my last days in Turkey

I realize that the burning question on everyone’s mind is: what did Michele do during her last two days in Istanbul? At long last, here I am with some answers.
p.s. also, Istanbul pics up on flickr

1. I lazed around. I realize that when one has an opportunity to visit another country and experience another culture, one should take full advantage of that opportunity; but I find that I really benefit from taking time to process things and let everything soak in. Either that, or I’m just lazy. And, I was tired. So, I slept in a bit, spent time checking email, and enjoyed my Nescafe and toast with some actual peanut butter I managed to find, with a cowboy on the label! Kremfistick-tacular!
2. I went to the Egyptian Spice Bazaar. After email, coffee, and toast, I consulted the map in my guidebook. Using my amazing map-reading skills, I figured that the bazaar should be right outside of the Eminonu tram stop. Upon arrival and some walking around, however, it seemed things were not so simple. I reconnoitered and figured that big mosque I could see must be the “Yeni Mosque,” or “new mosque.” It was indeed. It was Friday, so there were many pray-ers arriving at the mosque and a voice broadcasting over the loudspeakers outside.
I put the mosque between me and the tram line, and after a short detour into some type of lawn-and-garden store area, I finally found the bazaar. As the name might suggest, the bazaar is full of fragrant spices of all kinds, along with tea, candy such as Turkish Delight, along with an assortment of the usual tourist mainstays. It was pleasant-smelling, smaller, and slightly less fraught than the Grand Bazaar. Various people attempted to sell me various things, and I finally allowed myself to be sold some apple and lemon tea. Then I decided to walk from there to the Sultanahmet district, which I discovered was on top of a big hill! Which I guess is why you can see the Blue Mosque from so far away–it’s quite impressive as one crosses the Golden Horn on Galata Bridge on the tram.
3. I went to the Archaeology Museum two more times. Once after the Egyptian Spice Bazaar. While there I decided to take a tea break out in the courtyard, and a little kitten decided to join me! There are cats all over the place in Istanbul, just strays but they’re quite tame and well taken care of, I saw people petting and feeding them all the time. The kitten napped on my lap for quite some time, until I felt I should be spending some time in the actual museum.
The next day I went to the museum again and took notes on a bunch of exhibits. I felt quite industrious.
4. I walked a lot. In addition to some inadvertant walking around while looking for things, and walking from Eminonu to Sultanahmet, I enjoyed just walking around looking at stuff. The last day I was there I had accidentally run into a particularly persistent carpet salesman I’d already met the day before while waiting for traffic to die down so I could cross a street for like 10 million minutes. I was waiting to cross the street to take a picture of something called the “Million,” from which all points in the Byzantine empire were once measured, according to the sign. In order to be sure to avoid meeting him yet again, I went left instead of right at the Hagia Sophia and followed some pleasant side streets down to the waterfront. It was kind of chilly and rainy that day, but the waterfront was lined with people fishing (all men, I saw one woman out there). I decided to walk instead of taking the tram to the bus.
You can follow my perambulations here if you like, beginning with map 7, “Sultanahmet.” I walked along the waterfront, following the wall of Topkapi Palace back around to the Golden Horn, back past the New Mosque (see the Egyptian bazaar hiding back there?), then walked across Galata Bridge. Lots of delicious-smelling fish was being fried and served on “ekmek” or bread, tourists were milling about and people were flocking towards the “iskender,” or ferry stops.
Then I crossed over to Map 8, Beyoglu…although I didn’t realize it at the time. On the other side of the bridge I landed in Karakoy and began following the Bosphorus up toward the bus stop. This gave me an opportunity to more closely examine the things I’d seen flash by while riding the tram, including a series of 30-some photos of Ataturk adorning a long retaining while. I especially liked the one of him dancing with his wife and the one of him swimming. Moving along to Map 5, Dolmabache, I passed by Dolmabace (another Ottoman palace) but did not go in–the guidebook said it was more expensive than historically significant. But the outside of it was certainly ornate. I wound up in Besiktas, a very pleasant neighborhood that I’d visited before (with a statue of Ataturk, for a change), and had a cheeseburger in a cafe. This might sound like I was cheating and eating American food but actually it wasn’t much like an American cheeseburger–more bread and cheese, less meat, and odd sweet ketchup and pickles that they have over there. It was good! And I had eaten real Turkish food the other days, including Börek and…wait for it…lamajun! I only had to travel a few hundred miles to get it.
Then I took the bus the rest of the way home to Arnavutkoy (Map 3, or read about it!). I recognized my stop by the statue of Ataturk, and headed home to pack up.
The next morning I was awakened at 5:30 by the call to prayer, which was the first time that had happened. It was the first day of Ramadan (or Ramazan in Turkey), so maybe it was louder than usual. It was about time to get up anyway, and after an awesome 150+km-per-hour taxi ride to the airport, I was headed home.
Home again, I was perplexed by the chilly temperatures and the jack-o-lantern decorations everywhere–although I’m not sure why, since the Christmas stuff was coming out before I left. It’s good to be home!

Leave a Reply