Favorite Place- Humlegården

Weekly photo challenge: Favorite Place

I love parks and gardens, that’s no secret. Wherever I go, the first places on my list are parks and gardens. However, the first park I ever saw on my first trip abroad remains to be my favorite: Humlegården in Stockholm. I had seen an old picture (believe it’s from 1880s) a couple years before I went there, and I used to dream about going there and seeing it myself, the same, now 300-year old trees captured in a 150-year old photograph.

Humlegarden, wintertime, 1880s.
Humlegården , wintertime, 1880s.

Once we arrived in Stockholm, we found that our hotel is only ten minutes walk away from Humlegården, so it’s our first stop in the Scandinavia’s capital. It doesn’t disappoint.

Humlegården, autumn, 2014.


Humlegården, Stockholm
I like to think these are Yoko Ono and John Lennon. For some reason everywhere in Stockholm during that trip, I felt Lennon’s presence.

I’m a park junkie, there are many parks close to my heart, but Humlegården is the dearest of them all.

Aloes in Wonderland

Rediscovering Alice in Gardens By The Bay (Singapore) was real fun. The pictures tell all the story, but this time among Aloes.

weekly photo challenge: story

Curiouser and curiouser!
the cheshire cat, alice in wonderland
“we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.” “How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice. “You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”
alice in wonderland
Alice:How long is forever? White Rabbit:Sometimes, just one second.

I live in a neighbourhood where…


you can take a meditative walk which makes you feel you’re in a forest,


IMG_6645 (1)

where you get off the metro to a lovely lakeside garden with pagodas and monkeys and birds and all kinds of gorgeous plants with huge leaves,


where it is so safe that bicycle theft is a red alarm,


where just about every shade of green continues to amaze you.

This is Jurong, Singapore.

Photos: 1. Palm View Garden, Jurong West

2-3-4. Jurong Lake-Chinese Garden

5. Jurong Lake, near Lakeside

Tour Guide

Continue reading I live in a neighbourhood where…

A few tips on packing/ Bavul yapma üzerine birkaç ipucu

1. If you’re packing a sun hat, put it upside down and fill inside and the outer edges with soft clothes like t-shirts and socks. This ensures the hat will stay in shape.

1. Eğer bavulunuza bir hasır şapka koyacaksanız ilk önce ters olarak koyup, içini ve dışını tişört ya da çorap gibi yumuşak kıyafetlerle doldurabilirsiniz. Böylece şapkanın şekli bozulmayacaktır. Bunu öğrenene kadar bu şapkayı uçakta/otobüste elimde poşetle taşırdım. 😄

2. Fold the clothes so that they can stand up on their own, using the Konmari method ( vid below). That way you can take the clothes you need without messing the organisation of the suitcase.

Also, pack your shoes separately to make the best of the space.

2. Giysileri yukarıda görüldüğü gibi, dik duracak şekilde Konmari metoduna göre katlayın. Böylece içinden bir giysi almanız gerektiğinde diğerleri bozulmayacak ve her şeyi bir anda görebilirsiniz. Konmari metodu ile giysi katlama için aşağıdaki videoya bakabilirsiniz.

Diğer bir ipucu da ayakkabılar üzerine. Ayakkabılarınızı tek tek poşetleyin ki yer kaplamasın.

3. Last but not the least, don’t over pack. Only bring what you need. For me, for one month of visiting family and then going to the seaside, I packed 6 t-shirts, one pair of baggy trousers, one pair of jeans, swimsuits, one summer hat, a very light towel, one pair of sandals and one pair of sneakers. Besides clothes, toiletries and basic skin care products. For makeup, just a 10 ml bottle of foundation and an eyeliner. I guess this suitcase will weigh below 10 kilos it’ll be more than enough.

I hope this post helps you to pack lighter and in a more organised way. 🙂

The other half of the suitcase/ bavulun diğer yarısı

3. En önemlisi de, yalnızca ihtiyacınız kadar olanını alın bavulunuza. Bu herkese göre değişir, ben bir ay kadar ailemin yanına gidip sonra da deniz kenarına gideceğim. Bunun için altı tişört, bir şalvar pantolon ve bir kot pantalon, bir çift parmak arası terlik ve bir çift spor ayakkabı, banyo ve cilt bakımı malzemeleri aldım.  Mayoların yanında kurulanmak için bir peştemalim var ki hem hafif, hem de suyu kalın bir havludan daha fazla emiyor ve anında kuruyor.

Makyaj malzemesi olarak 10 ml lik bir fondöten ve bir göz kalemi yetti. Bana yetecek hatta artacak bu bavul tahminimce 10 kilodan az oldu.

