Three Months in Istanbul
"I have not told half of what I have seen."
Feb /26- Gum on the Sidewalk
As you walk through Istanbul, you'll often run into merchants or restauranteurs attempting to get you into their shops. I mean this literally, as some of them go so far as to step into your path and address you very directly. It's especially bad in the covered bazaar. Over the years, though, we've come to understand a few things about these guys that you might keep in mind as you wander.
At a certain point, you'll get aggravated with these guys. They'll know it. They've often developed their own pet peeves about it after dealing with tourists all day every day; tourists who treat them like they were gum on their shoe. Actually, just a few of them are. Those guys right up at the entrance to the Grand Bazaar are just too much. Blow past them. Also, those guys selling boxes of perfume; do not allow them to hand you a box. You will regret it. And don't buy a watch on the sidewalk. Really.
We got a clue once when passing a row of fish restaurants, each with it's own tout on the sidewalk. We were just ignoring them til one got rather close. We said we had already eaten. He said, "maybe tomorrow". Ted said, "Inshallah." (God willing) The man said, "you are kind." That caused me to see them a little differently. There is alot of competition for the tourist dollar here and these are just men trying to make a living. Most of them came from other towns or small villages. The markets are no-man's-land. The social rules are different here. A man would not normally speak to me the way the merchants do. You will see sweet little old ladies display some very un-sweet-old-lady behavior in the markets as they shop. It's survival of the most aggressive sometimes; and I've seen tiny little old ladies muscle my (big hockey player) husband aside.
One trick these guys use is to try and engage you in conversation. They'll ask you where you are from. Sometimes, we'll actually answer. Then we ask, "ya siz?" (and you?) They will usually say, "Istanbul". Then we tell them, "no one is from Istanbul. Where are you from?" Take an interest in that person, and you'll often see the merchant mask drop off. We've met alot of nice people that way.
Feb /23- Cafe Culture
"Istanbul is a city of near misses," our friend Bob told us. You will hear from and of Bob often in my blogs because he has been here a long time and knows many things. Frankly, I can't believe I haven't seen an accident yet; not in person anyway. I have seen some on the news; like that dump truck driver that forgot to put the truck bed back down and drove off, eventually taking out a pedestrian bridge. But, I keep expecting to see a pedestrian get hit any moment. I myself came a few inches from getting hit by a train. It's like that old video game "Frogger"; where you have to get across the road without getting run over. Except, unlike the frog, you don't get the luxury of crossing part way and waiting for an opening, since the cars do not stay in their lanes. And also unlike said frog, you are not safe on the sidewalks. There are barriers to keep the cars from driving on the sidewalks, but nothing can stop the delivery scooters; not even an old lady ambling along. And if you hear, "pardon!!", it's likely a scrap colletor wrangling an out of control hand truck downhill.
But, you get the picture. Istanbul is chaotic. One thing I love about the İstanbullu is that they know how to chill. They can sit in a sidewalk cafe and make the most out of a tiny glass of tea. They can sit in a hookah cafe and be that still point in the center of the storm. It's a meditation. It's necessary to your sanity when you live in such a frenetic environment.
Every night in Beyoğlu, thousands of people promenade up and down Isteklal Street, headed to one of these oases. One favorite is the bars on the sidestreets there. You can sit down with an Efes beer and a bowl of pistachios and listen to a musician til the weight of your day slides off your shoulders. You can grab a comfy chair by the window in a coffee shop and watch Isteklal blur by.
Nargileh Cafes (hookah bars) have made a comeback in a big way in Istanbul in the last dozen years or so. They're easy to spot, often having couches or divans, and smelling of the fruity tobaccos. Personally, I can't stand cigarette smoke. It's just revolting to me; but the hookah tobaccos don't bother me at all for some reason. The smell is completely different. One reason may be that the cafes are using a mix that heavier on the fruit and lighter on the tobacco. The government has been cracking down on "sin" lately, taxing tobacco and alcohol. Prices have gone through the roof. They've also outlawed cafe seating in Beyoğlu that is on the sidewalks or streets. This applies to restaurants as well as bars. I can't even imagine their reasoning for that. Sidewalk cafes are a huge part of Beyoğlu's charm. Istanbul depends heavily on the tourist dollar. I see so many wonderful restoration projects going on that will be a positive influence on tourism. I also see the government going too far to sanitize everything. This isn't Disneyland. And if it ever becomes Disneyland, I will stop coming.
