Saturday, October 22, 2011

Last Day in Istanbul

Greg and I took off on our own for a five hour walk into Istanbul , first enjoying a leisurely brunch looking over the harbour in Istanbul, seeing tugs, ferries and large boats pass between the European and the Asian side of The City.  I ate Indonesian food from the ethnic buffet, some goren, the most memorable lime/chilli fish I have ever consumed and I made my way through a Malaysian soup, enjoying the taste of the anise seed whenever I would find one. I leaned over and said to Greg and Wyona and said, “Now this would be more than enough pleasure for one day of a person’s life.”

Greg and I had our umbrellas in hand and our raincoats our backs.  We marched smartly passed the other cruising ships and to the quay where fishermen stood side by side, sometimes shoulder to shoulder and sometimes one arm’s length away from each other – or even with 2 in the front and one casting in his line from behind them and over their heads to the water.  I looked at their feet and there was a white four litre pail full of fish.

“Look Greg, the bait.”  But I was to find out later – that was not the bait but the catch – tiny fish, still alive, some of them flipping out of the pail onto the cobblestones and then a fisher would stop to pick up two or three of the escapees and get them back into his pail.

Greg and I were on our way to the Spice Market.  A European Running Marathon had blocked all of the streets around the Harbour and they were not open until 2 pm, so we knew our time would be short.  We saw some local people running like crazy to a boat, and Greg said, “I think they are catching the local ferry.  Want to go for it?”

I am not one to say no, and the ticket taker spoke enough English to send Greg to the machines were he exchanged 4 Turkish lira for 2 red tokens.  He was ahead of me and onto the boat.  I had to be shown where to put the red token and was only barely across the gangplank when it was pulled up and the boat pushed off.

We sat on the top deck with the shoppers going home with their packages, or with the tourists who were taking pictures.  One local family had all of their old bread stored in such a bag and the mother, the teen-age daughter and the younger daughter were throwing the crumbs to the air and the gulls were swooping in to catch the food before it hit the water.  There must be messaging system similar to the iphone which I shall call the gullphone, for before long the sky was fll of gulls following our boat or flying to the side of the boat, keeping up with us, flying not more than an arm’s length over the railing.  When the boat stopped Greg and I went to get off, but I was slower than he going down the stairs and noticed that some passengers were still lounging on their inside chairs. “Greg, I think this boat has more than one stop.  Let’s just keeping going.”  

 And so we took the full round of the ferry, circling over to the Asian side with that quick half stop, and then back.  Once of that was not enough and we sat on the top deck, seeing the full glory of the Blue Mosque from aance – twice.  I would still be riding that ferry right now if Greg hadn’t insisted that we keep our forward motion alive.  But then remember, eating brunch and watching the harbour was enough for one day for me, and with the ferry, I knew we had already doubled my pleasure the day.

The third day-within-a-day happened under a bridge. While riding the trolley we had passed over a long bridge.  Walking that far was our initial goal, just giving ourselves a good stretch by walking. We were constantly puddle jumping or twisting our umbrellas to miss the umbrellas of the other passengers.  I know one Turikish word.  Hombre (pronounced as in a cowbowy movie), for that is the word that the umbrella sellers shouted from every corner in the rain.  As we walked through the underground pass to go onto the bridge, there was a Chinese market in full swing.  “A good thing Wyona is not here,” I said to Greg, “for the two of us would move on after seeing this.”

Past that market and above ground, were fish sandwiches being sold as fast as hamburgers – the grills out on barges and the clerks passing them out to shore as fast as the waiters could receive them and make an exchange of money. Greg bought a Texas donut sized bun.  Greek people seem to be buying grilled corn, the kernels blackened on a grill. before they are put in their hands.

So as not to get lost, we followed the tram line back to the Blue Mosque.  I paused at a restaurant where 2 older women dressed in white sat cross legged on cushions, rolling buns.  One of them was making a flat bread, rolling it many times, letting the bread relax, then rolling it again, and again, putting ground lamb, feta cheese and spinach on it, and then frying it slowly on a low flat grill that was four feet in diameter and only two feet off of the ground.  The shop keeper invited us in.  We said we would have to go home and get the third members of our party, maybe later in the evening.  He came out later, again saying, “You must come and stand inside.  The women who are rolling the buns are worried that you are getting cold.”  So I stood close by in the warmth of the restaurant.  By now Greg and I were wet – our shoes from the puddles and the legs of our trousers from the water that splashed up from the streets as the taxis and buses drove by.

By now I felt as though I was into the fifth day of touring turkey, looking in small shops, along the streets.  This time I stopped where three men wearing clear plastic cloves were scooping Turkish delights out of packages, shaking the icing sugar off of them, and lining them up in symmetrical rows, many rows high along one side of the shop.  On the other side of the shop were rows of exquisitely packaged spices, -- making the ones I have at home pale in desireability when I looked at the colours, the reds, ochres, yellows, saffrons, deep browns and steel grays.  We also stopped to look at the calf length women’s boots, knowing they were leather because I looked inside of them, but the decorated outsides were embroidered and the leather dyed in garish bright colours. A steep sidetreet, beckoned next with heavy tapestries overhanging low tables and the smell of Turkish tobacco reaching the streets.  Harem pants were for sale in all of the shops.

I watched a woman get a freshly squeezed glass of pomegranate juice.  I wanted a glass, so Greg pulled out a few Euros.  But he finished giving me a glass from the juice he has squeeze for the other woman, which was fine, but I wanted to see the squeezing process, more than drink the juice.  When I went back to take a look, the boy was running away from me.  I looked around and there were the police, which was a relief to me, since I knew I was not the one he was running from now.  But not a relief to the boy who was hiding his cart behind a van, his two look-outs signalling to the seller, how long he had to stay hidden – at least until the police van drove away. 

1 comment:

  1. i can't believe how many 'days within a day' were here! ... and there is little in life better than a trip on a ferry!

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