Umarım bu yazı daha hafif ve düzenli bir bavul düzenlemenize yardımcı olmuştur. 🙂

The Road Not Taken

It cannot be a coincidence that both Koray and I love the poem “The Road Not Taken”. I’ve always loved the things that aren’t that popular,  stayed away from best-sellers even though I felt they were good, and always had the urge to try unfamiliar things. Now I can’t say that I’m a courageous person, but when it comes to taking the road not taken, you can count me in. Part of the reason for this, I believe, is that the crowds disgust me. I can’t stand being in a place where there are too many people. And, when traveling in Japan, we of course wanted to see the attractions, and avoid the crowds at the same time. That is a difficult task, as in some attractions there were thousands of people. Going by our instincts, we found the roads less traveled by, and that made the whole difference.

Fushimi Inari Shrine ve Mt. Inari, Kyoto

We arrived at Fushimi Inari station by using JR Nara line, and it was just two stops away from Kyoto Station. Fushimi Inari is the #1 tourist attraction in Kyoto, and it’s not hard to understand why. The shrine which was built in 852 AD, gained fame when the emperor’s wish for rain and abundance was granted. Since then, thousands of people donated a Torii gate when their wishes were granted, so Mt. Inari was soon full of corridors made up by orange-red Torii gates.

The entrance and the biggest Torii gate.

The biggest gate is at the entrance, donated by a leader who wished for his mother to recover.

So the corridors of Torii gates offer a magnificent, almost intoxifying experience walking through them. The gates go all the way up to the top of the mountain.

When tourists come here they take photos like these: (source: http://jpninfo.com/11830)


isn’t it pretty awesome?

When we arrived at the shrine and started walking through the Torii gates, the situation was exactly the same: the people were trying to take the best photos, without anyone in the background, while keeping hundreds of people waiting. And most of them probably couldn’t take the plunge to go all the way up, so they turned back after the first hundred meters or so. At this point, disgusted by the crowds, we saw a signpost saying if we turn right, there are two shrines 50 and 100 meters away. So we decided to get some air and visit them, and maybe come back and continue walking through the gates again. I’m glad we did! At first we weren’t keen to climb all the way up (233 metre high and 4 km long- sometimes very steep path, which took around two hours), but if we climbed along with the others our only experience was walking through a thousand red gates. But on the road we took, a forest with huge bamboo trees were waiting for us!


It turns out the shrine 50 metres away, was actually 50 metres above, so it took us half an hour to get there.

The bold lines are the main road, and the one on the right is our path. The writings with kanji indicate the small shrines.

When we saw this map, we decided it would be a waste to go back, so we kept climbing to the top. Two hours later, we had climbed 233 metres. As tiring as it was, it was the highlight of my Japan trip and one of the best experiences ever.


There were lots of moments we felt eerie and freaked out. The only noise was our footsteps, rain and the birds’ singing. All of the shrines and graveyards we passed by looked abandoned except for one, but the candles kept on burning despite the rain. And a cat followed us for a while, which scared Koray as I had told him before that spirits can take the shape of animals like foxes or cats. 🙂 And in Japan it’s not common to see stray cats,  especially on a mountain. It was probably a monk’s pet or something, but as there was nobody around, I admit it was a bit scary.


I really like hiking, but as I’m not very good at sports, I always felt I’d be left behind if I join a hiking or a mountaineering group. But here, among birds and giant bamboos, in the eerie silence of shrines, I made the best hiking ever.

And happy ending!
Behind me is the main road where people usually take to climb to the top.

On our way back, we took the main road and we got really happy we didn’t take it while going up. Aside from an observatory terrace and thousands of gates, there wasn’t really much to look at. And as it was all stone stairs, I imagine it was harder to go up.

Mt. Inari, without a doubt, one of the most exciting places for me in Japan.


Click here for all blog posts about Japan.

First Impressions on Japan and the Japanese

  • Most Japanese can’t speak English.

I read a lot on this, but I didn’t expect it to be true. I can say with relief that, in fifteen days, I met maybe two or three people who could speak proper English. There were some times that they understood me, but I didn’t understand them. 🙂 Luckily, Japanese people are very good at using body language and making use of maps, so except for food it wasn’t a big problem in daily life. Since my husband and I are Muslims, we had quite difficulty in finding out if there is any pork or raw egg in meals. So if you have dietary concerns, I strongly suggest that you learn the Japanese phrases (and the possible Japanese answers to them) to ask if the food contains meat/pork/raw meat/raw egg etc.

