Istanbul with an Infant

Trekking Istanbul with a baby takes strength, endurance, and incredible patience—really. My friends Jana and Olaf exhibited them all. My goodness, what an adventure…

MaxOur beautiful baby—Maximilian Sequoya

Our first challenge was their arrival from Hamburg in the middle of the night (that would be 2:30 AM). Jana was nervous about navigating her way to my apartment with a baby and his rookie traveler father, so I met them at the airport with a taxi. (This is Jana’s fourth trip to Istanbul, but Olaf and Maximillian’s first.)

Happy familyThe happy family, just arrived

All went well, and they settled in comfortably. I tiptoed out for school on Friday morning, letting them sleep in and adjust to the 80+ temps. When I arrived home, they’d already been out exploring Arnavutköy and Bebek and were sweating profusely, both from the heat and from pushing a heavy stroller up the punishing hill to my apartment. In spite of that, they were game to tour the Robert College campus, yet another climb. Both Jana and Olaf work with trees, and they were eager to see what this lush campus had to offer. It met with their fascinated approval, and Olaf came home with a few tiny tree sprouts for his garden.

Max and MomThis carrier works great—when he’s asleep.

They opted for the front carrier this time, which worked pretty well until Max woke up. Then he insisted on being carried independent of the carrier. It’s obviously not his preferred mode of transportation.

We did a good bit of sightseeing last week, including a rainy Saturday in Sultanahmet (the Grand Bazaar)…

family in the Bazaar

a windy Sunday in Ortaköy…

Olaf and Jana and stroller

(with a rocky Bosphorus ferry tour)…

doting parents on the ferry

Ann and Libby--Bosphorus ferry

a hike up the Bosphorus to the Rumile Castle (closed), and a ferry ride to Eyup…

family at Loti

and back to the Taş Han (for a late lunch).

lunch at the Tas Han

Jana and Olaf also took Max across the Marmara to visit the Karaca Arboretum and Termal in Yalova. Whew! It was a whirlwind of a week!

Luckily for all of us, Maximilian Sequoyah is a VERY easy baby. Just toting a baby along is hard enough—I can’t imagine a CRYING one.

Here are the challenges we (they) faced:

*Steep, cobbled streets. Fortunately, they have a high-tech buggy with a brake, because going down the streets was nearly as hard as getting up them. Max didn’t mind. He loved the bumpy ride.

Family at Eyup

*Stairs. Yup—they’re everywhere in Istanbul. This is definitely NOT a handicap-accessible city. No wonder we seldom see wheelchairs. I think people with disabilities just have to stay home. Terrible.

stroller stairs

*Public transportation—lifting a buggy onto a ferry, cramming it onto a tram, or squeezing it into a bus. They did it all. Even more amazing was their prowess at breaking down the buggy, folding the frame, and squeezing it into a taxi trunk in less than a minute. Wow.

*Feeding schedules—Though Jana strategized our treks according to feeding times, now and then a nursing baby just has to be fed right now, schedule-be-damned. We’d quickly scope out a tea house or restaurant (or ferry) to accommodate a half hour of sitting. Heck, I’m always game for a cup of coffee or tea!

feeding on the ferry

*Messy diapers. How about in Gulhane Park in the rain? It happened lots of places, but Jana and Olaf met the challenge as a team—always with good humor.

dirty diaper in Gulhane Park

*Baby-loving Turks. Though I’d warned them, it took my friends a while to get used to the Turkish penchant for touching and holding babies. Remember, Jana and Olaf are Germans, a culture not famous for effusive warmth. They came to enjoy it, though, and chuckled at the oft-spoken “Maşallah!” (God protect him.)

Jana and Max and restauranteur-Maşallah

It was a joy to spend this time with Jana’s new family, and I wouldn’t have given up a moment of seeing these doting parents eagerly explore my city with their tiny little buddy (who celebrated his four-month birthday here). The clutter, the chaos, and the charm contributed to a fascinating week exploring Istanbul with Max and his grown-ups.

Cappadocia Warm

It goes without saying that Cappadocia is beautiful. But it’s more than that. It’s sicak (see-JOCK) in Turkish, which means warm in temperature—and in temperament: amiable, accommodating, and agreeable.

