Istanbul–Revisited

Serving up the raki--Jeff not feeling it

Serving up the raki--Jeff not feeling it

In tandem with my last blog about what we were able to see and do in Istanbul on our own, I feel it is equally if not more important to recount our last few days in one of the world’s great cities as shared through the generosity of our friend in Turkey. Our meeting started out simply as an email exchange with a friend of our friends who is from Turkey and happens to live in Istanbul. The result was an unforgettable experience in the “real” Istanbul in addition to us making a friend of our own.

We stayed with our host, Kerem, in his apartment with a beautiful panoramic view of the Bosphorus Sea and surrounding districts. Aside from the many creature comforts that come with being lucky enough to stay in an actual home (fresh towels and linens, a washing machine, not having to wear flip flops while showering, sitting down on a couch…the list goes on), we had the privilege of meeting and getting to know our host, who freely gave up a few days to take us out and about and show us Istanbul in a way we never would have been able to see on our own. We enjoyed a complete Turkish breakfast along the waterfront. In addition to the mix of olives, cheeses, breads, tomato, cucumber, and tea that we have grown accustomed to and love, we also got to try some meat-filled pastry, honey and cheese, and Turkish omelet (soooooo good). Let me tell you, I could have kept on going and out-eaten both of those boys, but since they were stuffed (as was I), I decided to check it as well. After breakfast, we drove up to see views of the Bosphorus leading to the Black Sea with Europe and Russia far out towards one side and Anatolia (the Asian side) off to our right. As happens time and time again during our travels, I once again had the feeling of being so very small (hold your comments everyone!). We also went to and through Taksim Square and spent the afternoon walking through Beyoglu, where I had my first Turkish coffee and not-so-first puffs from the nargile, which the guys also enjoyed with a couple of beers at one of the many outdoor cafes, while watching the crowds go by. It was both relaxing and invigorating at the same time to chat and sip and puff (sorry mom, you know I don’t smoke, but when in Rome…), while watching Istanbul’s young and old literally working and playing in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the area. There were a handful of tourists sprinkled in among the locals, some doing as we were, business men in suits walking past, a group of trendily dressed young women chatting over tea, a couple playing what seems to be the national game of backgammon, and vendors darting about selling their wares. We had dinner (mezzes, seafood, and our first taste of the Turkish liquour, Raki) at another outdoor restaurant in an alley awash with similar restaurants, Raki-fueled customers dancing between the tables to the music along with the clapping and shouting of the other patrons. It was like nothing we have in the states. We had heard that if you haven’t been to Beyoglu, then you haven’t been to Istanbul. And now we know why. We had wanted to come on our own and had been unable to get here, but in the end it was much better to experience it with our generous host and friend, and go out with a bang. Once again, thanks Kerem!!! Serefe.

Posted: June 17th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Turkey | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

A bit of Istanbul

Men fishing with one of several mosques in background

Men fishing from Galata Bridge (one of several mosques in background)

6/8/09

We are slowly wrapping up our Turkey adventures in the city where they all began. After flying into Istanbul five weeks ago and hanging out at the massive otogar (bus station) for several hours only to begin our land travel across western Turkey, we are once again in Istanbul (not Constantinople….sorry, ever-so predictable, but I couldn’t resist).

Istanbul is by all accounts once again a world-class city. By our account, we would have to agree although unfortunately due to a round of sickness each, I can’t say we’ve been able to experience as much of it as we had planned. It’s never fun to be sick, but much less so when you are traveling. Even though you’d rather stay in bed, you feel obligated in a way, to each other, to yourself, and to this astounding place that you came all the way to see and will possibly never get to experience the same way again. Therefore, we’ve managed to get to some of the major sites, albeit walking very slowly (Jeff) and stopping every few feet to pull out a tissue and blow (Mari). All in all, it’s all part of the travel experience. When else can we roll out of bed at noon and decided which UNESCO World Heritage site to visit first?

We are staying in Sultanhamet in Istanbul, which fortunately is quite central to almost everything we want to do. So far we have shuffled over to Hagia Sofia (elaborate and grand), the Blue Mosque (not that blue), and taken short strolls around Sultanhamet and the surrounding districts. Today we will attempt Topkapi Palace and maybe the Anthropology Museum (but maybe not). If we are brave, tomorrow the Grand Bazaar (which is guaranteed to be awesome and intense) and Miniaturk, a mini scaled-down version of famous world sites where we can walk around doing Godzilla impressions (which I’m guessing will not be crowded at all).

Being sick has small advantages though. For one, it offers a convenient excuse to get away from overly friendly merchants, but more importantly helps with our food budget. This is nice, since lodging in Istanbul is much more expensive than elsewhere in Turkey. Even though our travels here are coming to a close in a world famous city on a slightly less than stellar note, I am grateful. Five weeks in Turkey has given us a chance to get a feel of much of the country, make some new friends, sample the local foods, and see the most amazing sights, all of which have made me certain that I will be back here someday.

Note: We have also added new pictures to our Turkey Album.  For those of you who have not done so, from our Photo link, click on the Flickr page link and then Details so you can see all pictures with descriptions/captions.

Posted: June 9th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Turkey | Tags: , , | 1 Comment »