Valerie Sarnataro's Blog

"Never let school get in the way of your education" Mark Twain

Morning sun.. (or lack there of)

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It’s currently 4:26 a.m. and the call to prayer echoes in my room. Normally I sleep through such an occurrence but today us photographers and Sensei Rob are making a last minute excursion to Cappadocia. With only three full days left in Istanbul, we will spend today and tomorrow exploring this ancient region of Anatolia. This unique geological gem will surely be a nice break from the bustle of the city streets. Not sure if I will have internet, so if not, see you in two days!

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Written by Valerie Sarnataro's blog

June 10, 2011 at 1:35 am

Posted in Istanbul

Wake up call..

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In an adventurous spirit, Erin and I woke up before the rest of civilization to catch the sunrise. Unfortunately, neither us played with compasses when we were younger, so as we walked to the water we watched the sun peak its head up from behind us. Wishing I had a better sense of nature or common sense, I watched the sky playfully transition from a dusky pink to royal blue.

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Written by Valerie Sarnataro's blog

June 8, 2011 at 11:52 pm

Posted in Istanbul

Dare I stray from the kebab..

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Though I am extremely grateful to anyone who takes the time to read my blogs, I must dedicate this post to a certain spirited individual. This one is for you Zia G! As I previously posted my food diaries in Amman, if you haven’t seen them take a quick look here, my food experience in Istanbul is greatly different. While pita and bread is still a staple in every meal, (thank you a month abroad for an additional 5 pounds, is my pita showing?) there has been an addition of another dish: the kebab. Despite the rich flavor of meat marinating for hours, combined with a decadent combination of fresh lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and french-fries, I cannot eat another kebab. I believe I maxed out at 6 in a span of three days, and unfortunately for my wallet (as this feast only costs 4-5 TL) my fussy pallet refuses to accept this once more-than- welcomed meal.

Taking advantage of the prosperous seas that surround Istanbul, I have been fishing for some new food (yeah, that was an attempt at food humor, successful?). The fish here is fantastic! I’ve indulged in casseroles, fillets and sandwiches, none of which have disappointed. Yesterday, after hearing rave reviews from my peers, I had a delightful fish fillet sandwich by the port. The smokey-grilled flavor of the fish, topped with lettuce and onions then doused in lemon juice, made for a savory lunch.

I won’t even attempt to describe the desserts here, that will be a post of its own.

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Written by Valerie Sarnataro's blog

June 8, 2011 at 11:02 pm

Posted in Istanbul

Weekend Adventures..

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On Friday a group of us ventured to the Prince’s Islands, a chain of nine islands off the coast of Istanbul, in the Sea of Marmara. We had a free day so we could do as we pleased. To get to the largest island, Büyükada, you must take a ferry from the Kabataş port, which you take the Metro to arrive at. The ferry has become my favorite means of transportation,though I probably would feel differently if I had to do this commute on a daily basis. I love the sweet seawater aroma, one of the few smells of Istanbul I actually enjoy,  and the wind splashing water at my cheeks. However, I think I’ve begun to inherit my father’s unfortunate inability to handle shifts in equilibrium, as I felt a constant unevenness throughout the day. Despite my body’s confusion,believing it was still on water, I had a wonderful time on this beautiful paradise. While some took another ferry to a smaller island for a relaxing day on the beach, a group of us rented bikes and rode around the island. Reading too much into the expression “it’s just like riding a bike,” I convinced myself that I could handle an incline bike ride to the top of the monastery. After quickly realizing the falsity of this cliche` and coming to terms with my dip in athleticism over the years, I settled for a leisurely ride around the island rather than the initial Tour de France I planned. Even this was more strenuous than I anticipated, resulting in multiple occasions where I escorted my bike up the hill. Nevertheless, this island was bewitching. An oasis from the craze of Istanbul, Büyükada’s vastness and lush wildlife transformed my mindset, leaving me wishing I could stay there forever. With no cars allowed on the island, with the exception of the occasional construction truck, horse-buggies, bikes and mopeds roam free. The atmosphere of a beach-based tourist town reminded me of Long Beach Island back in the States (unfortunately, mom there was no clam chowder, however, I did indulge in an unbelievable deep-fried mussel sandwich; yeah like I said, my luggage won’t be the only thing over the weight requirement). After riding for what felt like hours, when in truth was no more than 45 minutes, we walked around the town, spending the afternoon lying on the dock. I know, my life is just so demanding.

Written by Valerie Sarnataro's blog

June 6, 2011 at 9:32 pm

Posted in Istanbul

Some images from Istanbul..

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Written by Valerie Sarnataro's blog

June 5, 2011 at 8:06 pm

Posted in Istanbul

Get over yourself girl..

