Travel | Heybeliada Island

Heybeliada Island

You’ll have to forgive me for keeping this post short on words and long on photos. It feels like the only thing I’ve done this week is work, eat, and sleep. But that’s not completely true — at least some of that work involved another trip to Istanbul, two nights on the 31st floor of a fancy hotel, getting upgraded to a suite larger than my apartment, and swimming in a beautiful pool after the day’s meeting was done. It was actually kind of worth arriving at midnight on Monday and catching a cab back to the airport at 6am Wednesday morning.

But I’m not here to talk about my most recent trip — instead I want to go back to my day trip to Heybeliada during my first visit to Istanbul! There are only a few Lira and about a one hour ferry trip separating downtown Istanbul from Heybeliada, the second largest of the Prince Islands. No cars are allowed on the island, so visitors mostly ride bikes or take a ride in the horse drawn carriages (which I wouldn’t especially recommend — those horses did not look like they were treated very well). My friend and I spent the day on foot, which was also wonderful.

We visited on a Saturday, which is prime time for visitors from the city, so the island was overrun with families and children. Unfortunately, despite circling the entire perimeter of the island, we didn’t find any public place to swim that didn’t involve paying a fee. But I did love wandering around and checking out all the beautiful old wooden houses — something of a curiosity in this part of the world!

Travel | Heybeliada Island

Heybeliada Island

Heybeliada Island

Travel | Heybeliada Island

Travel | Heybeliada Island

Travel | Heybeliada Island

Turkish Coffee, Heybeliada Island

Travel | Heybeliada Island

Heybeliada Island

In any case, our visit to Heybeliada was a nice change from the hustle and bustle of the city and a great location for a day trip! If you get going earlier than we managed, you can also visit the other Prince Islands on the same day.  For more photos from my entire trip, click over here.

What’s your favorite day trip in recent memory? 

Travel | A Week in Istanbul

Travel: A Week in Istanbul | No Apathy Allowed

It’s a little funny to write this post about my week in Istanbul when I know that I’ll be heading back there again the day after tomorrow. My (working) vacation had been planned ages ago and then I recently received an invitation to participate in a work meeting in Istanbul this coming Tuesday. So exactly one week after returning to Bremen, I’ll be off again to Istanbul! But before I do, let me share at least some thoughts and photos of the city. 

Unfortunately a bit of my travel excitement and anticipation was dampened by the terrorist attacks that have hit Istanbul and other Turkish cities this year. And indeed another explosion took place near the Grand Bazaar two days after I returned to Bremen. My heart breaks from all the needless suffering and fear, but I am so glad to have the opportunity to visit such a vibrant and energetic city! 

Friends and I stayed in the Alibeyköy neighborhood, which is about 20-25 minutes north of the center. With 15+ million people, the city is enormous and I felt like we expended enormous amounts of energy moving from one place to another. Istanbul has a subway system, but it wasn’t anywhere near our neighborhood, so we were dependent upon buses, which are prone to getting stuck in never ending traffic. Instead of stressing about it, we just went with the flow and didn’t hold ourselves to too strict of a sightseeing schedule.

Armed with guidebooks, cameras, and bottled water, we more or less just wandered the city. I loved walking through Taksim and Galata (modern day Karaköy) with no specific goal in mind. The architecture and dramatic contrasts between modern and medieval, Western and Eastern, fascinated me to no end. We walked over the Galata Bridge during the golden hour and climbed the hilly streets up to the Grand Bazaar — built in the 15th century, it’s one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, housing over 4000 shops in a maze of intersecting passages. Normally huge crowds in tight spaces aren’t my favorite thing, so I was happy to see that we reached the Grand Bazaar near closing time. This let us visit without the thronging masses. 

Another evening we took a ferry from Kabatas to Kadiköy on the Asian side of the city (Istanbul is divided between the European and Asian continents!). And on Saturday we took a day trip to Heybeliada island (which deserves its own separate blog post). Like any other big city, Istanbul can be an exhausting assault on the senses, so my favorite moments were sitting on the balcony of our Airbnb apartment in the evening, listening to the calls to prayer echoing from the surrounding mosques.

 Ok, so that’s enough words for now. How about some photos? 

Travel: A Week in Istanbul | No Apathy Allowed

Travel: A Week in Istanbul | No Apathy Allowed

Travel: A Week in Istanbul | No Apathy Allowed

Travel: A Week in Istanbul | No Apathy Allowed

Travel: A Week in Istanbul | No Apathy Allowed

Travel: A Week in Istanbul | No Apathy Allowed

Travel: A Week in Istanbul | No Apathy Allowed

Travel: A Week in Istanbul | No Apathy Allowed

Travel: A Week in Istanbul | No Apathy Allowed

Travel: A Week in Istanbul | No Apathy Allowed

Travel: A Week in Istanbul | No Apathy Allowed

Travel: A Week in Istanbul | No Apathy Allowed

Beautiful, isn’t it? For a few more photos, you can check out my Flickr album — and get a sneak peek of our day trip to Heybeliada, if you can’t wait for my next post!

