Category Archives: Travel

Rahmi M Koç Museum

I have two days in Istanbul; today I took the ferry from Eminönü, a few stops up the Golden Horn to Haskoy. It took me a little while of wandering around baking hot Eminönü before I found the ferry stop, and then I’d missed a ferry by minutes. So I walked around the back streets, mazes of tiny shops selling all sorts of specialist goods. Around where I was seemed to be hardware, electrical, weighing scales and cash register shops, but also basket-weavers and wood carvers, many of them working at the back of their shop. Love it.

derelict shipyards

After a cup of cay and 20 minutes on the water, from the ferry stop at Hasköy it was a short walk through the park to the Rahmi M Koç Museum, a large museum of transport, industry, commerce and also dolls houses, for some reason. It was a delight if that’s the sort of thing you fancy; quite nice to see massive shiny american cars up close for the first time in my life

and a few of the trains and trams really interested me. First up, the train car used by the Ottoman Sultan himself:

What a handsome chap.

And this, a Fiat La Littorina railcar, a fancy fascist railcar built in Italy. On the “nose” is a small bundle of sticks – the Fasces symbol of Italian Fascism. Stunning design unlike any other train I’ve ever seen – shame about the fascism.

A few Istanbul Trams and their interiors

Elsewhere were exhibits of carriages, invalid carriages, bicycles, motorbikes, motorboats, steam engines and of course Rahmi M Koç himself, the founder of the museum.

Interestingly enough, a display of a shipwright’s workshop

included a sailor’s trunk, from a J. Pinder of North Shields, 1861!

But the pride of place are the Glasgow-built ferry M/V Fenerbahçe, and the fantastic World War 2 era submarine TCG Uluçalireis.

I enjoyed a cup of tea and a pastry on the M/V Fenerbahçe, while I paid 7TL (about £1.50) for a guided tour of the submarine, unfortunately no pictures allowed as it is still operated by the Turkish navy. The tour was entirely in Turkish, and despite the best efforts of the overly-attentive security guard who knew about 4 words of English, I didn’t have a clue what was being explained; but still found the whole thing extremely fascinating.

Then a cup of coffee in the park, whilst Turkish men swatted away an absolutely enormous and terrifying looking Turkish wasp; followed by the ferry ride back, to discover to my utter joy and surprise that the hotel’s fixed my air conditioning. ahhh!


In September, I am due to start work in the Republic of Georgia as a volunteer co-ordinator of the Batumi Raptor Count, in Batumi, a lovely city on the Black Sea Coast near the border with Turkey. I have visited Georgia before, in 2011, and found the people, scenery and food absolutely brilliant, so I am really excited to be returning!

Signaki, in the West of Georgia

They speak Georgian in Georgia (obviously) which looks like this:
მე ვერ წავიკითხე ეს, რომ აღარაფერი ვთქვათ საუბრობს

I do like learning different alphabets, but so far all I’ve ever properly learnt was Cyrillic and Greek; both of which, with Latin alphabet, have loads in common – the “pi” sound is π in Greek and п in Cyrillic, for instance.

Oddly, for someone who went to a urban state comprehensive, I learnt Russian at school. I don’t know why our school taught Russian alongside German and French. Perhaps because Newcastle City Council was run by left-wing commies wanting a youth ready for the inevitable revolution?

Despite lovely Mrs Ivkin’s best efforts and a fascinating school trip to Russia in the mid-90s, I wasn’t very good at learning Russian and only got a D-grade at GCSE. But one thing that did stick with me was the technique we were taught to learn the alphabet, and to learn the alphabet before learning any of the language. It makes things a hell of a lot easier in the long run. In 2004, when I worked in Greece for 6 months, while my colleagues thought I was wasting time, I spent a lot of effort learning the Greek script first.

Cue a few months later, lost in the mountains somewhere near the border with Bulgaria, my colleagues angrily try to work out which town we are in, and completely ignore me as I point out the name on the sign, which they are trying to find on a map, actually just reads “TOWN HALL”

ho ho ho.

I think if given enough time, I could learn the Georgian script, but with only 6 weeks to go, I’m not confident I could start from scratch and pick up enough of the language to get by.. but I already have a tiny bit of GCSE grade D Russian, which is widely spoken across Georgia.

So, armed with The New Penguin Russian Course and the Memrise flashcard-type app on my phone to brush up my Cyrillic, and I am pleasantly surprised at how much I can remember, and how enjoyable I am finding it. And Russian is slightly more useful than Greek!

As for the beautiful Georgian script – there’s a memrise app for that.

And you have NO IDEA how excited I am at the promise of eating ხაჭაპური once more.