Category: Culture

Where Leonard Nimoy’s Famous Vulcan Salute Came From

This post is a part of Geek Takeover Week 2016.

chisinau jewish cemetary

This above is a photo from Chisinau, Moldova’s Jewish Cemetery, the largest in Europe. But you may be noticing something familiar about the hand gestures on this tombstone – especially if you’re a Star Trek fan. Yes, this is the famous Vulcan salute, created by Leonard Nimoy, during the show’s second season.

It was a gesture he made spontaneously but has described its origin from his childhood. Nimoy, whose parents were Jewish immigrants from Ukraine, took him to services at a local synagogue in Boston. He recalled as a child being told not to look at the kohen (priests) during one particular part of prayers each service – but of course his curious Vulcan mind took a peek.

spock live long and prosper

This gesture of the two hands is what he saw and it’s the inspiration for the now famous Vulcan salute.

So, to you my friends and fellow travelers, live long and prosper. To which the appropriately Vulcan response is, peace and long life.

This post originally appeared on foXnoMad Tales.

What It’s Like To Live In Turkey As Foreigners, 13 Years After A Dream Come True

This is a guest post Barry and Julia, who sold up in the UK to travel around Turkey for 6 months. They’re still in Turkey, living in Fethiye on the southwest coast. Their blog, Turkey’s For Life is a slow travel and food blog about Fethiye and other parts of Turkey. All of the images in this post are courtesy Turkey’s For Life.

fethiye boats

In the UK, many people dream of moving off to pastures new; moving overseas to those dreamy Mediterranean coastal towns or rural villages where life is going to be relaxed, natural, sunny, perfect.

When we still lived in the UK, almost 13 years ago now, we, along with millions of others would be glued to TV programs like ‘A Place In The Sun,’ where we were fed the dream; watching British couples looking to make the great escape being taken around overseas properties by a glamorous presenter.

Luxury villas with swimming pools, traditional Spanish farmhouses, rural French gites. “Ahhh, we could live there. Just imagine how perfect it would be,” the millions of viewers would say as the couples walked from room to room saying, “Oh, this is a good size. This is bright and airy. 15 acres of land with the property, you say?”

Kabak road ölüDeniz Turkey

13 years ago, after a few holidays there, we had completely fallen for a coastal town in Turkey and when the opportunity came about that we were in a position to jump ship, we took the plunge and bought our own ‘place in the sun.’ (It’s not a luxury villa with a swimming pool in acres of land, by the way!) We actually took the plunge to travel Turkey for a few months, not to live here…but we never left.

After 13 years of life in Turkey, we’ve done a lot, seen a lot and learned a lot…and there’s much further to go.

When Anıl asked us if we’d like to write a guest post for his blog, it was a case of hmm, what to write about. Well how about a few random musings about life in Turkey, in another culture, in a town that mixes local life with backpacker stop off, with package holiday tourism. Musings about how we assumed life would be – and how life actually is.

We’re Going To Be Fluent In Turkish

That was definitely going to happen to us when we moved to Turkey…Oh yeah, we were going to blend in with the locals, speaking fluently in our new language. Well, we’d already picked up a few words and phrases from past visits. Surely, we’d hit ‘fluency,’ at some point. Hmm, well, 13 years in and lots of study later, we can just about get the gist of a newspaper or magazine article. We can bumble our way through a conversation if we know the subject matter.

But put us in a room with lots of random Turkish conversations going on and watch that glaze fall over our eyes. We’ve got some friends who can fall into Turkish conversation with ease (why oh why can’t we do that), we’ve got some friends who can just about manage a ‘hello, how are you’ and we’ve got lots like us, too. Not all of us are blessed with the language-learning knack, it seems – much as this irritates the life out of us, personally.

Survival tip we give ourselves from this – We go easy on ourselves. Our town is a bit of an anomaly in that a lot of the Turkish residents are fluent in English – and they love to speak English. We actually use our Turkish more when we’re out of town than when we’re at home.

