Adventures of a teenage author...

This is Marta, author of the Darkwoods series and of Marta's Blog. I created this blog specifically for blogging about my 2015 study abroad adventures in Europe, but it's becoming the blog for all my travels. I hope you enjoy all the pictures and stories!

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Olympia - Washington's Capitol

Happy Fourth of July!

I realize this isn't foreign travel, but I think it fits better here than on my writing blog. And anyway, I was here as part of my visa-getting process for China, so this kind of counts as travel.

Besides, my blog needs a taste of America, especially on the Fourth of July.

A reasonable non-Washingtonian might expect Seattle to be the capitol of Washington, but it is not. The capitol is Olympia, which is on the crossroads between the peninsula and the rest of the state. You can see it here:


I've been to Olympia twice, I think, for various school field trips, but a few weeks ago I was in Olympia to get paperwork signed and discovered that the capitol works much faster than the DMV, so I had an extra couple of hours to wander around and learn some more. So, as is my custom, I did a bit of walking, and looking, and re-learning.

Welcome to my home state capitol.

About the Capitol

The capitol campus is comprised of five buildings; I went into two of them. All of them are designed in the same way the founding fathers designed their mansions and government buildings, which is to say, designed to resemble Greco-Roman architecture with a healthy helping of gardens.


Because it's Washington, we have to have greenery around everything. Here are some pictures of the gardens in front of the Capitol:

Here's a view of two of the buildings from the gardens out front. That temple-looking building is called the Insurance Building, and it's one of the five buildings associated with the capitol campus; the dome to the right is the Legislative Building.

Inside the gardens

Temple of Justice

The Capitol campus houses the three branches of Washington's state government - Executive, Legislative, and Judicial (sound familiar?). The Judicial branch (the branch I hear the most about - my parents are both lawyers) is the system of courts and judges. The highest part of the Judicial Branch is the state's Supreme Court. Their main courtroom, as well as the official law library of the state, is in a building called the Temple of Justice.

I assume that referring to it as a "Temple" also goes back to the Founding Fathers and the era of the Enlightenment; Reason, Justice, Liberty, etc., all achieved venerated status in that time period. The Temple of Justice was begun in 1912 and finished in 1920 (after WWI, so well after the Enlightenment was over). 

The Dome and the Temple of Justice face each other across a huge roundabout, so here's a picture of the Temple from the steps of the Dome:

These first pictures are from the beautiful, beautiful law library:

There's the Capitol Dome from the window.

I love this picture; the scales are the symbol of justice, so they're all over the courthouses everywhere, but in the background is the legislative building. 

This is a view the other way, looking down at Capitol Lake. 

I love this picture, too. I didn't know it when I took this picture, but that room you can see through the door, across the entryway, is the courtroom. 
I was trying to maintain some decorum, so I didn't snap too many pictures, but these two are of the beautiful marble work inside the building (but I think the green and pink around the ceiling is plaster, not marble). 

This looks like the marble inside the Legislative Building, which is Alaskan marble

The Capitol Dome

Also known as the Legislative Building, the Capitol Dome is that beautiful dome you've been seeing. Like the rest of the Capitol campus, it was designed to resemble early American architecture, which was designed to resemble Greco-Roman architecture. The Dome itself is the tallest stone dome in North America, and the fifth tallest in the world. 

Side trip to Seattle: The whole Capitol campus in Olympia was designed by two brothers from New York, who won a national competition. I didn't know that until I got into the tour (tours of the capitol are free, by the way), but when I first heard that, I almost laughed. The story about the first permanent settlement where Seattle is now is that the settlers sailed into Elliot Bay, and as they built their settlement, they named it "New York". The Duwamish Indians (the tribe my Seahawk bear is named after) had heard about the original New York, and they looked at the new settlement and called it "New York Alki", which means "New York By and By" (or "one day", "some day", etc.). Well, the first winter rains came through and that little settlement was swamped, so the settlers wound up moving to where Seattle is now, and the place of their original settlement is currently a famous residential neighborhood called Alki. The point of this side trip is that New York has been influencing Washington in a few ways throughout our history. But, you'll also see a few things in here that are influenced from places to the west as well.

Back to Olympia, now. First, the Dome from the Temple of Justice:

Every state has two statues in D.C. of important people from our history. These next two statues are copies of Washington's.

First, Mother Joseph:
Mother Joseph was a nun and, if I remember correctly, a trained nurse. I dressed up as her for a school project when I was in fourth grade!

Dr. Marcus Whitman, who Whitman University in Walla Walla, Washington is named after. Dr. Whitman and his wife, Narcissa, were medical missionaries to a variety of tribes in the southeastern corner of Washington, where Walla Walla is now. His wife Narcissa and another missioanry wife, Eliza Spalding, were the first women to cross the Rocky Mountains, and their settlement was the first permanent American settlement in Washington. During an outbreak (I think of measles), white children treated by Dr. Whitman survived, while the tribal children he treated did not. Thanks to modern science, we know now that this is because tribal peoples did not have the immune system that Europeans did, but the tribes did not know this, so they assumed that Dr. Whitman was deliberately letting tribal children die. In response, one tribe attacked the Whitman's mission house and killed Dr. Whitman, his wife Narcissa, and eleven other people in what is now called the Whitman Massacre

Now, the central part inside:

That chandelier comes from New York. It has an entire steel frame behind the plaster in the wall to hold it up!

