Countries Worldwide Urging Travelers To Avoid Istanbul

This has been a tough summer where watching or reading the news might make you want to stay indoors for a bit. While terrorists attacks give some pause to rethink their travel plans, a military coup and political upheaval is another realm of uncertainty. There’s no set of guidelines if you’re caught in the middle of one. My rule of thumb to find a bar, order some drinks and wait it out doesn’t hold up with coups.

With the failed coup in Istanbul and Ankara, the U.S., Canada, Australia and United Kingdom are some of the countries urging travelers to stay away for the time being.

The U.S. State Department updated their travel warning for the region saying, “In light of the July 15 coup attempt and its aftermath, we suggest U.S. citizens reconsider travel to Turkey at this time.”

Canadians, as many foreign governments have done, urged citizens in Turkey to shelter in place and contact their consulate in Istanbul. Most flights were diverted Friday and Saturday away from Ataturk Airport.

Australia had this to say to their travelers: “We continue to advise Australians to exercise a high degree of caution in Turkey overall and to reconsider their need to travel to Istanbul and Ankara … Higher levels apply in some parts of Turkey.”

British Airways suspended all flights on Saturday. On Sunday when flights started up, they expected prolonged delays. This begs the question, who would still want to go to Turkey shortly after a major political event where hundreds died, thousands were arrested and most businesses decided to close? They must really want to see the Blue Mosque.

If I were to rank the reasons not to travel to a certain country, political coup would be second.

  1. Act of God (Earthquake, Hurricane, Typhoon)
  2. Political Coup
  3. Economic Crisis (i.e. Venezuela)
  4. Major Pandemic of Infectious Disease
  5. Soccer Riots
  6. Terrorist attacks

That last point, you can read the statistics over and over, but you being the victim of a terrorist attack are minuscule. Then again, having your head of a swivel every time you step outside on your travels is not a great way to enjoy your stay. As I’ve said before, if you decide to not travel to France, Turkey, the U.S., Beirut, etc., nobody will think less of you.

As for Istanbul or Cappadocia, have a wait and see attitude if you are planning to go in the fall, which is a way better time to go than the summer. The summers can be brutal temperature wise. That was my attitude in 2013 during the protests in Taksim Square. By the time I got there in October, all was well, even though I saw a few tanks in the streets juuuuuuust in case something were to go down.

Sleep No More Heading to Shanghai in December

Once intended for a limited run in New York, Sleep No More has become a permanent attraction enjoyed by locals, visitors and repeat patrons. It has spawned a new kind of theatrical immersive entertainment that is often intimidated, but never reaching the artistic heights and emotional experience that the Punchdrunk crew has created.

I’ve only done it once in August 2011, a few months after it opened that May. Meaning, I was into it before it became popular. Later, I went to Punchdrunk’s second production, 2013’s The Drowned Man, in London. Even though that experience was more to my liking (easier to follow, better music), you never forget your first time. I wore my tuxedo on a 90-degree summer night, not knowing fully what was about to happen. Masks? Rooms that change? No dialogue? You’re free to walk around? Nudity? I left disoriented, drenched in sweat and thoroughly amazed — sort of like the first time I made love to a woman.

Punchdrunk announced today their second iteration of Sleep No More will take place in a five-story building in the Jing’an section of Shanghai.  The venue will be called the McKinnon Hotel, a riff on New York’s McKittrick Hotel.

As for the cast, creator Felix Barrett will use some Sleep No More original actors along side local Chinese performers. The show is set to open in December. Consider me curious if they try to re-create the New York production completely or try to put more of an international spin to it.

 

 

You Don’t Need This — The Beer Bike Tour

If you live in or near a major metropolis, you’re bound to find tourist transportation in various forms. You have the open-top sightseeing buses, the bike tour and the dork-tastic segway tours. Hey, at least they found a decent use for those things.

If you’re into beer like me, you have the most idiotic of all the tourist vehicles, the beer bike or trolley. It’s those eight-ten seater pedal vehicles you’ll see in cities usually being used by drunk dudes and led by some idiot tour guide playing music a 12-year old girl would listen to. The bikes go to bar to bar where the riders drink unresponsibility and will probably puke after two hours. If you’re invited to a bachelor/bachelorette party that hired one of these things, I hope you turn them down and loose the wedding invitation. Also, if you drive by them in your car, resist the temptation to drive them off the road.

I bring these contraptions up because the forward-thinking city of Amsterdam have banned them. A 6,000-signature petition led to the ban that will go into effect next year. “We find the beer bike a horrible phenomenon. It causes nuisance. They are often made up of hen parties [or] groups of naked men or women with an inflatable penis. People are forced to flee when a beer bike with screaming people comes off the bridge. The city is turned into one big theme park, ” said Els Iping, president of the Friends of Inner Amsterdam Federation.

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The thinking in Amsterdam is simple — the streets are narrow and made for single occupant bikes, not these behemoths. I’ve seen them in Prague, where the streets are mostly cobblestones. Combine that with a few boots of pilsner and you get the trip to the hospital you deserve.

Besides the inherent douche-dom that comes with booking one of these tours, you can easy book a beer tour by van or just plan out ahead of time. Depending on your time and budget, the beer tours via van saves you time since it’s on a schedule and money without having to pay a taxi or uber three or four times. Even better, the beer and tip comes with the price. I’ve done it in Seattle, where the breweries are spread around outside the city limits.

