Rich Galen

From Istanbul, Turkey

  • I’ve always known Turkey existed. In fact, I’ve been there two or three times before this, although they were trips to Ankara, not Istanbul.

  • If you are of a certain age – the exact age required is, ironically, uncertain – you know Istanbul from a popular 50’s song by the Four Lads which went:

      “Istanbul was Constantinople

      Now it's Istanbul, not Constantinople …”

      And like that.

  • Constantinople was founded (and, presumably, named) by the Emperor Constantine (it’s good to be the king) when, according to the Lonely Planet folks, in AD 324:

      “He defeated Licinius, Galerius’ successor, at Chrysopolis.”

    Dear Monsieur Mullings:

      Weel theeess be on our final examina-shee-ohn??


      The Striking Students of France

  • Yes. Absolutely.

  • The name of the city was changed to Istanbul in the early 1920’s when Mustafa Kemel – known popularly as Atatürk (Father of Turks) – destroyed what was left of the Ottoman Empire and created the independent Turkey which exists today.

  • Want to know how to get to Istanbul?

    No. Really. We don’t …

  • From New York, you sail toward Spain. When you get near Spain head south and go between Europe and Africa through the Strait of Gibraltar and enter the Mediterranean Sea heading west.

  • Keep going … keep going … keep going … until you get to Athens, Greece.

  • Turn left.

    … care.

  • Head toward Gallipoli (of movie fame) and into the Dardanelles (which you’ve heard of but never knew where they were) which will carry you into the Sea of Marmara (which you’ve NEVER heard of) thence into the Bosphorus Straits which is where Istanbul is. If you keep going you end up in the Black Sea.

  • See?

  • The Bosphorus separates Europe from Asia. Istanbul is on both sides. Much as the Danube separates Buda from Pest in Hungary.

    Well, aren’t WE just the little world traveler?

  • The best way to enjoy your stay in Istanbul is to get a room at the Ritz Carlton. You lose a little something in local color, but many of the staff speak Turkish, so I think that counts. And they have 24 hour room service which many youth hostels, I’m told, do not.

  • One of the must-do things is to go to the Grand Bazaar. The Grand Bazaar is made up of a million small shops all selling approximately the same four items: Tschakes, jewelry, leather coats, and spices. There are miles (kilometers) of walkways leading past acres (hectares) of these little stalls.

  • In front of each one is a guy who tells you that he has the best merchandise, that you must come in and look at the special items he has hidden for someone with your exquisite taste, but you are under no obligation to buy anything.

  • This carnival barker act is repeated so often that after you’ve been hectored for a few hectares the next tout will come up and say, “now it’s my turn: I have in my shop …”

  • The one thing I couldn’t find was Turkish Taffy, but I suspect (if you’re old enough to remember the song you’re old enough to remember this) that the Bonomo candy company invented that particular treat, not Constantine nor Atatürk.

  • Also, in Istanbul is the US consulate which, at this writing is manned – or, more precisely, womanned – by a career Foreign Service Officer named Deborah Jones.

  • Counselor Jones is a delight. A Turkish delight. She has been in the service of our nation for coming up on 25 years in posts which include South America and just about every caravan stop in the Middle East. She is brilliant, forthcoming, attractive, and witty.

  • As the official face of the United States in Istanbul, we are being very, very well served.

  • I know what you think about the US State Department, but that’s the people hanging around, looking important, in Washington.

  • The men and women who are out at the pointy end of the stick, in places like Istanbul, on our behalf are a different breed. The are worthy of our support and admiration, and they get both from me.

  • On a the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Wow! Lot’s of stuff.

      The lyrics to the Constantinople song;

      A short discussion as to how the Bosphorus got its name;

      A map which shows you what I’m talking about;

      What Bonomo’s Turkish Taffy means;

      A Mullfoto of the Bophorus;

      And a Catchy Caption of the day.

  • Rich Galen

    Rich Galen has been a press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. Rich Galen currently works as a journalist and writes at