Have you been to Istanbul? What are your favorite memories of the city? If you haven’t, is Istanbul on your travel wish list?

InstaMeet Hamburg

Rambler Rose ??? #wwim13hh
Rambler Rose. Via Instagram.

So you know I love Instagram, right? It is definitely my very favorite form of social media. And that love has quadrupled since I bought my very first iPhone last fall. So I didn’t think twice about signing up for the InstaMeet Hamburg last month, especially since I had so much fun at the last one I attended a couple of years ago. Even though the weather was unseasonably cold for April, I bundled up as best I could and took the train to our neighboring Hansestadt.

Pretty much as soon as everyone arrived at the meeting point in the Harburg area of Hamburg, it full on started to snow, rain and hail and pretty much didn’t stop for about an hour and a half. Let me tell you that carrying around an umbrella while trying to take photos is a bit of a logistical challenge, especially when your fingers are so cold you can barely make them move. Sigh. Despite the miserable cold though, everyone was pretty goodnatured and made plenty of jokes about Hamburg Schietwetter. We walked through the Harburg harbor area, along the water and through old industrial areas. Right up my alley!

The sheer quantity of photos I took was much lower than at the last InstaMeet, but I still have a few favorites to share with you, plus some outtakes that I like, but which probably won’t make it into my Instagram feed. You’ll also notice that while Instagram is famous for it’s square format, they’ve transitioned to allowing for landscape and portrait photos too (although they still appear square in your thumbnail feed).

Can't believe these tulips have survived and thrived in the sidewalk cracks of Harburg! #wwim13hh
Can’t believe these tulips have survived and thrived in the sidewalk cracks of Harburg! Via Instagram.

One final photo from the #wwim13hh before I sign off for the evening... (With more to come tomorrow!)
Via Instagram.

Half and half. ? #wwim13hh
Half and half. Via Instagram

Rain, snow, hail and a tiny bit of sun during today's Instameet in Hamburg. I'm only now starting to get the feeling back in my fingers. Brrr... #wwim13hh
Via Instagram.

Hamburg InstaMeet
An InstaMeet outtake

Hamburg InstaMeet
An InstaMeet outtake

Hamburg InstaMeet
An InstaMeet outtake

I didn’t stay as long as I wanted at the InstaMeet because I reached a point where I couldn’t feel my fingers or my feet anymore — but maybe we’ll have more luck with the weather next time! And speaking of next time, I seriously think that the Bremer Instagrammers should be putting together our own InstaMeets too! Who’s in?

Did you attend one of the InstaMeets happening worldwide in April? Did you discover any new Instagrammers I should definitely follow? (And don’t forget to follow me too!)

Balcony Garden | 2016

Balcony Garden 2016 | No Apathy Allowed

Wow, the weather has been absolutely fantastic around here lately! After weeks in April of snow, sleet, and rain, I feel like we’ve definitely earned it. Breakfasts on the balcony for the win! Who knows how long the weather will last, so I took advantage of the warm temperatures to spruce up my balcony and get it ready for the rest of the spring and summer.

Now that the stones on my balcony have been repaired so that they don’t wobble, I bought an outdoor mat to go under the table. The only thing that’s still missing is a sun umbrella, because, wow is that sun intense midday! I already have my eye on a couple, I just have to bite the bullet and figure out transportation. 

Last year I bought a small corner shelf for plants, which I promptly filled up during a sunny Saturday a couple weeks ago. Take a good look at these plants now, because there’s no guarantee that they’ll last the season. ;) Although, two of my geraniums did actually survive the winter in my apartment, so I must be doing something right. Now that it’s more or less finished, I have to say that my little outdoor space makes me so very happy.

Balcony Spring 2016

Balcony Garden 2016 | No Apathy Allowed

Balcony Garden 2016 | No Apathy Allowed

Balcony Garden 2016 | No Apathy Allowed

Balcony Garden 2016 | No Apathy Allowed

Balcony Garden 2016 | No Apathy Allowed

Balcony Garden 2016 | No Apathy Allowed

So, what do you think? I’m pretty happy with the results and am hoping for plenty of sunny days to spend out here. Curious about my previous balconies? Here’s a few posts from both Berlin (2011, 2012, 2013) and Bremen.