Feb/19- ...and what have we learned so far?
Always dig just a little deeper. Especially in the Grand Bazaar; prices are better off the beaten path, or further towards the back. Keep going, and you find the little shops that supply the places that are right in your face. Also, don't assume much from what you see from outside the shop. It might look like a closet, but some places have upstairs, downstairs, or just keep winding on back. Just yesterday, we stepped into a little shop where we thought we might find a couple bowls for the kitchen. Turns out, it had 3 times the space downstairs, and another room of the same size connected in the back. We found several household items we'd been wanting. Same goes for restaurants. It might look so small that you figure it must be a take-out. They often have a "salon", meaning there is a dining area upstairs or elsewhere. Usually, if you just stick your nose in, someone will offer to escort you there.
And don't be shy about asking for something you don't see. We had looked everywhere for an obscure little musical instrument. Finally, we asked someone in a shop. He said, "come back tomorrow". We did, and he made a call that caused it to materialize.
There are so many shops selling scarves in the Grand Bazaar; beautiful and cheap. But, go out one of the back gates down Uzun Çarsı, and you'll find more scarves than you can look at, and cheaper. I love that street, there are trim shops, textiles, traditional clothing. Just keep going downhill and you'll end up at the street that runs along the back of the Spice Bazaar. Turn left and check out that area. So much fun stuff there; spices, dried fruits, kitchen stuff traditional and new, and if you can spot the entrance to Rustem Pasha Mosque, check it out. It's famous for it's blue tiles. Talk about digging deep...you often pass entrances to mosques without even noticing in areas like this. Blink, and you'll miss something in Istanbul.
Feb/14- St. Whowhat Day?
Istanbul doesn't seem to celebrate Valentine's Day here, so it's business as usual for Ted. He's off to the rink to coach, and I'm stuck here blogging. We had most of the day to celebrate, though; so don't feel too sorry for me. As we left the apartment, we stopped to chat with Ismail, who works at the kebap house downstairs. He's a sweetie; we'll miss him. He's headed back to the coast to teach wind surfing to the tourists. He tried to wish us a happy Valentine's Day, but didn't know the name of it. He said he didn't have anyone yet, and pantomimed some tears. I told him, "I hope you find her today." And we wandered down the hill and up the next toward Fatih Mosque. The idea was to explore the neighborhood around the outside of it and then head towards Chora. At the back corner on the right of Fatih, we found the end of the Aquaduct.
It's just about 14 feet high here, and gets a whole lot taller as it goes down the hill towards Ataturk Blvd.
Just across the street, we came on a sweet little area of restaurants and nargile cafes. It is one solid block of old Ottoman houses that have been converted for the purpose. You'll know you're there when you see the bronze sculpture of a horse that was copied from one of the horses at St Mark's in Venice. Those horses were taken when they sacked Constantinople. It needed conservation, so Ted pulled a sticker off it's side. It needs a higher pedestal.
This is one of the restaurants. I love seeing old Ottoman houses restored. I like the ruined ones, too. And the ones that are a ramshackle mess upstairs with a shiny bright store downstairs. I like them all.
They are so clever. They are built into whatever available space there is, no matter how many angles it takes. There's usually an upstairs portion jutting out over the street so you can have a little window that looks up and down the street, not just out the front.
We cut through the courtyard of the mosque and petted a cat, because you must there. There is a lovely neighborhood of shops on the other side that I described when we walked to Fatih Mosque the first time. That neighborhood makes me hungy. Big fat cheeses in the windows, lots of fresh produce and candy shops. We stopped at a fish restaurant for lunch. What a find. They had a fantastic fish soup, which they served with a sort of a lemon. I thought it was a lemon, but it was more orange. But it wasn't an orange. I licked it. It was much sweeter than any lemon I'd tasted. Whatever, I squoze it into my soup and it was wonderful. Then we shared a karides güveç (shrimp cassarole). The güveç is made in an oven in a terracotta dish which comes out still simmering. Cheese was melted on top. I'm sure we'll be hitting that place again.