On Mother’s Day weekend I flew to Cappadocia. I wanted to replace some photos I’d lost from my last trip (intended for a future magazine article); my hasty downloading had dumped them into the nether reaches of my computer. Sigh…

I was unsuccessful at finding a travel companion, so I went alone. Not big on solo travel, I hoped to keep myself busy enough to evade loneliness. A camera is a reasonable (though not particularly chatty) companion.

roses at kelebek

The Kelebek’s natural accents

After sweating out traffic delays on the way to the airport (a long 3 hours en route from my apartment), I checked in with only moments to spare, then waited out a two-hour flight delay. Wouldn’t you know? I was met at the Kaiseri airport by a thunderstorm and a driver. Whew! When I finally arrived at the Kelebek Hotel, a familiar friendly face welcomed me and showed me to room twelve (charming), where I collapsed into a deep sleep.


Even the numbers are charming.

I’m not going to recount my entire weekend, as it’s a bit redundant. (Took pictures of this, took pictures of that…) What I’d like to share, though, is the warmth I was met with. This was my fifth trek to Cappadocia, and I’ve always stayed at the Kelebek. It’s expanded considerably over the past five years, but its warmth and personalized service continues undiminished. I felt like I’d come home. Hasan’s gravely voice and welcoming smile lift my heart; with unassuming demeanor, he offers his service before you even think of a need. It’s lovely.

Kelebek breakfast terrace

The Kelebek breakfast terrace

“You can check in when it’s convenient—any time.” How many hotels offer you that? I spent the night, enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, and was sitting on the side porch with a cup of coffee when Alta (a new employee) brought her clipboard out to check me in. I didn’t even have to step into the office.

I asked if Mehmet and Ali, the hotel’s owners were around, but they were out for the day. I’d catch them for photos later.

Irises and the hillsideHeading off to the hinterlands…

I headed off with my camera to visit two local women outside of town. They live in cave houses and welcome visitors to see their homes, chat, and share tea; then they uncover needlework they have for sale. Most of it they craft themselves during the long winters, although some of it is purchased. As I walked up the road, a little girl called out, “Anne anne, bayan geliyor!” (Grandmother, a lady is coming.) Then in English, she said, “Come to see my grandmother.” Little did she know that’s exactly what I had in mind.

Hatice outsideHatice waiting outside her cave home

I interviewed Hatice (hot-EE-jay), a woman about ten years my junior with an interesting story. She grew up in Göreme, where she attended eight years of school, then married at 16. She was married for thirty years, then divorced, choosing to stay in her cave home and support herself with her needlework. “I don’t need much,” she said, “and I am happy here. It is a quiet life, but a good one.” She showed me a few of the 28 rugs she’s made, but she said that she no longer makes them. She prefers to embroider and make oya to trim scarves. She encouraged me to stay and visit longer, and though I was tempted, I needed to head out.

Hatice needlework

Hatice with her needlework

My next visit was with Fatma, a woman just around the next fairy chimney.  She’s my age mate (60) and has beautiful white hair, a rarity in Turkey. I was told by a Turkish woman that I should let my hair grow long and dye it black, and since then I’ve noticed that nearly all Turkish women dye their hair, even in Göreme. At any rate, Fatma met me with a beautiful smile and removed her scarf to rearrange it before I snapped any photos.

Fatma portraitThe lovely Fatma on her terrace “sitting room”

She wears a scarf not for religious reasons, but for tradition, common in most rural areas of Turkey. It’s mainly in Istanbul where young women wear their scarves wrapped around their heads in what is called the “turban” style—overtly religious. But don’t get me started…

Fatma’s white scarf is edged in lovely bead oya, lacy trim intended for scarves, though it’s now often transformed into jewelry.

oya closeup

A length of macrame oya ready for a scarf

Fatma never attended school because her grandfather felt that it wasn’t necessary for a girl to be educated. Her sons taught her to read as they learned, though she says she’s very slow.  Fatma and her husband live in what was her father’s home, and they keep a vegetable garden for the family, replete with tomatoes, peppers, onions, and the like. They also tend five more gardens away from their home, mostly grapes for raisins.

fatma's cave home

Fatma’s cave home–with their garden in the foreground

Fatma invited me into her home for tea and cake. Her walls and floor were covered with rugs, either gifts or her own work. Because her sight has weakened, she no longer makes rugs but spends her winters doing needlework. She said she’s made more than 40 carpets over the years. The one hanging on her wall was a work of art.