 

 

Recapping My Trip Through Spain, Morocco and South Africa

It turns out you can get eight months of blog posts out of a 32-day journey. I detailed almost every aspect of the trip, even down to the toilets in the hotel rooms. In case you’re just joining me, here’s what you missed…

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Bilbao:

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San Sebastian

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Granada:

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Sevilla:

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Marrakesh:

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Casablanca:

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Cape Town:

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Exploring the Maboneng Precinct in Johannesburg

With my last afternoon in Johannesburg, in South Africa, in Africa and my whole journey, I headed to the Maboneng Precinct. Like many areas of Joberg, a few former derelict blocks that were once a wasteland of poverty, crime and boarded-up warehouses have becoming a gleaming go-to hangout for artists, chefs, business owners and locals.

Located a 10-12 minute drive from the other well-known hip neighborhood, Braamfontein, and a fifteen-minute Uber ride from the Stanley Beer Garden, Maboneng is an amazing example of the turnaround that the city is undergoing.

The main reason to visit is the Sunday afternoon Arts on Main. Like the popular Neighbourgoods Market on Saturdays, it attracts food vendors, artists, clothes & jewelry makers, musicians and vintage clothes sellers. In fact, you’ll see some of the some vendors at both weekly events.

The Arts on Main has a bit more to explore around the buildings. The center courtyard of the main block includes an Ethiopian cafe, a juice bar, a cocktail bar and benches to enjoy the African sun. On the corner are my friends at Origin Coffee Roasters. It was pretty well attended when I went, but some reason, I took a  photo when nobody was in the courtyard. Believe me, the stroller brigade was strong that day.

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You can head up to the second floor to explore art galleries, a book seller and large room with seating where they hold readings and events. The art dealer upstairs has some unique offerings. He gave me the hard sell on the Hitchcock painting, but it wouldn’t fit in my overhead bin on the flight home.

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If you’re looking for some easy to transport, affordable gifts, head to the storefront of Iwasshot in Joburg 🙂. It’s a streetware, skate shop, bookstore and photography studio. You can purchase posters, pictures, postcards and key chains that features photography by street kids and at risk students so they could generate an income. I bought a bunch of postcards and key chains featuring graffiti, architecture and street like around the city.

They also have a chalk wall where you leave your mark like “The Earth Has Music  for Those Who Listen.” On the opposite wall is one of those “Before I Die I Want To…” where you write in what you want to do. Pretty much every city has those walls now, and I’m always tempted to write, “Go Out With Your Mom.”

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Food wise, there is so much to choose from. The ice cream guy required a return visit. I tried the best to get something small from each stall, but I had my eye on having some traditional South Africa BBQ. If you go outside and one block down from Arts on Main, you’ll find a small, nameless cafe with a grill outside. This where you can get braii. The word “braii” is the name of the grill, so the type of cuisine is open-ended.

As you can see in my plate, it’s full of meat and starch. You have a T-bone steak, a South African-style of sausage called boerewor, some salad and, even though, it looks like mashed potato, it’s pap. Pap is thick and stiff cornmeal with gravy.

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Also in the area is single-screen movie theater, locally made clothing and the 12 Decades Hotel. I was considering the hotel with its 12 distinct theme removes based on the past 12 decades of style. A couple of blocks away is the Museum of African Design, which was closed on the day I was there.

With this post, I am done with recapping my month-long trip. Time to start planning the next one.

Inside the MuseuMAfricA in Johannesburg

For those looking for a little history and culture and don’t want to pay anything, might I suggest the MuseuMAfricA in Johannesburg. Located in the Newtown section just over the Nelson Mandela Bridge from Braamfontein, the museum is housed in a converted fruits and vegetable market from 1913.

Since it is free, there’s no need to criticize, BUT … it could use a little focus. It’s billed as a history museum, but the ground floor is a little random. To the left, you have a more science-focused exhibit dealing with rock formations in Africa. To the right, you’ll see a recreation of a historic bar.

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There are three levels of exhibits that include art work, African artifacts and rather extensive collection of antique cameras. As owners of a few vintage cameras, I had to take photos of photography equipment.

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The main reason to go to museum is the room filled with giant historical photographs of protests during the apartheid era. It’s one thing to see a 8×10 photograph where you need to lean in, but when you have to lean back of a billboard-sized blow-up photograph, then it came be memorable.

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The History Behind Joburg Beer

There’s nothing I desire more on a hot South African day than a cold beer made from maize and sour milk out of a paper carton. Add in drinking it out of communal vessel and you have yourself a party.

As far as history tells us, fermentation has been since about 10,000 years B.C. , around the time aliens built the pyramids. Obviously, the Egyptians didn’t have yeast, hops or grains, but they had corn/maize and goat milk. The concoction they created was used for worshiping, weddings and kicking back a few after a hard day’s work.

Fast forward to apartheid era South Africa, it was illegal for blacks to drink beer made by white people. Seriously. People got around this by putting beer in milk cartons to fool the police. Eventually, they made their own beer called Umqombothi or sorghum beer.

In drinking this beer, there’s a ritual that goes with it. The beer is placed in a large wooden container. The first person to drink must get down on one knee, praise their ancestors and drink. Then the bowl is passed around.

Here’s me drinking the beer at a shebeen in Soweto:

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And here’s my reaction, my friend to the left was a bit puzzled:
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It takes like spoiled milk with curds in it … and it has been drank this way for centuries. The alcohol content is about 1% to 3%, so don’t expect a buzz. That doesn’t stop the makers from putting this warning label on it.

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The beer is still made today to keep up tradition. Besides the Joburg Beer brand, there’s Chibuku, Tlokwe, Leopard and iJuba.