Charles had to meet one of his Turkish partners for work last week so I decided to join him at the end of the week. I flew into Istanbul, arriving at 2am Friday morning. Driving into the city was quick and quiet and kind of reminded me of driving into the parking lot at Disneyland because all the mosques looked like Cinderella’s castle. We got a great deal on a hotel that overlooked the Bosphorous and the Sea of Marmara and the European side of Istanbul. Charles had to work all day Friday so I took off to explore a bit of the city on my own. I was really looking forward to the markets (you know I’m a market junkie) because the most famous one has over 4000 stalls! Unfortunately, it was mostly full of touristy junk and because I was alone I got hassled a little bit more than normal. Not usually a big deal, but I think because I was hot and tired I got annoyed really quickly and skipped the majority of the big market. Instead I wander around the much smaller spice market and then sat on a bench with all the old people and ate some ice cream and people watched.
After taking a nice, long nap Charles and I met up with our friend Muzaffer and he took us to a good restaurant that had a great band playing and an incredible view of the river and the city beyond. After dinner we had the famous Turkish coffee and Muzaffer read Charles fortune from the dregs of his coffee cup.
Later we asked Muzaffer to take us wherever he would normally go on a Friday night. So, we ended up in a bar hidden somewhere in the streets of Istanbul, singing alone to a Turkish band as if we knew all the words. Charles and I left after an hour or so and found another place that was playing classic 80’s music and hung out there for awhile before heading home. The next day we hit a few of the “must see” tourist spots. I came prepared with a pashmina to cover my shoulders when entering the mosques, but apparently my knee-length skirt was long enough so I had to use another one to wrap around my legs. This is at the Blue Mosque.
The Aya Sofya was really cool and we spent a few hours walking around there. Then we headed underground to the Sunken Cistern where we got a nice break from the heat. This place used to hold the cities water supply I think, but know only has about 4 feet of water and a bunch of fish. It was pretty cool.
Charles had been complaining that his hair was too long and he needed a hair cut, so… we decided to let a Turkish barber give it a go. It was quite entertaining. He was poked, pulled, slapped, rubbed, twisted and tweaked. His cheeks, nose and ears were waxed, neck cracked, head massaged, oh, and his hair was cut too. Then the barber took out the hair dryer and a round curling brush and took to styling his hair. Lastly, a tub of greasy wax was used to style the new cut into a very Caesar-esque style that had me crying tears of laughter. It was SO entertaining.
Later that night I had to sample the baklava that was displayed so prominently in all the bakery windows. Every ten minutes or so one of the bakers would drizzle honey over the top of the baklava mountain to make it look even better. It was incredibly good, but so rich we could only each two bites each.
The next day we went to Topkapi Palace which was the home of the sultans. It’s a huge palace with a Harem big enough to house several hundred women and slaves. A sultan was allowed to have up to four wives and 400 women in his harem as long as he could take care of them in the appropriate manner. The amount of detail and different textures used was overwhelming. We spent a couple hours roaming the grounds, and checking out the palace treasures before we had to head back to our hotel, pick up our luggage and drive to the airport.
It was a good trip – getting out of London for the first time since we’ve been back and enjoying the sunshine and heat was just what the doctor ordered. Now, where shall we go next weekend?
More pictures here.