We never leave the house meaning to go as far as we end up going.
We kept seeing interesting things that led us further and further off our intended path. We found a restaurant in one of the cisterns. I know, that doesn't sound very pleasant, does it? Well, have a look.
We had been drawn down that way by Yavuz Sultan Selim Mosque. He was the father of Süleyman the Magnificent. It's a very pretty complex with a sweet park that overlooks the Golden Horn and beyond. We didn't go it the main building because we knew it was about time for prayers. So, we just sat in the courtyard and listened and rested.
Eventually, we managed to get back on track, walking all the way to the Edirne Gate. Far enough. We took a cab back home.
Feb/12- Market Day
Every Tuesday there is a sprawling Farmer's Market in Şehremini. I'm pretty sure we managed to see it all, but can't be sure, it wound all through the neighborhood. We got there early and it wasn't too busy. We ended up bringing home more than I thought we would. The haul; a kilo of strawberries, one purple cabbage, pistachios, village noodles, string cheese, onions, apples, dried pears, broccoli, and whatever that nobbly thing is...
We were staring at it, and the merchant insisted we try it, carving a bite off for us both. He said it was a yerelmasi, or earth apple. Ok, so I've tasted it and know it's name and I still don't know what it is. I don't think I've eaten one before. Looks like a root vegetable; in taste, color, and texture, much like water chestnut. I thought it would be tasty in a salad or stir fry, so we got a couple. The guy thought we wanted a kilo and started filling a bag. No,no,no; bir tane. Just one. He gave us 2 anyway, and we wandered on, thinking we'd gather stuff for a stir fry. Looking it up when I got home with it, it's sometimes called a "Jerusalem Artichoke" even though it isn't. Bob says it produces crazy flatulence. They will therefore hereafter be refered to as Tuberous Poot Grenades.
We picked a random restaurant for a lunch break. Sometimes, you can see what's cooking. They had a big pot of lamb and eggplant stew on. It looked great, so we pointed at it and said, "that." It was one of the spicier dishes I've had in Istanbul, which is not too spicy. Really, right at my threshold. Then, we dove back into the market for some strawberries.
There were many cheese merchants, but surprisingly little yoghurt. I had hoped to come home with some. I wanted some of the really scary stuff, the stuff you know is the real thing.
I really recommend strolling these markets, even if you don't need anything. It's a slice of real life. It's colorful and vibrant. The displays are wonderful, very clever sometimes. One merchant was selling blood oranges. He had a few sliced in half, which was appetizing enough, but he'd juiced a few and had half-filled Turkish tea glasses sticking out randomly from the pile; the tulip shaped glasses plugged with small oranges. Can you picture that? I've got to take a camera next trip. I almost bought some, they looked so good. But then I remembered, I don't eat oranges.
Feb/8- Shiny Objects
Friday is not the best day to go to the Grand Bazaar. If you are there when the Call to Prayer sounds, you might as well sit down for tea somewhere. If you turn onto a street that runs towards Mecca, you may run into a large group of men kneeling on their prayer rugs. That makes me just a tiny bit self conscious. "Excuse me, I'm just going to step over you, here. I've got to check out that handbag." (No, of course I didn't!) After that, it's business as usual, and I'm back to pawing through piles of silver jewelry, looking for the right bits to finish out that necklace. When the Call first sounded, I was in an Afghani merchant's shop. He was very patiently standing by while I looked around. I wasn't sure if he wanted to go or not. Not everyone does. Then, I saw him hand a little rolled up rug to his son, who left. I excused myself and did the same. He locked up and went to prayers. I'm just glad I didn't get stuck in one of those tiny shops. I guess I would have just sat on one of their short little stools til the street cleared.