All the marble in this picture is Alaskan marble, along with most of the marble throughout the building. There is marble from all around the world in the building, but most of it is from Alaska.
There are four of these bowls around the main area. They are "lit" (turned on) when the government is in session. This is another throwback to Ancient Rome - according to the tour guide, similar torches in Rome would be lit when the Senate was in session.

These are flags of some of the counties in Washington (Washington has 39 total). If I remember the tour guide correctly, the green one on the right is King County, where I live!

Imagine this, parallel, and you have some idea of how magnificent the inside is. 

This is the room where the state's Senate meets (again, sound familiar?)

The Governor's Ballroom. This is where a new governor is sworn in.

The gold for the letters in this curtain is the only real gold in the entire building. That's to make the letters stand out more.
In case you were wondering, yes, Washington was named after George Washington himself. So, there will be lots of George Washington in these pictures.

This is the room for the House of Representatives, from a balcony. If I remember correctly, this marble came from France. My grandfather used to work in this room!
Do you see the lettering in that green band going around the top? Each one of those panels has the name of two of Washington's counties, one from west of the mountains, and one from east of the mountains, to remind the state that the mountains don't divide us into two states.

Here's King County. They share it with Ferry.

George Washington!

Back in the Senate room. This marble comes from Germany. Notice that they also have the names of the counties going around the top.

More George Washington - on the doorknobs!

Capitol Lake

This is the lake that's downhill of the campus.

The Dome from the lake.
I went walking around the lake and found these little placards on the ground, talking about each of the counties. They go in alphabetical order. Here's King County's:

War Memorial

I don't know how to better end this Fourth of July post than with the pictures of a war memorial in front of the campus:

This is a memorial to all Washingtonian men who died in World War I. There are five people in it: a woman, an angel (who may be there to represent Liberty) and three soldiers. The base has writings on it from various sayings about liberty, democracy, etc., but this side is my favorite:

Greater love hath no man than this: that a man lay down his life for his friends

Happy Fourth of July, everyone!

Monday, June 18, 2018

Next Stop - China!

Boy, I didn't think I'd be back here this soon. That's cause for celebration!

So, now that grad school is done, I have to actually work somewhere. The good news? I found a job even before I graduated - in the distant country of China!

The city I'll be teaching in is called Shenyang, and it used to be the seat of the Qing Dynasty. You can see it here:

See the source image

It's the yellow star up there in the northeast corner of the country, kinda by North Korea. Do notice that it's on the other side of the Great Wall.

I'm told Shenyang actually has a pretty heavy expat population (I've even seen pictures of a Koreatown in Shenyang), which means that there are several expat schools in Shenyang. I will be teaching at one of them. The contract I signed is good for one year, but I really plan to be around longer than one year, so here goes another elongated adventure!

I will actually be working, after all, and teachers' first years on the job are notoriously busy, so I don't know how much actual traveling I'll be doing when all is said and done. But, I'm told the staff likes to take group trips out to places, so I'll probably have at least a few posts to share.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Before You Go... Hiking Through the Hills Looking for Ancient Ruins in Western Turkey?

I can't really call this a "before you go to Turkey" post, because I don't think I can comment on Turkey any more than someone can go hiking in an obscure hiking trail in Montana and then comment on America without seeing anything else. Antalya actually reminded me very much of Montana, if Montana had a lot more trees and, well, any ancient ruins anywhere - tons of mountains, beautiful scenery, wonderful people, and a lot of empty space where you couldn't even hear the cars. Somehow, I doubt this was completely representative of most of the country.

Having said that, there are a few things I noticed, and I like doing these posts because it lets me reflect on how much I liked the places I visited. So, for what it's worth, here's my before-you-go-road-hunting list:

There is a wide variety of food

I can't remember a single restaurant we stopped at that didn't have at least three meats (and we are talking about restaurants that didn't even have a flush toilet), and there was quite a variety of spices. The major food groups were all represented at pretty much every meal, so I think I actually ate balanced meals (that's not normal for me). Even their beverages are nice and varied - coffee (in multiple forms), tea, soda, juice, and this drink called ayran (pronounced EYE-run) which is essentially yogurt mixed with water. It's actually pretty tasty!

Turkish Airlines are a NICE airline!

I didn't know this in advance, and I remember when I was in Europe that I tried to avoid taking Turkish airlines (there was a reason why, but I don't remember it). It turns out that I was missing out big time. Turkish Airlines is cheap and also loaded down with entertainment, good food, and lots of nice additions to help the flight go faster. 

There is a lot of security leaving the country

I'm guessing this is because of recent threats, Erdogan, etc., but I went through three security lines in Istanbul, and that was after going through security in Izmir. So, be sure to plan for that when you're booking flights out of Turkey.

