Encouraged by the travel lecturer on board, we got up at 5:50 a.m. to look at the skyline of Istanbul as the ship made her way up the Bosporus to the Golden Horn. It was hazy out, but strengthened by reasonably good coffee and pastry we stared over the railing until the sun came up and the buildings became more visible.
It became quite beautiful — although while dawn on the Bosporus sounded like it would be high on my romantic index, there is something about standing among some two or three hundred red-eyed tourists that doesn’t exactly create an intimate moment. I did see a few couples holding hands — and one couple where a young woman watched the scenery go by in her partner’s arms — so there were romantic possibilities for people who were able to shut out the rest of the world and only see each other. Continue reading »
The apartment I’m staying in in Cihangir, Istanbul sits at the bend of a steep, narrow, cobblestoned street, the kind of lane one car can drive down comfortably but two need to suck in their stomachs to squeeze through. This evening when I stepped outside to go register my cell phone so it would work in Turkey (an apparently silly government regulation designed to combat phone theft) I encountered a man resting against a two-wheeled cart burdened by a rusty piece of equipment that looked like an oversized air conditioner long past its useful life. He was calling out to someone when I stepped onto the street and we made eye contact. I then became the object of his appeal. He rolled out a stream of Turkish that sounded like a question but I answered apologetically that I didn’t speak Turkish. That was OK because his gestures up the hill and toward the cart told me all I needed to know. He needed help pushing his load. Continue reading »
I took a ten-minute tram ride from Cihangir to Sultanahmet as dusk settled over the city on a day that had gone from cloudy to patchy to clear. By chance I had made my journey to Istanbul during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and heard the evening feast in Sultanahmet was quite a celebration. When I arrived at the open space known as the Hippodrome between the two grand monuments of the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, I found more than a celebration; I found a carnival. Continue reading »
One of the cliches of Istanbul (all of Turkey, for that matter) is the skill and persistence of carpet salesmen. In the main tourist district of Sultanahmet it’s hard to walk far before finding a friendly salesman sidling up to you to urge you to come to his shop to look at his wares. Some prove virtually impossible to shake and you end up either getting angry and losing your temper, remaining implacable and having an uninvited guest along on your sightseeing walk, or going to his shop all the while insisting that you will buy nothing. You then sit through a presentation of undeniably exquisite carpets and drink cup after cup of apple tea and either break down and buy something or accept the hospitality with a smile and emerge, some indeterminate time later, a bit dazed by it all. Continue reading »