It seems like there are many more places to get lunch in the Bazaar now than there were when we first started going. Today, when I started running out of steam, I headed to Kardeş restaurant in a han (courtyard) in the back of the Bazaar. Our friend Aziz had taken us there years ago. I had a nice lamb stew. Since it was cozy in there, (or maybe because I was on a low couch that was hard to get up from) I stayed for a cup of salep. That's good stuff. It is made from orchid root, and tastes like warm custard. Lovely.
Feeling like a local now. I got my grocery store loyalty card. Took awhile. The girls on the registers never speak English. I knew they were asking for my card, but they never seemed to understand that I wanted one. Finally, one paid attention when I said, (in Turkish) "Please, I want a card." It's funny, they don't want to make coin change. If they owe you 85 cents change, they'll grab a candy bar out of the box at the register and tell you that you should buy it so she doesn't have to make change.
Feb/6- Old Stuff
We love antiquing. In Istanbul, the best place to do that is Çukercuma. This is a neighborhood in Beyoğlu down the hill from the Tunel end of Istiklal Caddesi. It seems now, that there are even more antique shops than there were the first time we explored the area in 2007. They run the gamut, from the hoards of the Ottoman aristocracy to shops that look like an episode of "Hoarders." Both are equally fascinating, and I recommend spending a half day there. Of course, most of what we wanted was next to impossible to get home. I wanted a 400lb French Art Nouveau cast iron stove; and Ted wanted a little 16th century anvil. It looked like a beat up hunk of metal to me, but Ted knows his stuff.
We also found chain mail, many antique weaver's tools, tons of Ottoman embroideries, architectural salvage, and many other strange and wonderful things. It's low pressure down there, too. Nobody tries to coax you into their shop. We even looked into one shop where the guy didn't want to let us in! The door was unlocked, so we opened it, but there was a cord across the way. A little old man was sitting there. We asked if the shop was open. He says, "what are you looking for?" We couldn't really tell him since we didn't know what he had; so he shoo'd us away. Next time, I'll make a shopping list.
Feb/5- Kedi kedi kedi
Fatih Mosque dominates one of Istanbul's seven hills. It's a beautiful complex. The medrasa is undergoing restoration right now, and is shrouded in plywood, but get past that, and you find a gleaming white sanctuary (especially for cats.) The tomb of Fatih is here. He is the Sultan that conquered Constantinople; kind of a big deal around here.
Standing there, we could see tiny bird houses built into the side of the mosque at random intervals. As we watched, a large, bright green bird with a long tail flew in and perched on the wall there. There are green parrots in Istanbul, and if you're lucky, you'll spot one; if you're really lucky, a chattering treefull of them.
There is a large cemetary and other tombs, just beautiful. Well worth the hike up the hill.
There were more cats here than we've seen anywhere else. This is where the Cat Lady of Istanbul lives. (not an official title, we dubbed her that) She was surrounded by cats. She sang, "kedi kedi kedi" to them, and they followed her all around the courtyard. I wanted to get video, but didn't want to offend.
Next street over has a nice market area. Real food. Real cheese from real goats on real farms. Honey. Cured meats. We bought some cevizli sucuk. It took us awhile to try this. It looks like intestines or something and you often see it hanging, unwrapped, in markets. It really does look gross. Turns out, as usual, the Turks know what they're doing. It's a walnut sausage. The outside is a jelly candy made from grape juice and inside are walnuts. It's a great snack.
Last night, just to change it up, we went to the mall we've seen out our window. The shops there are boring, but there is a good grocery there. Just like in the US, people would rather stand in a long line than try to work the self check-out. Not me. I just strode right up to that thing and started scanning. It all in Turkish, no English option. Still, I got thru it and we're set for a few days. We got some pomegranate molasses, which is used for many things here, but is especially good as a salad dressing.
There was a bowling alley on the fifth floor. Six lanes, all packed. No rental shoes. What a strange land.
Feb/3-A Walk Around Süleymaniye Mosque
I'm not much on taking pictures when I'm traveling, so please excuse me if I get lazy and just link to Google image searches on some places. Keep in mind that it's safe to click my links, but not necessarily safe to click the images on the Google site.