On a side note, did you know the Netbook can survive a transatlantic flight in checked baggage? I definitely need to look into getting that thing a new hard drive that actually runs quickly, because it's indestructible!

People in western Turkey are very nice, and they do not care if you can't understand them

I'm thinking mostly of the fellow outside the mosque, but really everyone we encountered was extremely hospitable and friendly. In my memory, it seems as though most of them were smiling most of the time - and I'm not talking about hosts in restaurants (although they were wonderful too), I'm talking about people you pass on the street.

I think you're safe, even as a woman alone - assuming the politics don't get worse

Again, this is for western Turkey. I can't speak for a lot of the country. (If you wonder why I'm making that distinction, I refer you to this post from last year and a map of Turkey that shows Kurdistan and some of the interesting countries on its other borders.) There was also a story at the beginning of May, which I am not linking to because it's that bad, about an American journalist who moved to Antalya, the same part of Turkey we were in, to be with her boyfriend; he began treating her according to Sharia Law after a short while, which included him hitting her and restricting who she could speak with. So, with all that in mind, remember: we were in tourist areas, and we did not stay anywhere long.

I also have a theory that people will treat you more nicely if your a tourist, no matter what country you are in, because you're a guest in their country. I suspect it's human nature to want to put your best foot forward for a guest, but it might be different if you move somewhere, or stay somewhere long enough to stop being a guest.

Anyway, I did try to make a point of not going off by myself, but of course I wound up by myself on accident a few times. And I was fine, obviously. I didn't even get any annoyed glares, and I don't remember anyone looking at me like I was a target. Now, I'm not going to act like I think you could be a total, complete idiot and come away unscathed (not unless you're extraordinarily lucky, anyway), but like with almost everywhere I've been, a little common sense - or maybe travelers' sense - seemed to be all you really needed to be completely safe. Don't get drunk, don't flash giant bills or expensive jewelry for the world to see, don't store your money in an obvious place, don't drink water from the tap, don't start a confrontation, don't be obnoxious, etc., and I think you'll be fine. Actually, I suspect you'd be better than fine; the people there are very friendly.

This, of course, all relies on the political situation with Erdogan not getting any worse, or with Erdogan's grip not getting any tighter. There are places where I would be afraid of the civilians as a tourist alone (like Rome, for instance), and I wasn't here. But the government is sometimes a different story. I'd be worried about getting pick-pocketed or robbed in Rome, but in Turkey, I'd be worried about getting arrested. Actually, I remember on the bus, the guide leader led us in prayer for an American pastor in Turkey who was arrested and being held on some trumped-up immigration charges. The uncertainty there is real, and from what I've heard it's only getting more serious.

There is a lot of trash everywhere

Yeah, Turkey does not have American or European standards of environmental cleanliness. Izmir was pretty clean, as well as the lake by the Obam Resort (where we stayed for a few days), but anywhere smaller than Izmir (including Mytilene, incidentally) had loads of trash dumped near just about any body of water. I don't know if it all just accumulates by streams or the ocean, or if it gets left there on purpose, but either way, you wouldn't catch me taking off my shoes anywhere near the water in Antalya or Mytilene. 

Honestly, the only time I've seen worse litter was after an environmentalists' demonstration.

Much of western Turkey is delightfully low-priced

I never saw any hotel prices, but I regularly ate out for about $5 every single meal (you can barely get coffee that cheap in Seattle!), and we are talking quality food. Freshly made, lots of spices, pretty much all the major food groups, meat that I would consider exotic (I actually ate goat at one restaurant), and nicely-sized portions. 

Then there was the Turkish bath...

The Turkish bath, or hammam, is something like a spa, and the hotel we stayed in for the last leg of the trip had a very nice hammam and options for getting massages, skin treatments, etc. I had one of their beauty treatments while I was there, and it was less than $15! I can't even get my hair cut for that cheap.

History is everywhere

I've alluded to this in previous posts, but it's worth mentioning again: western Turkey has thousands of years of history and it's sprinkled all over the countryside. I remember seeing pieces of Greek pottery in a field, seeing pieces of Roman roads in walls, finding lots of Byzantine ruins, and Ottoman ruins all over the place. America has nothing comparable to it, and even in Europe, it's not nearly as prominent as it was here. It was amazing.

Well, in summary, I'm glad I went. Granted, I'm pretty much always glad to travel, so something would have to go very, very wrong before I wouldn't be glad I went, but the experience of visiting Turkey was very unforgettable. The rich history alone made it worth the visit, and it's not like the rest of it was cumbersome either. All in all, it was educational and fun, and what more could you ask from a trip overseas?

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Turkish Animals!

Oh boy, did we see some cool animals roaming around!


Dolphins - lots and lots and lots of dolphins (I think I counted more than 60 over the two-hour-ish ferry ride from Mytilene back to Turkey):

 A butterfly:


A donkey:

A frog:

And turtles (tortoises?)!

And then... I actually don't know what was here:

Don't worry, still more to come!