Time for a new house

Time for a new house
Time for a new house

Monday, November 24, 2008

Day 4 or second day in Istanbul

I started this morning very early, waking in the dark at 430 am or so. Decided to quietly take a bath instead of lying restlessly in my bed. The bathtub here is small and narrow, but deep, and has a curved bottom that makes standing in the shower rather interesting. The water feels great, but in a bath I could see the brownish tinge that I had read about in some hotels in Turkey. Somehow, with the heat and the bubbles it didn’t bother me a bit. Mo woke a bit later and we went down to our buffet breakfast of yogurt, honey, muesli, for me and hard boiled eggs and corn flakes for Mo.
The group was going on the Bosphorus Straits today, a cruise between Europe and Asia, but we decided it would be a great day to be on our own exploring. After the bus delivery to the Grand Bazaar we had the rest of the day to ourselves. The Grand Bazaar itself it huge, with more than 4000 shops and stalls filled with “stuff”. Lots of stuff. More stuff. Especially jewelry, Turkish ceramics, and pashminas of every possible color and fabric. To think I bought so many in Thailand thinking I had something unique. I must say, though, the pashmina is a fabulous piece of clothing, warmth for cool breezes, a head cover for mosques, a blanket for a picnic, and just generally pretty. Lots of pashminas here in Turkey, as elsewhere.
After wandering for a time down the labyrinthine covered walkways we found a nice little coffee stall and sat for a cappuccino. Our host was young and charming and delightful, and his helper not quite so charming, but the Turkish men are so friendly and talkative, pushy, trying to charm you in to their “family” shop just around the corner, asking always where you are from, and in general being very sweet and cute. They aren’t touchy or pinchy or lewd in any way, which is nice, but after awhile it does get a bit tiresome being followed along all the streets by dark good looking young men trying to get you to go to their shops and buy something. Our cappuccino host, for 13Lira, made a lovely cup of java, and told us how difficult things are in Turkey right now because tourism has effectively died since the economic crash.

You would never know it to look at the streets though. They are filled to brimming with people walking and shopping. We wandered out the main gate of the grand bazaar looking for the Spice Market. The grand bazaar is the oldest shopping center in the world, but has become just a huge tourist attraction, and our guide said that the Turkish people never shop there. The Spice Market, however, is in the same section of the city, but much smaller and much more delightful, with amazing pyramids of saffron and spices of all kinds, Turkish Delight, a sticky sweet Turkish candy thing, and of course more pashminas and ceramics. We managed to get out of both markets with nothing more than a glass of fresh squeezed pomegranate juice. Very red, and surprisingly, very sour.
After a time, I decided that I needed a bathroom, which here is usually referred to as a WC, or water closet. In most of the city, the toilets are the squatting kind and cost a Lira or so to use. We saw no sign of anything at all so in desperation I asked a nice looking gentleman for a water closet, bathroom, banos? He nodded and smiled and then said, “wait here” while he ran down the street to get a taxi. Mo and I said, Do you think he is trying to get a taxi? And sure enough he was. I said no no, and then smiled and made a little short street squat to try to indicate what I wanted. To much good humored laughter, another nice man pointed us to a square with a WC.

Wandering through the market and the streets around the market, we found another square near the New Mosque, sat and watched the people and the cats for awhile, and then found our way to the tram station for the adventure of finding our way back to Taksim. The tram itself was visible, in the middle of a very busy street. We couldn’t figure out how to actually get to the station, so had to run across the street and climb a wall and go over a fence to get where we needed to be. Once there, of course no one spoke much English, so we pointed and managed to get a token, get on the tram, ride very quickly to the Funiculare (another tram going up the hill to Taksim) and emerged from the tunel’ into Taksim Square. This time it was good Mo was paying attention because I was so completely turned around who knows where I would have ended up.

Home to the hotel to rest a bit, write a bit, upload our photos and post to the blog from the lobby where we have wireless access, and then back to Taksim Square and the pedestrian mall. This evening, there were even more people than last evening, and again, everyone was walking very fast in both directions and most everyone was talking on a cell phone. It’s hard to figure out where everyone is going, except it must be the social thing to do in the evening. Thinking about the lifestyle here, with people in very small apartments with a view like our hotel room, and no outside, I can see why a walk on the mall in the evening could be a bright spot in a working day. We walked along once more, watching all the food preparation and choosing one that looked great for dinner. We had the meat thing called “kebab”, differing from “shish” kebab, with rice and tomatoes and chips (fries), and I made the mistake of asking for yogurt. In this place however, the delightful yogurt was strong as a fresh billy goat, and the kebab seemed like a very old sheep rather than lamb. Mo liked this much better than I did, but it wasn’t exactly a memorable meal. We continued our walk, looking for a bakery, where I found a box of mixed baklava for 15 Lira, about 10 dollars at the current exchange rate. I love the pistachio baklava.

Home fairly early, but a cold chill is in the air and it’s nice to be back in our room with full tummies and tired bodies. I’ll upload today’s photos and find my bed early this evening so that we are ready to get the suitcases in the hall by 630 am and our bus trip to Bursa and Cannakale tomorrow. Onward!