  • They are both under the effect of Western culture and not.


source: unsplashed


When I saw Stradivarius, Bershka and Zara all next to each other in Dotombori, Osaka, I almost felt like home. While it is possible to see people in kimono, yukata and traditional attire on the streets, Japanese people are usually under the influence of Western fashion. All working men and women wear suits (it is even possible to see women who wear ties)


  • Kawaii everything

I guess this kid must be famous. His pictures were all over billboards.

Kawaii can be translated as “cute”, and it is an essential part of Japanese culture. Kawaii doesn’t care whether you are a male, female, old or young. It takes you under control! Especially cartoon and anime figures are everywhere, and it is very natural to see a middle aged man in snoopy shorts or a grandma rocking a hello kitty purse. What was interesting for me is again regardless of age and gender, everyone has a phone charm. As iPhones don’t have a hole for charms, they found a way to hang their charms to their phone case.

crosswalk fashion. source: unsplashed

And boy, there are a lot of things that hurt your eyes. My husband, Koray, is obsessive with the color harmony of belt, watch and shoes in a man. So his attention was mostly on men who care nothing about the color harmony, and some men with wrinkled shirts, which seems quite common in the subway. The most interesting thing for me was wearing socks/stockings inside sandals and defying the whole reason of wearing them.


It seems the yukatas come with cell phones and selfie sticks attached to them. source: unsplashed
  • Addiction to cell phones might be one thing we have in common.

A quarter of people on subway are asleep (official Japan guide says it’s almost a hobby to sleep on subways), a handful of people are reading an actual book or an e-reader, and all the others are on their cell phones. Some sidewalks even have the “don’t text and walk” sign.


  • IMG_2840
    The famous philosopher’s road in Kyoto. And yes, she’s on her cell phone.

    Gender is a bit weird. 

As I mention in kawaii, cute things aren’t just limited to children and young girls. On the contrary, children wear much simpler clothes whereas everybody who feels kawaii is welcome to express it in the most bizarre ways. Besides, most men wear what I would call “feminine” purses  and  women and men alike like to dye their hair every color imaginable. There are lots of women with man-like haircuts as they are many men with women-like haircuts (and of course this is just my viewpoint of gender, as a half westerner, half middle-eastern). That’s why sometimes I couldn’t understand if someone walking in front of me was a male or a female. And maybe that is the reason why so many Japanese and Korean dramas have the theme “misunderstood gender”.

From Hanazakari no kimitachi e, a famous J-drama where the lead actress goes to an all-boy school dressed as a boy, why of course to be with his crush who is a celebrity athlete.
  • And then there is the onsen.
one of the onsens we’ve been to, Naniwa no Yu. The picture is from their website, it’s prohibited to take photos inside, which makes sense.

Onsen might be translated as “hot spring bath”. These are gender-segregated public baths which run water that come from hot springs. The baths are about 50-60 cm deep and most of them are around 37-40 C degrees. Besides the numerous health benefits, I found going to an onsen really refreshing and fun. In Turkey we have a similar concept, which we inherited from Roman baths, but we almost always wear a towel or even a swimsuit to public baths. In Japan though, you need to be completely naked. Not one single piece of cloth to cover your private parts. And for us it took some courage first, but then we were okay. In Kyoto we went to two onsens, and then when we went to Osaka our bus pass also covered onsens so we visited two other ones. If I had had more time I would visit more! :)What I wonder about onsens though is the gender segregation. Japanese people, so far I understood from their literature, movies, cross-dressing and such, are open to lgbtq and it’s not a big taboo as it is in the Turkish culture. But here the only segregation is through sex, male and female. Everyone can enter this place and the only exception is having a tattoo. But they don’t seem to care about the possibility of taking a bath with gay people.

  • They stick to their principles.


I could say Japanese people are extraordinarily polite, when I think about the lady who apologized twice for keeping me waiting in front of a public toilet, or the numerous people who so kindly (sometimes only with very successful body language) gave me directions. I was never let down when I asked for something.

talking about toilets… here you go, a Japanese toilet controller.

But considering people just bump into, and sometimes crash each other to get into trains without saying “sumimasen” (sorry) at all, I could say they are quite rude. As far as I’m concerned, just as every society they have an unwritten moral code and some things are acceptable while others are not. It’s just our perspective that compares the politeness with our cultural codes.

The big difference between Japanese and the Turkish I think, is that Turkish people have always had contact with neighbouring cultures, namely, Persian, Arabic, Greek, Roman and French. So our vision of hospitality and politeness has been somewhat a synthesis of the Middle East and Europe. However, Japanese had very little contact with other cultures until a hundred years ago, which makes their culture very unique and sometimes illegible.