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It took more than a week but I finally feel connected to this city. I realized my constant comparison of Istanbul to Jordan was holding me back from experiencing this city to its fullest.  Amman is a city built on strong religious beliefs, evident in every person I encountered. Jordan had a sense of purity that no European atmosphere can replicate. Finally realizing this allowed me to appreciate Istanbul for what it really is, a huge city bustling with diversity and intoxicating energy. During my first few days I felt more culture shock here than for the duration of my time in Amman. Going to Jordan I had no expectations, allowing me to experience the good and bad with an adventurous outlook. However, I think I expected too much from Turkey, which as I’ve learned from many instances in life, having too high of expectations for something destines it for disappointment. I can’t fully articulate what I had in mind for Istanbul but arriving in a city flooded with tourists was not it. This immediately had a negative impact on my outlook of the city, coating everything else with negativity as well. I loved the connection I felt in Amman with the people and the city but here I couldn’t seem to peel past the superficial outer layer. Reading over my journal I realized every word was dripping with a lingering negativity, and unjustly so. I was enjoying the museum visits, the freedom to prowl the city at my will and the exquisiteness of marvels like the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace, but something was missing. Like the critical center piece that completes a 300 piece puzzle, my view of Istanbul was missing an essential component. Today I found it.

Sitting in my hotel room trying to work on a post (which has become increasing difficult to do lately) I stared at the blank screen, the cursor taunting me with every blink. Annoyed with my inability to do anything productive, I went for a walk. I popped in my headphones and began my journey up the one street I had yet to venture on. For the first time in almost a month I was actually alone, just me and my thoughts, nobody to talk with or background noise to listen to. One of my favorite activities (if you can call being an uber creep an activity) is observing the people around me. I love to sit and watch others interact. I enjoy seeing someone, hearing their voice and imagining their life. I know how incredibly bizarre this is but I appreciate the brief vacation from my own world that watching other people brings me. Sometimes I become too absorbed with myself, worrying about the tiniest details, that in reality don’t mean much. Taking time to acknowledge complete strangers, rather than pass them by, is the luxury of free time that I adore most. And in doing so I found that pesky puzzle piece. I hadn’t felt connected with Istanbul yet because I didn’t allow myself the opportunity to. I was simply going through the motions of each day, not really experiencing more than the sights. In Amman this wasn’t an option because everyday I was forced to interact with people in the city due to their kindness. This convenience spoiled me. I was waiting for Istanbul to come to me, rather than making myself available to the city (see like I said sometimes I become a wee too absorbed with myself).

I walked for two hours, with no real destination besides a random bench here and there (don’t worry mom I was completely aware of my surroundings at all times and Ian’s defense moves were at my disposable if any sh*t went down). I seemed to escape the sea of tourists for a pond of locals, an environment I enjoyed much more. I passed a trio of  young boys playing soccer on a side alley and attempted to exhibit the once decent skill I had for the game. After a few minutes I moved across the street to a cafe`, where a group of women, all adorned in hijabs, sat drinking tea and chatting. Though I couldn’t understand anything they said, hearing their tones and seeing their expressions was enough. Laughter is a universal language, as is a smile, and it was nice to see something so familiar in a place so foreign.

Unfortunately, I have one week left in Turkey and so much more to explore. I know I will no longer compare Istanbul to Jordan, and fully appreciate this wonderful city. I apologize for my follow up to War and Peace, I had a lot to say I guess. Val: 1 Taunting Cursor: 0, I’m sure we will meet again.

Written by Valerie Sarnataro's blog

June 4, 2011 at 10:08 pm

Posted in Istanbul

The name is Bond..

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Firstly, I apologize for the new sporadic tendency my blog has taken on. With the switch of location, came a change in culture, resulting in an abundance of new curiosities for me to explore. I have seen so much these past days, and though I have yet to blog about it all, my devoted readers out there (i.e. mom, Aunt Ann, Aunt Gerri and Nanny, thanks for the love guys!) can rest assured that I have not abandoned the cyber world. That being said, here are some pictures from a little adventure Rob and I went on during our excursion to the Egyptian Spice Market on Wednesday.

When walking around, Rob and I were drawn to a rather gaudy display of tuxedos and suits. While taking pictures of the mannequins to document such elegance, the tailor came out and invited us inside. The walls upstairs, adorned with racks of suits, which despite my immediate judgment were rather beautiful upon closer inspection, was Barney Stintson’s dream. (for those who are experiencing extreme jeopardy face at this reference, google “How I met your Mother” immediately, you’re welcome) I somehow convinced Rob to try one on, most likely a result of his airy persona than my skill at persuasion. As the tailor generously put the exquisite hand-crafted vest and jacket on Rob, he evolved from the makings of a fabulous prom date to a debonair man of luxury. The suits started at 2000 TL, needless to say Rob bought one for every day of the week.

Written by Valerie Sarnataro's blog

June 3, 2011 at 12:34 am

Posted in Istanbul