Fatma and Ann MarieAge mates posing before a Fatma masterpiece.

I’m afraid I’ve gone on too long. These ladies welcomed me, as did Ruth at Tribal carpets, Şemse at Sultan’s Carpets, and Mehmet and Ali, the owners of the Kelebek. These kind people warmed my heart and made my weekend a delight. Ali (in spite of miserable allergies) gave me a tour of the the new cultural center they’re creating (the focus of my upcoming article).

Ali at Kelebek

Ali showing me their new Seten Cultural Center

MehmetThe ever-friendly Mehmet, Kelebek partner

I was also treated to a fascinating tour of the Open Air Museum–amazing underground churches carved out hundreds of years ago, guided by Mustafa, an incredibly knowledgeable young man. Another Kelebek connection that far surpasses expectations.

Cappadocia church

A wall of the Dark Church, from the Open Air Museum

Cappadocia church int

Another wall in the Dark Church–amazing!

I just want to stress once more that everyone in Göreme welcomed me warmly, from the soft-spoken room cleaners to restauranteurs, shop owners, and hotel staff. In fact, as I visited numerous hotels for my article, everyone was more than accommodating—except at the most exclusive hotel.


Shakespeare on the Green

Robert College just treated me to the most magical theater experience of my life. Really. And—it was SHAKESPEARE!!!

It was the brainchild of Charlotte Şamlı with Jason Shulha and a host of teachers and students. I’d love to share the enchantment of this production that showcases not only the talents of RC actors, but the stunning beauty of our campus in bloom.

Come, join me for this tribute to the bard, “Shakespeare on the Green”…

We begin our evening at 6:30 in a small outdoor arena known as “The Maze,” where our student body gathers for the first day of school, fire drills, and emergencies. Teachers in Elizabethan garb welcome us with an enigmatic program on a full-color map. Hmmm… We seat ourselves on bleachers under spreading chestnut trees (I kid you not—in full bloom), wondering what adventures await.


Teachers prepare to read the prologue.

The air fills with trumpets announcing our actors, who file in to perform an Elizabethan dance, precisely executed.

No one cracks a smile.


Elizabethan dancers in all seriousness


Shylock and Peaseblossom focus on the dance

Actors exit.

Teachers remain (six).

They read from scrolls—a Shakespearean prologue? We are then divided into three more-than-curious groups. Ours is lead by Lady Marita, who regally guides us up the walkway to an outdoor arena.

Shakespeare-MarisaLady Marita announces the evening’s festivities

And we wait.

Finally, a swell of Elizabethan music announces the beginning of the festivities, and we’re treated to the courtroom scene from A Merchant in Venice. We are engrossed in Portia’s clever machinations as she first permits Shylock his demand of his adversary’s pound of flesh (from his chest), then specifies that he must do so without shedding a drop of blood. From there she executes his financial ruin. The acting is superb, and even the shakiest English speakers in the audience are enjoying themselves.


The “Duke”, Bassanio, and Antonio in The Merchant of Venice

Shakespeare-Merchant-2Shylock “lords it over” Portia, an astute attorney

We are greeted by another “guide” (Lady Alison), dressed in gilt red, who leads us up a road through the woods. Our small group is divided in “twain”. Once we find seats on a small deck, she VERY clearly explains the plot of Macbeth. Before we know it, actors appear from behind a building. Lady Macbeth is sleepwalking again—wringing and wrenching her hands to rid herself of that “damned spot”. A compelling performance, absolutely.

Shakespeare-Lady Macbeth scene

A sleepwalking Lady Macbeth scrubs at her guilty hands

Afterwards, Lady Alison performs a short soliloquy while Squire Jake (another teacher/guide) fawns on her from a nearby railing.


Squire Jake fawns on his coy mistress

After that, the squire launches into his own monologue before leading us through a narrow woodland path, pointing out plants and waxing prosaic as we walk. We pass an actor in red (Macbeth?), frozen in the brush with his back to us.