I’m Going To Immerse Myself In All Things Turkish Cuisine

For us, moving to Turkey meant immersion into all things Turkey and Turkish and, especially with the cuisine, that’s what we did. We were almost militant about it, in fact, to the point that we never went to any other type of restaurants or made any other foods at home for perhaps a couple of years! We ate, we read, we asked Turkish friends about Turkish food, we watched them cook and we taught ourselves lots of Turkish recipes.

Full English breakfast? Fish and chips? Restaurants specializing in foods from other countries? They were all off the menu.

bulgur wheat rice

We’re passionate about food and, to be honest, we’re glad we did this. And it wasn’t difficult either – well, Turkish cuisine is ranked among the top 3 cuisines in the world. Why wouldn’t we want to explore and experiment.

Today, our daily diet is predominantly Turkish cuisine but again, over time, we’ve learned to give ourselves a break. As well as oodles of great Turkish eateries – traditional and modern – there are a good few international restaurants in our town so if we fancy an Indian meal, Chinese, Italian or yes, even a plate of good old fish and chips; well, that’s okay occasionally, too.

Our Friends Will Be Turkish. I’m Not Going To Be Part Of The Expat Community

There’s that immersion thing again. No, we didn’t come to live in Turkey to sit in those stereotypical British bars, watching British TV programs via satellite, complaining about the latest increase in local beer prices. We’d made a few Turkish friends from previous visits to the country and they were all we needed, thank you very much.

But a lot has changed in 13 years. When we first came to Turkey there were relatively few expats in our town. That number has fluctuated over the years for lots of reasons but the reality is, our town is good in that it manages to blend so many people in a relatively small space.

A lot of Turkish people work in tourism so they’re comfortable with having so many people around of different nationalities. Is there an ‘expat community?’ Not even sure, to be honest. If ‘expat community’ translates to an ‘us and them’ scenario then that is not the case. Yeah, there are some pockets where the clientele in bars and restaurants is predominantly British – but generally, especially around the town center, it is a whole mix of everyone and that’s where we spend a lot of our time. Inevitably – and thankfully – you meet lots of other people, too. Some live here, some have a place here and are in town often.

paspatur fethiye turkey

We’ve got lots of close Turkish friends but we’ve also got British, Australian, American, Hungarian, Russian, Dutch, German and Danish people in our lives, too – and lucky us that that’s the way it is.

Ahh, But You Don’t Live In The Real Turkey

If we had a lira for every time someone said that to us! We can assure you that wherever you may live or travel to in Turkey, it is very real.

There are coastal tourist areas where beaches, beachwear, bars, nightclubs, restaurants and foreign holidaymakers prevail – and these places might be ‘touristy’ but they are still very real. Cosmopolitan cities, where the high street is packed with designer stores, remote villages in the Anatolian plains where people live off the land and barely see anyone from outside the village, let alone a foreigner. They are also the real Turkey. It’s all the real Turkey; it’s just that each place is very different.

istanbul turkey fishing

We Can Still View Turkey Through (Slow) Travelers’ Eyes

One of our favorite places in Fethiye is the otogar (intercity bus station). Even after 13 years, we still get excited at the sight of all the buses coming and going and the company offices listing all their destinations – we really can just take our pick. Somewhere an hour or so down the road or a 20+ hour overnight bus journey. Where to next…

Turkey is a vast country. Because we live here, we have the luxury of being able to practice what we preach on our blog – slow travel; attempted immersion into many of the places we visit. There is so much out there to see and do and absorb and if we listed everywhere we’ve been, it might look pretty impressive…but we’ve hardly scratched the surface. Each place we go to – some we visit time and again – comes with its own pleasures, rewards and challenges.

Living in Turkey has been a huge learning curve and that learning never stops. It’s a case of keep traveling, asking, listening, reading, being open and the more we learn, the less we realize we know. That’s the best part. Never boring, that’s for sure.

And The Biggest Lesson Of All…

Anıl himself has written a blog post about this subject and, with regards to Turkey, it’s what we try and show in our own blog in every post we write. The biggest lesson of all is that the majority of people in this world are good people and we’re all just trying to live our lives in the best way we can on a daily basis.

Particularly recently, Turkey is often in the news for unpleasant reasons – as it should be – and the same can be said for a lot of other countries in the world, too. (I’m actually writing this post in complete sadness on a day of national mourning – the day after the terrorist attack on Atatürk Airport in Istanbul.)