We're seeing so much architectural restoration work going on here. That makes us happy. It seems as if Istanbul is seeing the worth of all it's older buildings, not just the obvious tourist sites. After a walk around Süleymaniye Mosque today, we just started following our noses, as is our habit. Which ever way looks most interesting, we go. We found a neighborhood where quite a few old Ottoman homes had been restored. It looks like they're working their way down the street. We spotted an old Byzantine church we hadn't seen before, so we walked towards it. It looked as if the entire neighborhood had been evicted. It was halfway to ruined there. The church had been turned into a mosque, but it was locked up. Unusual. Ted was able to look in a window,and saw that it was still functional. There were shelves for shoes, carpet, all that. I'd love to see the inside. The rest of the area was kind of creepy, though; all those abandoned buildings. We're hoping they are going to restore them.
Walking on, we spotted a sort of famous Boza shop, Vefa. It's a strange drink of fermented millet. We figured it's part of the Turkish experience, so we'd try it, though we both imagined it would be pretty nasty. The shop is like a small coffee shop, and it was packed. You just go up to the counter and grab one (with or without cinnamon) and pay at the register. There were no seats inside, but it was a nice day, so we went to sit on the curb with a few other people. A smartly dressed waiter was running around with a tray, bring out more, and collecting empty glasses. It turned out to be pretty good. We got it with cinnamon. It had a strange consistency, like gravy. It tasted kind of lemony. Definately sipping stuff.
We wandered til we came out in a place we knew, the Valens Aqueduct. By those walls, we found a litter of puppies, so cute. Just old enough that it was time for them to get socialized, so we did our duty there, playing with them awhile.
A short walk up the hill, we came on Şehzade Mosque, which I'd never heard of. It was also undergoing restoration. The main building itself was in good repair, but the grounds and turbe were roped off for restoration. I would have loved to have seen the turbe closer, there were a few surrounded by a beautiful cemetary.
We thought we'd try something different for lunch and stepped into a Uyghur restaurant close to our apartment. We got the same reaction we got when we walked into a sushi restaurant in Vienna. Everyone stopped and stared at us. The waiter looked confused and a bit distressed. Apparently, we were the first Caucasians to walk through their doors. I doubt we were the only non-Uyghurs to walk in, though, as their menu had helpful photos. (Which is good, because my Uyghurese is not so good) The wait staff calmed down after we ordered. I had a lovely soup, just a little spicy with some kind of delicate cabbage and wantons filled with meat. Ted had a simpler soup with noodles and meat. I think we'll be back. As much as we love Turkish food, we don't want to burn out on it. We've not yet set foot in a McDonald's or Burger King, though there are many. Might order a pizza from Dominos sometime; and I'm definately tempted to go find that Popeye's chicken joint I keep seeing signs for.
On Fridays, there is a market across the street. I can't imagine how they do it. There are hundreds of tables covered mostly with clothes. There are canopies strung across all of it. How do they get all that stuff set up in there? It just chaos. I've wandered through there twice without buying anything yet. I did need one kitchen item I saw, but could not get the price in that sea of haggling women. They just pushed my ass out of the way. You think the men are aggressive in the Grand Bazaar? Ha. I learned quickly on my first trip that I was going to have to bypass much of my Southern Lady programming, but I just can't shove an old lady aside. I stopped at the grocery store. I was getting myself a basket, when a lady stepped up, waiting for me to move so she could get one for herself. I handed her mine. She obviously didn't know what to think.
Ended the day with a ferry trip over to the Asian side for dinner at Bob's house. Turned out to be more like a dinner party. I got to just relax in an easy chair and get serenaded by 5 saz players. Pretty sweet. I love Bob's neighborhood; it a charming town by the walls of the old fortress that guards the Bosphorus. We were beset by love starved dogs as we ran down the hill to catch the last ferry home. Just made it. Now we know how late we can be out without getting stranded in Asia for the night. I don't want to find out the hard way how much a taxi across the big bridge costs.
