26 April 2013

Istanbul with Kids: Rahmi M. Koc Museum


One of the great joys of living in any city with kids is the availability of fun, interesting museums.  

We now live in the tiny town of Marion, South Dakota with a booming population of just over 800 fine people.

Suffice it to say, we do not have a museum.


And so it is with great fondness that I remember our time in Istanbul and our visit to one of the world's great museums for kids, the Rahmi M Koc Museum.

Fondly known as the Koc museum to most, the main focus of this expansive display of history is transportation.

The museum features several buildings filled with cars, motorcycles, trucks, buses, trains, planes, boats and a submarine!

The Turkish version of Kit.    image

It is an amazing collection of historic value and also houses areas dedicated to engineering, communication, technology, science, models and toys.  

There is a hands on section for kids that will take up a good hour of your time as the kids are able to have fun while putting their minds to work.

The Hands on Area.   image

The museum spreads across a great campus along the Golden Horn.  It is wonderful for school age kids.  

Ours had a great time.  

The Koc Museum is easy to get to from all parts of the city, relatively affordable (12.5 TL for adults, 6 TL for students), and a  lot of fun.  

You can find more information at their website:

23 April 2013

Missing Turkey

June 2012 - heading back to the states.

It seems strange that nearly a year ago my family and I boarded a plan to head back to rural America . . . permanently.


The transition to life back in the states has been a bit rocky.  It seems life has gone on without us, the current of daily living carried all of us in different directions, to different places.

It has at times been lonely.

Through it all I have neglected the care and maintenance of Stories from Turkey.

I'll call it benign neglect - I meant to do it.  I had no choice.

Life needed me and so I put my mind and energy to other things.

But now I wonder - would anyone like to see Stories from Turkey resurrected?

Not in the same way it lived before, but in a new fresh way with new voices, interesting stories, different perspectives?

I would love to hear what you think.  Sometimes things need to die - it is the cycle of life.

Perhaps Stories from Turkey has come to that time.

If so I'll give her an honorable burial and move on, but if there is still life left, still a chance to do something fun and informative and helpful - well, I'd gladly keep things going.

Let me know!

12 June 2012

Çiğ Köfte

Real Çiğ Köfte
Köfte is a Turkish meatball. They are delicious and everyone has their own special recipe. You can find them at every restaurant and most mother’s will make them as well here in Turkey.

So when I was first introduced to Çiğ Köfte, I already new what Köfte was but had to get out my trusty pocket dictionary to figure out exactly what the 'Çiğ' in Çiğ Köfte meant.

Çiğ = Raw
Raw? As in raw meatball? Yes that’s right and like their cooked cousins, they are wonderful.

Most Çiğ Köfte is no longer made with raw meat, but rather with a lentil concoction of spices and other ingredients that in the end, closely resembles its wilder cousin. But in some places, you can still find the raw meat version. 

Çiğ Köfte is made with raw meat and a load of spices that make it spicy hot but that also in some way cook out anything that could cause food poisoning - or so I'm told.  

It is eaten as an appetizer, a small portion wrapped in a thin flat bread or a piece of lettuce and spritzed with lemon.

Çiğ Köfte is one of those truly Turkish foods that I'll miss back in America.

07 June 2012

New Beginnings

Our soon to be missed view of our neighborhood.
Stories from Turkey has been resting.  I"ve been trying to balance starting a business over at The Everyday Language Learner, preparing for an international move back to the states and with a lot of other projects as of late.

No excuses I know, but I am excited about some new ideas I have for continuing Stories from Turkey even as I return to the states.  My family and I will be returning for the foreseeable future to small town life in rural southeast South Dakota.  

It is a bitter sweet move of course - how could we not feel the weight of four wonderful years in Turkey? We will miss this place and our wonderful friends so much.  There are so many adventures which have been left undone, so many stories that have been untold.  And yet the time has come for our return.

I was out for a walk in the Outback this morning contemplating our move, thinking (worrying) about our car that is yet to be sold, and dreaming a bit about a new beginning, a new way forward for Stories for Turkey.  

It won't be the same blog, it will be better.  My role in it will necessarily change as I relocate - I only have so many stories to collect from my journals and write about after all.  I have an outline in my mind for a plan to tell a broader story, a more regular story that honors and celebrates Turkey.  

I need to work out the details but I hope to get everything up and running yet this summer.  We fly back to the states on the 20th of June to begin a new life there. It is an exciting time and it is a stressful time and we are on the journey.

Life is good.  Sometimes it is hard, but it is good.

*If you are interested, I've begun a new little project to provide an out let for more of my writing called Cobbled Together.