InstaFriday | Möbel

Möbel #lovebremen
Via Instagram

I have to admit I’ve been loving the non-marathon training life these past two weeks — getting my balcony ready for summer (more on that in a later post), taking care of a few other household projects (like new chairs for the dining area!), visiting friends, running for fun — in other words, normal life.

With my newly found free time, I’ve also gotten sucked into Snapchat. It took me awhile to figure out what it’s all about, but thanks to posts from A Beautiful Mess and The Alison Show, I think I’ve got the gist. I basically ignore the direct Snapchat messaging (I really do not need another messaging app in my life), but am really loving the storytelling aspect of it. Since everything disappears after 24 hours, I find I’m using it more for the small moments throughout my day which aren’t really Twitter or Instagram worthy, but which I still feel like sharing. You can find me there under: noapathyallowed. Let me know if you’re also on Snapchat!

I’m also planning a couple of fun upcoming trips…  Next week I’ll be heading to Berlin for a few days to attend the Democrats Abroad Global Convention — among other things, to choose our delegates to send to the Democratic National Convention in July. Did you know that US Democrats living abroad have the same number of delegates at the DNC as the state of Wyoming? And we have our own set of issues that we try to get incorporated into the party platform. (So I guess I’m officially outing my political affiliation with this post, but it probably doesn’t come as a major surprise to anyone reading this blog anyway!)

Then in a few weeks, I’ll be heading to Istanbul for both work and fun. I delayed booking anything for awhile because of all the unrest, but the organizers of the conference I’m attending are still holding the event. So I’ve decided to go for it, mostly because I really hate the idea of giving into all the fear. Now I’m super excited and really can’t wait! I’ve been browsing Vayable.com for food and other kinds of tours, but I would love to get your suggestions of things I shouldn’t miss in Istanbul!

P.S. You can tell I’m an Instagram addict because I keep typing Instanbul by mistake. :)

Are you on Snapchat? Or are you resisting succumbing to yet another social media app? Who’s been to Istanbul? Did you love it?

Race Report | Hamburg Marathon

The #HaspaMarathon in Hamburg yesterday started and ended at the convention center. Despite being very distracted, I still managed to take a few photos! ?

Hey guys, can you believe it? I ran the Hamburg Marathon last weekend! And not just any marathon, my first marathon ever. I can actually hardly believe it myself — although the training (since Christmas) seemed to last forever, the race itself was over in a flash. And it was so much fun! I have lots of thoughts and feelings to share about the whole experience, so get settled in for a long post…

Before the race

My parents happened to be in town for a special event on Friday night, so we traveled together the next morning to Hamburg and headed straight to the convention center to pick up my start number. It was absolute chaos and I wasn’t thrilled about having to navigate through it, especially since all I wanted to be doing on Saturday was staying off my feet and relaxing, but there wasn’t really any alternative. Afterwards we found our way to our Airbnb apartment in Eppendorf, did a bit a grocery shopping, and then I took a nap for a couple hours. Actually, I was a bit too nervous to fall asleep, but it was nice to doze for awhile. We ate delicious homemade pasta at engelke, making a last minute reservation after discovering that our Airbnb didn’t have a kitchen (oops, how could I have overlooked that?). After dinner I nervously putzed around with my race bag and discussed spectating strategies with my parents before heading to bed around 9:30pm.

During the days leading up to the race, I began to doubt my abilities to run a full marathon. I mean, my last long run was three weeks prior and it was only 20 miles! I definitely worried that I had lost all of my fitness during my taper. But the morning of the race I decided to let go of all of my worry and just have fun and get caught up in all the pre-race excitement.

One major advantage of having the start and end of the marathon at the Hamburg convention center is that we had a warm place to get ready and wait around before the race. I found myself a clear spot, changed into my race outfit, slid my energy gels into my pockets and ate half a banana. I also must have used the port-a-potties at least four times before the race — thanks to plenty of hydrating and lots of nerves! Finally I dropped off my bag at bag check and left the warmth of the convention center to brave the winds and cool temperatures in the starting block.

Hamburg Marathon

During the race

Since I really had no idea of what to expect of my body for those 26.2 miles, I told myself to think of the marathon as three different races — the first 13 miles, the next 7 miles, and then the final 6.2 miles — and this really helped keep me from getting too overwhelmed by all the miles in front of me.