Istanbul parades sweets in your path everywhere you go. There are piles of baklava rolls shamelessly dripping honey like a slow waterfall. There are ridiculously fancy looking pastries in glass cases of brightly lit shops. We know where to go, though. Last night, we walked one solid mile to a place near Taxim Square that Bob has dubbed "Saddam's Bathroom". And really, this place looks just like what you would expect Saddam Hussein's bathroom to look like. Too fancy; but they do have the best kunefe, our favorite Turkish dessert. I will tell you how good it is.
On our last trip to Istanbul, we took a friend for her first trip. She ordered what she wanted even though we told her that the kunefe was special. She tried her dessert...yummy. She tried a bite of my kunefe...She had her dessert wrapped up and ordered a kunefe.
Pulverized pistachios are a condiment here. You've got to love that.
Earlier in the day, we found Eller Galleri. It was a relief to find Mr. Nurhan still at work in there. It is a little shop that sells his art, and the art of a few others. He mostly works in silver, and we had bought a few things from him last trip. He was worried because the church he was renting his space from wanted it back for Christmas parties. Glad that didn't happen. Bob played his first banjo concert there after we introduced them. When we came back to visit, he remembered us. He asked what Ted was doing for so long in Istanbul. Ted told him, "Ice hockey trainer". He thought that was hilarious, and just howled with laughter. Then Ted told him, I tell the hockey players here that I play Turkish music, and they laugh just the same.
Jan/30- A Now, a Musical Interlude.
I've been toying for years now with the idea that I should get someone in Istanbul to make zils (belly dancer finger cymbals) to my specifications. I've never been content with a pair. If the sound is good, the size is bad. If the size is good and they feel right, they're out of tune. Turkish zils, in my opinion, have a superior shape. Their upturned edge facillitates trills and rolls better. Unfortunately, the Turks figure that they're only going to get a few bucks for zils and so, they don't put alot of effort into producing a quality zil.
In the States, the big name is Saroyan; and the dancers pay a hell of alot more than a few lira for them. I brought my favorite pair of Saroyans with me, thinking I'd show them to a manufacturer here and ask him if he'd like to partner. Maybe.
The day after I landed in Istanbul, I got the news that Mr Saroyan was retiring and selling his business. Unfortunately, that business does not come with a zil craftsman; he's left.
So, today I asked our Turkish friend I mentioned in the earlier blog about it. (the one that called us from Ohio). He called his cymbal manufacturer (regular drum kit cymbals as well as zils) and he came right over. He says, "no problem" He'll have a prototype to me in 15 days. I left my precious zils with him and explained all the upgrades I wanted. I've got my fingers crossed.
Jan/29- The Byzantine Walls
There is a (relatively) new museum just outside Topkapı (the gate, not the palace). It's called "Panorama 1453. It's built in the spot where the Byzantine walls were first breeched by the Ottoman army.
Most tourists never explore the walls. We think they're wonderful.
They stretch all the way from the Sea of Marmara to the Golden Horn. The inner wall is incredibly thick, then there is a shorter wall just outside that. Parts are restored, other parts crumbling, or blown apart by cannons. They've been claimed by gardners and dogs. Istanbul is a cat town; they are everywhere. But, the dogs own the walls. The dog shelter is near the sea, just inside the walls. We happened on it last trip wandering with Bob. We were just walking in a field and dogs started coming up and barking at us. Big dogs. I got nervous; I figured that, when enough of them gathered, they might jump us. I picked up a rock. But men have no sense, so Ted and Bob kept walking. Soon, though, this guy comes out to greet us and the dogs all started wagging their tails. We were ok. Turned out to be the dog pound (only many of the dogs were not in fences) and this was the guy that ran it. He seemed SO happy to have human visitors.
Anyway, the museum...We expected it to be deserted, but it was packed; all Turks. There were panels telling the story of the Ottomans of that time, and of the seige, but everyone was heading straight for the panorama. It's a domed room with a very good painting of the seige. Then, the floor up to the center (where everyone was standing) was a dirt surface set up like the battlefield, with cannons and other stuff. It was pretty well done.You can get to the museum by taking the tram to Topkapı tram stop.