The problem with such international media coverage is that you only get to see those countries when an atrocity occurs, a disaster or when its leader makes a newsworthy statement. All those billions of good people mentioned in the above paragraph, who are just getting on with their everyday lives, get swallowed up in that and we forget they exist. But those good people are the ones who are going to make your experience in Turkey – and other countries, too – memorable for all the right reasons. I hate to use the cliche but if you do a stint in Turkey, you’ll know why ‘Turkish hospitality’ is a phrase used so often.

izmir turkey

As two people living in a country where lots of people currently fear to travel, all we can say is this country – and elsewhere in the world – has so much to offer. Yes, use the media to make yourself aware of what’s happening in a country but also get down to ground level, too. Read blogs (there are lots of us bloggers in Turkey – travel, food, politics, random musings), talk to people who live here (social media is a wonderful thing), do your homework…and that’s when to make the decision about whether or not you want to go off and see for yourself. You never know, you could end up living there…

Thank you very much Julia and Barry for sharing your experiences living in Turkey with us. If you have any questions for Barry or Julia, you can ask them in the comments below and find them at their blog Turkey’s For Life, on Facebook, and @TurkeysForLife on Twitter.

A Photo Essay Of The Iconic Ortakoy Mosque (Büyük Mecidiye Camii) In Istanbul, Turkey

ortakoy mosque

Istanbul is a city of cliches, phrases that are easier to repeat rather than trying to explain how intricate and unique it is across 39 districts. Like this Hubble experiment where scientists pointed the orbiting telescope to an empty patch of space only to discover countless galaxies, in Istanbul, Turkey, there are dense patches of photographic opportunity.

Last year during one of the stops of my See It Like A Local Tour, I turned my lens to the Ortakoy Mosque (Büyük Mecidiye Camii) to see what angles I could find of this iconic sight.

interior ortaköy mosque

Built in 3 years beginning in 1853, the small Ortakoy Mosque was designed by Armenian father and son architects Garabet Amira Balyan and Nigogayos Balyan. (The latter also designed Dolmabahce Palace.) Some of the interior calligraphy was done by then sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Abdülmecid I.

Büyük Mecidiye Camii

The Ortakoy Mosque from the angle above is often what you’ll see in the background of foreign correspondents reports on CNN or travel shows highlighting Turkey.

ortaköy camii

Entry to the Ortakoy Mosque for free. The easiest way to find it is by taking a ferry to Beşiktaş, then hopping a minibus to Ortaköy (Osmanzade Sokak). A 15 minute walk directly from the ferry port is also an option.

Bosphorus Bridge Boğaziçi Köprüsü

To capture this angle, you need to walk around to the sea-facing side.


Aside from the mosque and views of the Bosporus Straight, this part of Ortaköy is one of the best places to try kumpir, a street food, for vegans and carnivores alike.

How To Visit The Star Wars Set Locations In Tunisia

star wars sets tunisia

Parts of original Star Wars trilogy and prequels were filmed across parts of Tunisia. Once production of the movies was done, George Lucas and his production staff decided to leave the sets as they were, in the southern deserts of the country. They’ve sat there ever since, threatened occasionally by the surrounding sands but still accessible to tourists.

Here’s how you can visit the sets yourself, where they are, and the ad-hoc methods needed to plan a trip to the Star Wars sets in Tunisia.

The Set Locations Are Spread Out

There are two major Star Wars set areas, all in the southern half of Tunisia. They are separated by large deserts so you’ll have to plan ahead if you want to see any or all of them. Starting in the west near the city of Tozeur is Mos Espa (shown above) and the Lars Homestead, where Luke Skywalker was raised. Roughly 800 kilometers to the east is Matmata, where the interior of the Lars Homestead was shot. It’s actually a hotel now (called Sidi Driss) where you can spend the night in Luke Skywalkers’ bedroom.

ghorfa complex medenine

Around 40 km from there is Medenine, the Tunisian city whose Ghorfa Complex (shown above courtesy Wikipedia) will be immediately familiar if you recall Liam Neeson testing Anakin Skywalker for midi-chlorians.

