This summer I went on some amazing travels, and I got back into blogging and wrote about them. I visited Istanbul, Berlin, and Edinburgh - and less than a week after that trip found myself north of the Arctic Circle in Alaska, visiting the island in the Beaufort Sea that my great-grandfather had used as a research base 100 years ago.
I planned to write about my trip as it happened, but I didn't end up finishing my last posts until late December. However, they're now all done - and here they all are in one place:
Getting Ready to Travel: My first blog post in over a year, just before I left.
Heathrow Airport: You Are In A Maze of Twisty Little Passages, All Different We took an overnight flight to London and then had to change airlines and terminals at Heathrow airport near London. Heathrow has several beautiful shiny modern terminals - but Air Canada and Lufthansa fly out of the other ones, which are being demolished and rebuilt at the same time, and are Gilliam-esque labyrinths of ductwork and shopping.
Munich Airport: Legoland mitt Bier und NapCab After Heathrow, Munich airport was an oasis of orderly calm - especially since it had cool 'NapCab' capsule hotel booths, which are especially nice after an overnight flight.
The Streets of Istanbul I and The Streets of Istanbul II I'm a big fan of cities, especially cities with history. The name 'Istanbul' is the Turkish version of the Greek word for "The City" - and Istanbul/Constantinople has been "The City" for this part of the world for several thousand years. Here's what I noticed while walking around.
Hagia Sophia This massive ancient building has been overwhelming people since 537 A.D., and it certainly did so for me.
Istanbul's Basilica Cistern: Gorgeous, Creepy, Nerdy The cisterns are about the same age as Hagia Sophia, a remnant from the Classical World - they also have cheesy music and reminded me slightly of Half-Life 2
Mosques The Old Town of Istanbul is full of mosques, including several splendid Imperial mosques from the height of the Ottoman Empire.
The Topkapi Palace and Harem Yes I was in the bath-house of the Sultan's harem. It was spectacular, but perhaps not in the way that you may be thinking.
That dolphin-torn, that gong-tormented sea We took a boat up the Bosphorus to the edges of the Black Sea and back. I took a lot of pictures.
Overwhelmed by History in the Hippodrome Istanbul has physical artifacts from times I generally put in the same place in my mind as Middle-Earth and Narnia. Many of them are in the pleasant park on top of what used to be the blood-soaked Hippodrome.
Berlin: Finding the Best Wurst Some people travel for fine cuisine. I travel for the fast food. It often says more about the real cultural situation in a place.
Flaneur in Berlin Berlin is another great walking city.
Ghosts of the Past, Visions of the Future For a city that isn't really that much older than, say, New York, Berlin has more than its share of tumultuous history - history that can be seen in the stones of its buildings. It also has more than its share of daring futuristic architectural vision.
Museums Berlin has some fantastic museums, from antiquities to modern film and everything in between.
Berliner Ensemble Berlin also has some of the best theatre on the planet. We saw not one but three different productions from the Berliner Ensemble, and they were all fantastic in their own ways.
World of Donairs Donair is a favourite fast food in Halifax, but it's originally Turkish, and is also big in Berlin. This is my ad hoc ethnography of a global snack
World Cup We were lucky enough to be in Berlin while the Germans were fielding one of the best Football teams in the world, and we managed to catch some games and the game fever.
EasyJet: Discount Class Conflict We took EasyJet to Scotland, where for $15 you can buy an upgrade to being glared at by all of the other passengers.
Edinburgh Without Expectations I had done so much preparation for Berlin and Istanbul that I hadn't really thought much about Edinburgh - it turned out to be a lot more spectacular than I had expected.
Stratigraphic Culture Every city has layers of culture - but it's more visible in Edinburgh, just like the geologic layers of sediment are visible on Arthur's Seat.
Nova Scotia and Auld Scotland I live in Nova Scotia now, which coincidentally is geologically identical to 'Auld' Scotland - there are many other similarities as well.
Leffingwell, Alaska, and Flaxman Island
Ernest de Koven Leffingwell in the Arctic My great-grandfather, whose island station in the Beaufort Sea we were planning to visit, was kind of awesome: Arctic explorer, scientist, and hot-rodder.
Flying to Flaxman Island - 1 From Fairbanks to the edge of the Yukon Flats
Flying to Flaxman island - 2 Across the Yukon Flats to Arctic Village
Flying to Flaxman Island - 3 Across the Brooks Range to the edge of the tundra. Amazing mountain scenery!
Flying To Flaxman Island - 4 Across the tundra to Flaxman Island. Ground squirrels, caribou, and a million mosquitos
Flying to Flaxman Island - 5 What it was actually like on the island. It felt a bit like Mars.
Flying to Flaxman Island - 6 Even more spectacular mountain scenery on the way back
Flying to Flaxman Island - 7 Desktop-worthy green-scapes, and Double Rainbow All the Way.
Mapping My Trip My great-grandfather spent years in the cold surveying Alaska to within a dozen feet. I spent some time on Google Earth, occasionally holding bits of paper up to the screen.
By the end of this month of extraordinary travel, I was utterly exhausted, I had no idea what time zone I was in, I had 2000 photographs, and a lot of tales to tell. I've really enjoyed sharing my stories with the world online, and have heard positive things from friends. After spending so much time on software, it's nice to be able to do some writing for a change.
I'm not planning to travel quite so extensively next summer. Perhaps the year after that, though. Of course, I haven't been to Cape Breton or P.E.I. or Newfoundland yet - and while these places are much closer to home, that doesn't make them any less story-worthy. I don't plan to leave this blog dormant for another year.