My plan was to take it easy for the first half, enjoy the sights and sounds, and then reevaluate. And honestly, the first half was fantastic! I was relaxed and feeling good.  I carried a small water bottle with me for the first few miles until the water stations appeared along the course, and after that I made sure to drink at most of the water stations. I walked through them in order to make sure I could hydrate properly (drinking out of a cup while running is not so efficient) and I took my energy gels at miles 4, 8, and 12.  Really, the first 13 miles couldn’t have been smoother and I was hanging on to my goal paces pretty solidly and without too much effort. While my mile paces varied between 10:28 and 11:16, my 5K splits were pretty steady (33:43, 33:37, 33:18, 33:26).

I also saw my parents around the halfway mark, which was a nice boost of energy and really helped me mentally break up the race. Up until that point I had been debating back and forth about whether I should give my folks the light jacket that I had been running in. When the sun was shining and the air was still, it was a bit too warm. But then there would be these stretches where the sun would disappear and the wind would howl and I would need to zip my jacket up all the way. So I ended up keeping it, and spent the whole race zipping it up and down thanks to the crazy Hamburg spring weather.

While the first half was physically and mentally a breeze, I told myself to make sure to keep focused during the miles leading up to the 20-mile mark. I wanted to run strong, but I also wanted to avoid “hitting the wall”, which is common at around 20 miles if you don’t pace yourself properly. I kept my pace steady without too much effort, switched over to a sports drink at the water stations, and had two more energy gels at miles 16 and 20. I also used a port-a-potty for the first time during a race. It wasn’t urgent, but when I saw an empty one with no line at mile 16, I dashed in and out as fast as I could. My mile paces stayed in the same range as during the first half (10:23 to 10:46), and my 5K splits stayed as steady as ever (33:16, 33:34).

Once I finally hit 20 miles, I did a little happy dance to celebrate the fact that every mile after this point would be a new distance record for me and totally uncharted territory!  I continued with the sports drinks at the water stations and at around mile 22 I grabbed a bit of banana that they were offering on the course because I was getting hungry. At about mile 23 I saw my parents again, not too far from our our Airbnb apartment, which gave me another great boost of energy!

For these last 6.2 miles, I never let myself think about all six miles at once — I forced myself to stay completely in the mile I was in and give that mile everything I had. Since I was still feeling good and strong, I dropped my guard a bit and finally let my paces get a little faster in order to burn off all my nervous energy. I completely surprised myself with paces ranging from 9:39 to 10:07, and 5K splits of 32:05 and 31:27. Although I was certainly tired, I never felt like I was running on empty. Instead, I enjoyed passing just about every other runner around me for those last six miles and I crossed the finish line in 4:38:12 — elated to have completed my first marathon and totally satisfied with my time.

File 17-04-16 19 36 00.jpeg

After the race

Wow, I was so happy to cross that finish line! I could hardly believe that I had done it — and that I had actually enjoyed it! I spent the rest of the day eating just about everything I could get my hands on, walking at the same pace as my 72-year-old father, wincing while I was going down stairs (if you haven’t seen it already, check out this hilarious video), and traveling back to Bremen with my folks. All in all, a perfect day!

That was exactly one week ago. It took just a few days for the soreness to subside, but I gave myself the whole week off from running for both my mental and physical recovery. I’m already contemplating my next marathon — although it won’t be before next year — and thinking about what I would do differently. Now that I have gotten over the mental hurdle of knowing I can conquer the distance, I know I could definitely improve my time. I think my race day strategy worked perfectly, but I could kick my training paces up a notch. But there’s plenty of time to figure that out. For now, I’m just enjoying the fact that I can finally call myself a marathoner!

What do you guys think — marathons are awesome, or marathons are for crazy people? Would you run one (again)? What was your first marathon like?

April Love | Dear Books

April Love: Dear Books |No Apathy Allowed

As a child, one of my favorite places in the world was the local library. I loved selecting a stack of books and taking them up to the librarian to be checked out with my own library card — watching her stamp the due date in each and every one and then sliding them back to me to take home. I even dreamed of working at the library, re-shelving books (my little brother actually snagged that job for awhile in high school). I read every single book I could find by Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume and Lois Lowry, then worked my way through the Baby-Sitters Club and all of Christopher Pike’s books, and sometimes started it all from the beginning again. Back in the days before Goodreads and Amazon and everyone on the internet telling you what you should read, all you had was the card catalog and your favorite, trusted authors to read over and over again.

These days, books are still my happy place, my escape, and where I go to discover new ideas and realize just how small and just how large the world really is. Whether novels or non-fiction, the common stories and narratives that everyone carries around within them inspire me to search for connections I didn’t even know existed.

My heart skips a bit every time I think about the whole universe of books out there I haven’t read yet, and I hope this love affair never changes.

What do books mean to you? Is it a love story or a bit of a struggle?

This post is part of Susannah Conway’s April Love, a series of love letters spanning the month of April.