June 14, 2007

Merhaba, Istanbul

Once we negotiated the baggage carousel at Atatürk airport, it was 8am and we were in need of a beer. This seemed to raise eyebrows but we didn't care. We nursed that for a while, then bought phone cards, called our hostess Natalia and got on the train for Aksaray. Natalia met us and we grabbed a cab for Kasimpasir and chilled out at the house for a few hours. It's awesome - so full of character, and 200 years old! At one point the muezzin sounded, and thanks to pop culture it reminded me of the Natural Born Killers soundtrack!

Around 1 or 2 we wandered into the neighbourhood as Natalia and Izzet needeed to buy an iron. There's a mosque nearby and a lot of people were going about their business, and several strangers approached us - we are the epitome of tourist, a status to which we are reluctantly resigning ourselves - and tried to guess where we are from and whether we speak Turkish. We don't, although Natalia teaches us lots of words and phrases throughout the day. (Merhaba means hello.) It turns out that 'thank you' is THE hardest thing ever and we often go without thanking people, stalled with confusion at the unfamiliar syllables. The trick to remember it is 'tea sugar dream', but even so it's not easy. Iron purchased, we walked down to the water and caught a ferry across to Eminönu. The view was astounding, with spectacular mosques lining the horizon, and the day (like today) was perfectly clear and wonderfully warm, without a hint of the humidity that melted us in Singapore. We wandered up through long streets lined with shops, bustling with shoppers, before reaching the Grand Bazaar. I bought a lovely purple pashmina, and a small mirror with the 'evil eye' on it. The Bazaar is a sensory overload of colours, smells, faces, noises. Hours pass. Then it was after 5pm and we ate dinner at a tiny restaurant, 110 years old! We wandered on to Sultanahmet, where we chilled out beside a fountain in a park within sight of the Blue Mosque and Aya Sophia, which we will visit tomorrow. We decided to wind up the day as we began, with a beer, but on the way we passed a leatherworks store where Izzet went in to talk to the proprietor. Before we knew it, Ange and I were both trying on super comfortable leather sandals, and without much ado and thanks to Izzet the price had dropped - Ange needed to replace her broken jandals but I didn't need any at all.. they are lovely though. Stand by for exciting photos of footwear (..like this one).

We got a cab over to our side of the water, then rode Istanbul's oldest underground tram up to Tünel (apologies for the random use of proper Turkish letters) and went to Natalia and Izzet's local for a cool glass of Efes beer. It's a good drop and we enjoyed a couple, during which Izzet left for a recording session and we were joined by Mehmet. We adjourned to another bar to see some gypsy music, which is very lively, and then the conversation turned to the meaning of life before we called it a day. Not before time: my eyes were refusing to look in the same direction.

You can see photos of Singapore here, and some from Istanbul here.

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Blogger ANNA said...

Really awesome photos Jess. Just like being there only I'm still cold. I love seeing your adventure unfold!

8:48 PM  

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