  • Would I live in Japan?

Much as I’m in love with the culture, the answer would be a no. This is the first time I feel so foreign and so alone. It was obvious we weren’t Asian so I can understand that we caught attention, but everywhere I go, especially in onsens, people just kept staring at me. I smiled as I normally do when I make eye contact with someone, but the answer was mostly the same stare.  I feel like I could easily fit in a European country, but in Japan, I will always be a foreigner even if I don’t have the language barrier.

Sorry for keeping this a bit long, but  I still haven’t talked about my favourites: the Japanese gardens, Shinto & Buddhism, and food. And I apologize in advance if any of my views hurt any person. So until next time, Sayanora, or more friendly, ja ne!  😊


Japonya’ya yolculuk…

Yarın akşam saatlerinde Japonya’ya 15 günlük bir seyahate çıkıyoruz! Bunu duyan arkadaşlarımın tepkisi ya “harika!”, ya da “gidecek başka yer kalmadı mı? neden orası?” şeklinde oluyor. İlk olarak neden bu ülkeyi çok sevdiğimden bahsedeyim.

Uzakdoğu’ya ilgim eskiden beri olsa da, Japonya’ya ilgim yaklaşık altı yıl önce başladı. O zamanlar yazdığım blogda şöyle yazmışım:

Dedim ki, belki okuduğum kitaplar beni yalnız yapıyordur. daha az yalnız kitaplar okuyayım dedim. Raftan bir kitap aldım, “yalnız yaşayan bir radyocu…”, “yalnızlığı en iyi çözümleyen yazar”… Ne yapayım, hiç mi kitap okumayayım, yoksa pembe dizi mi okusam?

Neyse, haruki murakami ilişti gözüme, ne zamandır merak ederdim bu adamı, aldım bir kitabını. Babam göz attı şimdi. En son lisede (60lı yıllara tekabül ediyor) dünya klasiklerini okumuş, gazeteyi okumaya tersinden başlayan bir adamdan bahsediyoruz. 10 dakika boyunca okudu. Ne hakkındaymış baba? dedim, güzel miymiş?

– Şimdi bi başından okudum, adam kızı yemeğe davet ediyordu, sonra biraz sayfa atladım, giyiniyolardı. Birlikte olmuşlar yani o arada. Adam dedi ki “bütün kadınlar soyunurken güzeldir, ama sen giyinirken de güzelsin” böyle bişi.

Babamla bu konuları konuşmak yetmezmiş gibi, adam gayet devam ediyor, onlarda bu işler ne kolay değil mi şeklinde.

En azından, kitabın yalnız olmadığını öğrenmiş oldum.

Murakami’yi okumaya, Haşlanmış Harikalar Diyarı ve Dünyanın Sonu kitabı ile başlamıştım. Üniversite yıllarımdaki Kafka takıntımdan sonra (bkz: yalnız kitaplar) akşamları yatağıma uzanıp Murakami okumak, onun büyülü evrenine yol almak benim için yetişkinliğe adım atmanın ve kolejde çalışmanın (diğer bir deyişle paralı köleliğin) dayanılmaz ağırlığını biraz olsun unutturan tek şey olmuştu. Daha sonraları, bu ağırlığın üzerine bir de babaannemi kaybetmenin acısı eklendiği zamanlar, bir arkadaşım beni neredeyse zorla Japonca kursuna götürdü, kafamı dağıtayım diye. İyi ki de götürmüş, Japonca maceram dört beş ay sürse de, bu kültüre olan ilgim ve hayranlığım devam etti. Japonya da gezip görmek istediğim yerler içinde hep bir numarada yerini aldı. Gerçi o yıllarda benim için pasaport almak bile bir hayaldi.

her şeyin müzesini yaptıkları gibi, tabii ki shinkansen’in de müzesi olacaktı.

Bu Japonlar öyle ilginç ki, hem çok mutevazı gibi duruyorlar, hem de ne yaparlarsa en iyisini yapıyorlar. Tren mi yapacak, saatte 400-600 km arası giden Shinkansen’i yapıyorlar, hem de 1964 senesinde. Savaşa mı girecekler, Pearl Harbor baskını (savaşın her türlüsüne karşı olduğunu belirteyim de yine). Öğle yemeğini evden mi getirecek, bento kutusu yapıyor. Estetik duygusu tavan yapmış durumda.

tatlış (kawaii) bento örneği.