What scene but the witches could lie ahead? We buzz with excitement as we round a curve to be met by three yowling and screeching green-faced witches. “Double double toil and trouble. Fire burn and cauldron bubble!”

Shakespeare-Macbeth witch scene-3

“Double, double, toil and trouble…”

Another amazing performance as they taunt Macbeth and as Banquo’s ghost reveals the prophesy that “no man of woman born” can harm him, that he will be safe until “Burnam Wood comes to Dunsinane.” Not good news for Macbeth (at least for those of us who know the rest)!

Shakespeare-Macbeth witch scene-4The witches welcome the ghost of Banquo

It’s growing dark, and the air is cooling. I’m thankful to have gloves and a warm scarf as we are taken to meet the other half of our group for the next stage (pardon the pun) of our adventure. Sir Joseph Welch downs a swig of liquor and jumps atop a picnic table to begin his monologue—a drunken soliloquy on the seven ages of man. Ah, Much Ado About Nothing—and it is!

Shakespeare-Joe the drunk

Sir Joseph decries the Seven Ages of Man

Totally entranced, we follow him to lawn chairs arranged at the bottom of the hill below Sage for…it HAS to be A Midsummer Night’s Dream. What else could it be with a bower of velvet cushions under boughs strung with ribbons and streamers (and wine corks)? The sun is setting, and our woody “set” is illuminated from multiple directions.


Faerie Queene Titania is sung to sleep by her faeries.

The first to emerge are the Bard’s whimsical woodland faeries, Peasblossom and Mustardseed, soon joined by Puck, the rascally imp who delivers a magic potion. Remember the story? Titania the Faerie Queene is tricked by her lover, Oberon with a potion that will make her fall in love with the first being she sees.


Faerie King Oberon resists the charms of Titania

Bottom the Weaver comes to practice his play (art teacher John Dew), and he is magically transformed into a donkey, which Titania falls madly in love with. Enough said—it was HILARIOUS! Bottom has us in stitches, and the talented ensemble holds us entranced through the entire antic-filled scene. BRAVO!!!


Bottom the Weaver transformed “to an ass”

Shakespeare-Midsummer-4Bottom revels in Titania’s adoration

We hardly notice that we’re shivering, yet we’re thankful for a break to get hot drinks in the Maze. WHEW!

After intermission everyone is gathered at the bottom of the Gould Hall walkway for a boisterous performance of Falstaff—including the entire acting ensemble. Hilarity abounds, and we try to follow Falstaff’s ribald humor as best we can.


A female Falstaff downs a brew with her cronies.

After that we move en masse up the hill to seats arranged beneath the Gould Hall steps. The air is heavy with the sweet scent of wisteria, and Lady Marita emerges to introduce her ninth grade class’s Ottoman rendition of Romeo and Juliet—the fight scene where Tybalt kills Mercutio and Romeo revenges his death by slaying Tybalt. As dramatic as it is, it’s hysterical with all the Ottoman twists—the local sultan scolds the Kapul and the Mantuk families. We cheer wildly, amazed that these actors have stayed in character in spite of everyone’s mirth.

Shakespeare-Ottoman R&J-2

The Ottoman Montagues—the Mantuks

Shakespeare-Ottoman R&J-3

The Ottoman Capulets—the Kepul Family

Last, but certainly not least, is the Romeo and Juliet balcony scene, expertly choreographed and executed. Juliet opens the scene sighing from her balcony above the wisteria (“Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo”),

Shakespeare-Ottoman R&J-4

Juliet on her wisteria-laden balcony

while Romeo fawns on her from below. “Oh, that I could be a glove upon that hand…”

Shakespeare-Ottoman R&J-5

Romeo speaks lovingly of his Juliet.

Juliet suddenly—magically—appears beside Romeo on the Gould Hall steps, and they entrance us with their passionate performance. At last, a scene that we all know and love.

Shakespeare-Ottoman R&J-7

The marriage pact is shared.

Thanks for joining me for this stunning performance.

And kudos to the creative spirits who made it possible.


Shakespeare-curtain call

L to R, Oberon, Bottom, Mr. Shulha, Ms. Şamlı, Squire Jake and Sir Joseph