19 April 2012


We recently enjoyed a few days away from the metropolis of Istanbul in central Turkey's Cappadocia region.  The last day was spent in the quiet town of Avanos and it was a nice place to end our adventure.  It was nice because it was such a fun day for our kids and with kids, it is always important to end a road trip on a high note so that the next road trip is met with greater excitement and anticipation.

Avanos is really two places.  There is the Avanos out by the highway filled with rows of tourist enticing showrooms filled with the famous pottery that the town is so well known for.  Load after load of sunburned visitors pile out of white buses and are treated to a well orchestrated production, clean bathrooms and extremely over priced ceramics.  They are are stopping there and the prices are over priced  not because these large showrooms offer better products but rather because they have paid the most for the buses to stop.  

The second place is back in Avanos proper.  They are small shops run by grandfatherly men who've turned hundreds of thousands of pots on the same wheels their fathers before them used.  They have the twinkle in their eye and a story - a real story - to tell.  They are from Avanos and they'll stay in Avanos.  

The rug sellers are the same.  Big and glitzy out by the highway.  Homey and friendly back in town.  We had the store to ourselves and were treated to tea and conversation and a history lesson and stories of trips through Turkey and Iran to find the best quality rugs made by true artisans.  These are the stories and experience you will not find if you step off a tour bus at a showroom designed in Istanbul by a businessman who knows nothing about pots or rugs.

If you get to Avanos, make sure and get back into town.

Catching some rays and rest outside of the carpet gallery.

Grabbing a large helping of clay.

The captivating and jovial Ali Dede shares his story.

Sonora throwing her first pot ever.

Malachi throwing his first pot ever.

Ali Dede's pottery shop.

 A wonderful lesson from Ertan.

If you get to Avanos, please consider stopping by and visiting Ali and Ertan at Galerie Yörük for all your carpets, kilims and sumaks and a hot glass of tea.

And if you have kids, don't miss the chance to get to know Ali dede at Art House where you can find beautiful pottery and let your kids have a chance on the wheel.

And to learn more about the Cappadocia  region, be sure and stop by Captivating Cappadocia.

05 March 2012

The Chosen: A Book Review

Today's post has nothing to do with Turkey.  It is a short esssay I wrote five years ago now and found today on my hard drive.  I wrote it then to practice writing this sort of essay.  I am sure it is not what readers of Stories from Turkey were expecting, but I have been short of time to post here as regularly as I would like and so thought I would throw it out today as something to think about.  Thanks for reading and I'd love to hear if any of you have ever read any of Chaim Potok's books.


When a seventeen year old student of mine threw out the expression, “What you talking about Willis?” to a good friend the other day, it begged the question – Did she have any idea where the expression came from? 

She didn’t. 

She had the tone of voice right, but she had absolutely no idea how an expression from a classic seventies sitcom had transcended time and culture to become a part of twenty first century teen slang. 

Her example serves as a starting point in understanding a problem that I, as a member of western society, have every time I open up and read my Bible. I read expressions like “the blood of the lamb” and have an understanding of the concept of a sacrifice that has saved me from my sins, but having not been raised in a society where animal sacrifice is a part of the very fabric of every day life, I can only acknowledge that my understanding lacks a depth that resonates to the core of my being. 

And then there is the curious term Abba. A Hebrew word that first century Jews used to talk affectionately about their earthly fathers, Jesus shocked his contemporaries by using it as a term of endearment for the great “I Am”, God himself. I am told by preachers that it was scandalous to followers of Judiasm who saw God as so holy that they would leave out the middle letter of G_d, lest they somehow mispronounce it and offend. 

Having no Jewish roots, I have to believe that once again, I am missing the magnitude of this shift from a God no one felt comfortable addressing to the loving, father God, Abba. How can I ever understand Abba? 

Chaim Potok, the Jewish author of The Chosen, gave me my first real insight into understanding this shift. A story of two boys, brought together in the classic playground brawl and reconciled to best friends, The Chosen takes the reader into the heart of the Jewish communities of Brooklyn, New York during the final days of World War II and the genesis of the new Israel. 

It is in this setting that Revuen Malter and Danny Sunders explore friendship, faith, Freud and fathers, and while the story centers on the first three, it is the latter, fathers, that seems most important. 

Throughout the novel, the boys’ fathers play like background music at a department store. Slowly, patiently though, Potok turns up the volume until in the end, the reader wonders if the story wasn’t so much about two sons after all. 

Perhaps The Chosen is a novel about two fathers; Abba and G_d.

The story has done much to help me understand the magnitude of the endearing Abba that Jesus chose to call his father as well as appreciate anew the G_d we are called upon to revere and fear. 

So if you too have had problems understanding Abba, pick up The Chosen and listen for the heartbeat of the love of the father, God.