There are several other background shot locations like Toshi Station and Sith infiltration landing site, only the most hardcore Star Wars fans might be interested in.

What Was Shot Where

Whether you’re interested in a particular Star Wars prop or simply want to scroll the movies to points where you can yell, “I’ve been there!” here’s a breakdown of where these Tunisian sites appear:

star wars sagaStar Wars: The Complete Saga (Episodes I-VI) [Blu-ray]

amazon buy now

How To Plan Your Trip (Depending On What You Want To See)

Starting in Tunisia’s capital Tunis, you need to decide whether you’re more interested in Tozeur’s sites or those of Matmata or Medenine, since they’re in different parts of the country and not directly connected by rail or road.

tozeur oasis

Getting to Tozeur is fairly straightforward and you’ve got two basic options of either a low-cost direct flight or a 6 hour train ride that’s even less expensive. Once there, I recommend booking your accommodation at Residence Tozeur Almadina. Talk to the owner Tayeb (let him know I sent you) to arrange a ride to Mos Espa and the Lars Homestead. You’ll have to negotiate the price of the 40 minute car ride but it shouldn’t cost more than $40.

tunisia car hire

Getting to Medenine from Tozeur is tricky because there aren’t roads between the two. You can either take a bus to Gafsa, then arrange another bus to Medenine from there. (Car hires can also be arranged but are much more expensive.) Going by road is will take a day, so plan accordingly. Getting to Medenine from Tunis is a little easier: from Tunis Central Station, you’ll book to the last stop on the line, Gabes. Once there, you can take a bus to Medenine or through a hotel in Medenine, hire a car to Matmata (if you’ll be spending the night there). Organized tours from all of these cities are another option.

Safety On The Streets

All of the Star Wars sets, for the most part, are only accessible with a car driven by someone who knows exactly where they are. (In case you were thinking of renting a vehicle yourself.) You may be wondering if it’s safe to travel to Tunisia – despite some click-bait headlines, no, ISIS didn’t invade the Star Wars sets. For those of you traveling with people who aren’t Star Wars fans, you might convince them to come along as there’s a lot else to see in this region of Tunisia, like the oasis surrounding Tozeur.

The Sight You Can Only See In Turkey Every November 10, 9:05am

10 kasim

To many visitors the sudden sound of air sirens all across Turkey might come as a surprise, especially given the sight of office workers emptying into the streets and citizens suddenly standing in somber silence. These are the scenes across Turkey at 9:05 am every November 10th, which becomes a nationwide memorial honoring the founder of the country, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who passed away on the date and time in 1938.

Dramatically traffic comes to a halt even on the two Istanbul bridges that cross the Bosporus, drivers get out of their cars, standing for two minutes of silence next to their vehicles. For those of you visiting Turkey on this day, it’s best to get up early to find a good vantage point to witness the commemoration.

Where To Attend November 10th Ceremonies

In Istanbul, Taksim Square or any of the cafe rooftops directly in front of it, are good locations. Additionally, the Military Museum (Askeri Muzesi) and Dolmabahce Palace although busy, are especially worth visiting on this day.

taksim 10 kasim

In Ankara, Ataturk’s Mausoleum Anitkabir is where to be, Turkey’s For Life has instructions on how to get there. Across other cities in Turkey to put on your itinerary it’s best to get in touch with the local tourism board to find out what events might be taking place. My recommendation for a more local look at November 10th in Turkey would be to get in touch with a nearby public school to arrange a visit for the morning. (They’re more than likely to welcome you.)

As The Moment Comes To An End

Wreaths laid, silence is eventually broken by the Turkish national anthem as life slowly rolls into regular pace. No matter when visiting in the year, you’ll notice enough statues and pictures to make you wonder why Ataturk’s image is everywhere in Turkey. Ataturk’s likeness isn’t a look into the past but a reminder; what he created is a path, for Turks today, to determine their own destiny.


About Anil Polat

foxnomad aboutI'm the blogger and computer security engineer who writes foXnoMad while on a journey to visit every country in the world. I'll show you the tips, tricks, and tech you can use to travel smarter. Read More

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