Between the museum and the walls is a park. It a good place to explore the walls. There is an interesting cemetary there too, but you can only look at it thru the gate. A word of warning to anyone thinking of exploring the walls; many areas are not safe. There are homeless people living in some rooms. An American tourist was killed in January 2013. Use good sense; do not go into spaces in the walls, or on top of the walls. Some areas are best viewed from a distance. One good, safe place to go is Yedikule, a fortress on the walls. We actually thought about buying a little house there. We were looking (on a previous trip) for the new ice rink, which was supposed to be under construction just inside the walls. We could not find it. We did, however find a cute little cottage that looked to be empty. It is not there now. It seems to have had an ice rink built on top of it.
Jan/27-A Very Ted Moment.
This is statistically ridiculous. Today was the first day that Ted has been able to get out in the city. We met our friend Bob in Beyoğlu, where we had lunch. Then, Bob says, "I'd like to take you to a music shop you haven't been to before." So, we walk down to the shop. It's nice, a little better than average; the shopkeeper is nice and speaks good English. We're chatting while we try different instruments and the owner says he spent 9 years in Columbus, Ohio. I can see the wheels in Ted's head turning. He asks, "who taught you English?" He tells us. Ted says, "you called me on the phone from Columbus over 15 years ago."
The chain of events...Ted goes to a saz maker to get a special saz built. The maker does not speak English. He calls his neighbor, an English teacher downstairs to translate. The saz is made, we all go to dinner together, we are now friends; Ted gives the English teacher his card. One day, we get a strange call from a Turk in Ohio we don't know. His English teacher gave him Ted's card, and he just wanted to chat. He says his uncle works in a saz workshop. Next trip, we are taking a friend who imports and sells world instruments. He needs a new source. We ask around til we find uncle's shop. Import relationship is established, and Bob even ends up doing some translating work for the guy.
There are over 13 million people living in Istanbul. I can't even imagine the chances of meeting this person so many years later in a different country, much less the chances of finding out that we had already connected so long ago.I do know, tho, that the chances are greater if Ted is involved; because bizaare coincidences happen to him often. Still, this is one of the weirder happenings.
Jan/26- Three Point Landing.
Getting a slow start on this blog. We've been settling in, with no grand adventures yet. Usually, we hit the ground running, literally; dropping our bags off and trekking til late. I guess Ted did hit the ground running. We dropped our bags off and then he got a taxi to take him to the rink to stow his hockey gear. Of course, he ended up on the ice, coaching...and again, on the second night. He'll coach again tonight; so it's really more like moving in rather than vacationing.
We walked about 7 blocks to the biggest grocer around and bought a few things. Yes, they still make Ala Turka Doritos. I was examining a tupperware thing that was designed to extract pomegranate seeds and store them. It cost about $1.25. Some cute old lady comes up and starts telling me how wonderful it was. I only caught every 4th word or so, but it was obvious that she was pretty excited about it. Then, while Ted caught up on some school work, I checked out the huge tent market across the street. It's 90% clothing, but I managed to score the one thing we had not brought and was not provided in the apartment, washcloths. Exciting. Really though, they had some pretty smart clothes really cheap there. Too bad Delta charges insane amounts of money for extra bags.
Here's blurry pic on a drizzly day of the view out our bedroom window.
Looks like we're going to have several visitors while we're here. It will be interesting to see Istanbul through their eyes.
Today, Ted and I went out and bought a couple used phones so we could text each other. Since his day was already spoken for, I decided to wander alone and get some confidence at managing by myself.
I bought and loaded a metro card and took the tram down to the Grand Bazaar. I just made straight for the back end, away from the worst of the hustlers. It took some will power not to buy a load of stuff. We've got to be a little more particular in our shopping this time. We don't want to buy more than we can get home with; easy to do when you're there for 3 months. I had given myself permission to buy a scarf, so I could cover my head when we toured mosques. I did not find the scarf I wanted, though I was in Scarf Central. In the end, all I bought was a glass of fresh squeezed orange/pomegranate juice. Heaven.