Minimalizm konusunda da dünyaya öğretecekleri çok şey var. Örneğin bir ryokan (geleneksel pansiyon) konseptleri var ki en çok merak ettiklerimden biri. Yatak bile yok, yere bir şilte seriliyor ve sabah olduğunda kaldırılıp dolaba konuyor. Oda epey bir boş gözüküyor, hiçbir aksesuar yok. İlginç bir şekilde de en pahalı oteller buralar. O nedenle iki geceliğine gideceğimiz Miyajima’da ryokan’da kalmaya karar verdik. Az bir zaman da olsa enteresan olacağa benzer. Bu arada tabii Marie Kondo’yu unutmamak lazım, beni minimalizmle tanıştıran, yakın zamanda Türkçeye çevrilen “Derle Topla Rahatla” kitabının yazarı.

Kalacağımız ryokan’daki odalardan biri.

Ama dediğim gibi her şeyin ekstremini seviyorlar. Alışverişin de öyle. Youtube’da sadece Japonya’da alışverişe özel bir dolu video var. Şu mağazalardan neler alınır tarzı. Bir milyoncuda (onlar 100 yenci diyor :)) bile ne alabileceğini anlatan video yapmışlar.  Ağzım sulanmıyor desem yalan olur. Bir kere en büyük zaafım olan kırtasiyenin anavatanına gidiyorum. Bir Pilot Iroshizuku mürekkebi olmuş Türkiye’de 300 lira. Orada 50 lira (onun dışında da dünyanın en pahalı ülkesi!). Dünyanın hiçbir yerinde bulamayacağım mürekkepler, dolmakalemler, defterler, kağıtlar, adını bile duymadığım bir dolu kırtasiye aracı… Kendimi nasıl tutacağım hiç bilmiyorum! Halbuki magnet bile almayacağım bu seyahatten diyordum ama sanırım gittiğimden biraz daha dolu bir bavulla döneceğim.

Önceki ufak seyahatlerimizde biraz hazırlıksızdık. Yer yön duygumuz çok kötü olduğu için de kaybolup aynı yerlerden defalarca geçip vakit kaybettik. Bu sefer Koray olayı farklı bir boyuta taşıdı ve bize neredeyse yüz sayfalık manyak bir plan hazırladı. Gideceğimiz her yerden diğer bir yere gidişine harita bile çıkardık. Yine de kaybolmamız olası, yıllardır Kızılay metrosunda doğru çıkışı bulamayan ben, Japonların bile kaybolduğu şu metroyla nasıl başa çıkacağım bilmem:

haksızlık etmeyeyim: Ankara metrosuna bir iki istasyon daha eklendi son yıllarda.

En çok merak ettiğimse tapınaklar. Japonya’da Budist ve Şinto tapınakları var. Belki de şu kırmızı kapılarından, Şinto tapınakları ilgimi hep çekmiştir. Bir yerden sonra bayacak mı bilmiyorum ama, sanırım elli kadar tapınak var listemizde, çoğu Kyoto’da olmak üzere.

Kimi No Na Wa adlı anime filmdeki Şinto tapınağı. Film de bir harika.

Aslında heyecanlı olduğum kadar endişeliyim de. Dil bariyeri beni biraz korkutan bir şey, çünkü hem turistlerin yaptığı aktivitelerden ziyade yerel halkın takıldığı yerleri bulma peşindeyim, hem de Japonca anlamak ya da derdimi anlatabilmek konusunda biraz umutsuzum. Yerel halkın, aynı Türkiye’deki gibi, İngilizcelerinin pek yeterli olmadığını okudum çoğu yerde. Umarım bu konuda çok zorluk yaşamayız.

Sanırım geri döndüğümde bir dolu yazı ile bir süre kafanızı şişireceğim. Şimdilik Sayanora!

Where do you call “home”?

Since I was born, I have lived in 8 different places. Come to think of it, the place where I most felt at home was the dormitory, where I spent four years at university. It was the smallest place ever, four beds( two bunk beds actually), four closets and a long table with four chairs across the beds. As you can imagine I had a very limited supply, just clothes and books. Very few sentimental items and that’s all. I was living the minimalist lifestyle before I knew about it and I recall these times as the happiest of my life. I was very productive, wrote a lot, studied very effectively and was quite social.

Why do I need to remember those times today?

Because I am at a crossroads. I may live abroad  if I want to, but for that I need to shift my career a little bit and maybe never go back to my native country. And it made me think if I ever feel at home here.

This decision also made me reconsider my belongings, so much can fit in a suitcase, right? Which of these will certainly make it with me I will have to see. And when I actually get there I can be very conscious of everything I buy to create the minimalist living I am up to.

So many possibilities. Along with so many worries. Let’s see what the future brings.