringent dried rhus berries and is staggeringly sour. It is prized throughout the Eastern Mediterranean for its lemony flavor and is often added to olive oil for dipping.

”They have a summer soup that is make of yogurt, shredded cucumber, garlic and hint of mint. They also have many lentil soups. soup2.jpg

I have not had a soup that I did not like. They also use lemon liberally on the cold mezes (starters), salads, and soups.

Yogurt is used as a sauce for many items, as well as in dishes where Americans might use mayonnaise. There is also a drink of yogurt mixed with water, ayran, that is popular.

A typical breakfast is green and black olives, a couple of cheeses, cucumbers and tomatoes sliced. and simit, Turkey equivalent to the bagel. You might also have a selection of cold meat cuts. There is also a special pastry eaten for breakfast in Turkey which is stuffed with cheese and parsley and served warm.

This is a close up of simit, the roll with sesame seeds. It is eaten plain or with a slice of cheese. It is sold on the street and very popular for breakfast with tea.

A typical meal would begin with one of the wonderful soups, followed with a vegetable (beans, eggplant, zucchini, etc) that has been cooked and served cold with olive oil. The main course would be a stuffed vegetable (pepper, tomato, eggplant) with yogurt sauce or lamb or chicken with pilaf, potato, or cracked wheat as side dish. Dessert might be a mild pudding, cup of yogurt, fruit, phyllo dough with walnuts covered with sugar glaze, baklava, or cake.

There are many side dishes. They have potato salad that is called American Salad or Russian Salad depending on which way the wind is blowing. They have a variety of hummus dishes and something I particularly like which is called Kisir made from bulgur flavored with red pepper paste, parsley, and tomato paste. Recipe below and picture.
another cookbook version of the recipe

Cay is as much the national drink as Turkish coffee. It is served in distinctive tulip shaped glasses. They drink it throughout the day. Anytime you have a meeting with someone, cay is served. Even Turkey has been effected by supersizing and they now have glasses that are twice the size of the original and have glasses that even have a handle which completely changes the effect!

Turkey's ranking in the world for agricultural products

1 Apricot, cherry, fig, hazelnut, pomegranate and quince
2 Chickpea, cucumber and watermelon
3 Eggplant, green pepper, lentil, pistachio and tomato
4 Olives and onions
5 Sugar beet
6 Apples, tea and tobacco
7 Barley and cotton
8 Almonds
9 Grapefruit, rye and wheat
10 Lemons

Döner kebap literally means "rotating meat", and it can be either lamb (kuzu) or chicken (tavuk). They are available on every street.

Steam tables offer a choice of dishes like stuffed green peppers and tomatoes, meatballs, manti (Turkish ravioli)
and a variety of eggplant dishes.
Kebabs are a standard with pilaf or cracked wheat.

Fresh fish sandwiches are sold along the water.
Cooking the fish.

Turkey provides most of the world's apricots.

Cherries are a special treat. The plums, peaches, small pears and strawberries are also very good.

Baklava has become my weakness. My favorites are a hazelnut with milk wash or a wonderful chocolate. Yummy..

Among the "great-good places" where you can find ingredients are the weekly neighbourhood markets- "pazar", and the permanent markets. The most famous one of the permanent market is the Spice Market in Istanbul. This is a place where every conceivable type of food item can be found, as it has always been since pre-Ottoman times. This is a truly exotic place, with hundreds of scents rising from stalls located within an ancient domed building, which was the terminal for the Spice Road.

More modest markets can be found in every city centre, with permanent stalls of fish and vegetables.

A good review of Turkish food can be found here
A Turkish woman living in US has many recipes adapted for US ingredients.
NPR ranks Turkish food as one of the world's three greatest cuisines read the story here

Posted by goodearth 12:51 Archived in Turkey Tagged living_abroad turkish_food Comments (0)

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