Note: The Turkey Chronicles are an ongoing travel journal on a trip Sarah and I took to Turkey from 9/26/08 – 10/6/08. All the Chronicles are collected right here. For more pictures from the Turkey trip, please visit my Picasa web albums here.
Feeling slightly more in-of-sorts after a night’s rest, Sarah, Laura, Benton and I went to meet L & B’s friend Christy for breakfast in Istanbul’s artsy hipster ex-pat neighborhood. One thing you learn when hanging out with Americans who spend a lot of time overseas is that ex-patriots aren’t a mythical race of people from the roaring twenties; they are alive and well and living outside of America all over the world, except in America. Christy is one such ex-pat. I couldn’t really figure out what she does. She consults. She writes a blog called Carpetblogger. She ex-patriates. She officiated L & B’s second wedding. My wife officiated the first. They didn’t get a divorce, they just had 2 weddings. They’re ex-pats, and they can do whatever they goddamn well please.
One thing I do know is that Turkish breakfast is dee-fricking-licious. There’s a candy called Turkish Delight, but the real Turkish delight is Turkish breakfast. If the Turks were interested in truth-in-advertising, they should change the name of Turkish breakfast to Turkish Delight and the name of Turkish Delight to Turkish Frosted Gummy Snack. Because that’s basically what Turkish Delight is. That being said, here’s a picture of Turkish delight, nee breakfast:
(More after the break.)
We wandered around the neighborhood after breakfast and came across a set of colorful exercise equipment, a staple of the Turkish park. I would exercise more regularly if I could exercise on equipment that looked like this.
We then parted ways with Christy and went to Mosquey Square. Again, I have no idea what area of town we were in at any point in time. I call it Mosquey Square because it was surrounded by mosques. We were in Istanbul during Ramadan. One would think that the mosques in Istanbul during Ramadan would be teeming with hardcore Muslims, but this was not the case. Unless perhaps the hardcore Muslims were actually inside the mosques, worshipping, instead of wandering haplessly around the perimeter of the mosques as we were. Which is, now that I think about it, likely.
We contemplated doing something touristy. Sarah thinks perhaps not.
Benton turns to me as the tie-breaker. Let’s do it, I say, and the rest have no choice but to join me in my mad thirst for cultural knowledge.
First stop, the Hagia Sophia. The Hagia Sophia was built as a church in the 6th century. That’s 1500 years ago, for those of you keeping track. I wasn’t even aware humans had evolved to use tools 1500 years ago. You learn something new every day. According to the trusty Lonely Planet guide, we had indeed evolved, and the results were breathtaking.
The center of the domed ceiling is 182 feet high. I’m pretty sure that scaffolding wasn’t there originally, but it looks kinda neat. Here, Laura and Sarah marvel at the ceilingness of the ceiling:
Lovely stained glass windows, too.
There are cats all over the place in Turkey, wandering in and out of buildings at leisure. The cats in Turkey seem particularly fluffy and adorable. My theory is that they have evolved to be cute and fluffy because the cutest and fluffiest cats get the most handouts from humans. Here is a cat padding across the floor of the Hagia Sophia.
And a final view, from the upper floors.
The next stop was the Basilica Cistern. Sadly, I only have one really crappy picture of it. It was underground. It was dark. I’m no Ansel Adams.
As the story goes, the Cistern was built sometime in the 6th century and then forgotten for a thousand years. In the 1500s, it was rediscovered when some locals were like, “yo, we can catch fish in our basements.” The ceiling of the cistern is supported by over 300 stone Greek columns. My picture doesn’t do it much justice.
After the Cistern, we went back to L & B’s and chilled for awhile. Then it was back into the city for a walk through the Spice Market.
The spice market was cool to see, but we weren’t really in the market for spices.
We then went to Ramadan dinner at a restaurant that overlooked the Bosphorous. During Ramadan, Muslims are not supposed to eat or drink anything between sunrise and sundown. Nothing. Not even water. I didn’t know this, so as soon as I sat down, I grabbed my water glass, as is my habit. Benton glared at me and I put down my glass. But then I made him cry because of how tough I am.
Dinner was delicious. I ate too much, though, and still feeling a little jet lagged, I got what Benton referred to as the “meat sweats” halfway through the meal. These are the sweats one gets when eating giant multi-course meals and suddenly realizing just when you think you’re done that you haven’t even arrived at the meat course yet.
My meat sweats drove me down to the bathroom, or as it’s still known in many places across Europe, the W.C. I’m not going to tell you what business I had in there, but let’s just say it was the second of two options. There was a sign on the door reading, “Do not throw toilet paper in the closet.” I thought, “why would anyone throw toilet paper in the closet?” and flushed the toilet like a good American. Afterwards, I learned that the sign was referring to the water closet – meaning don’t throw toilet paper in the toilet. The pipes are old in Istanbul, so when one wipes one’s ass, one is supposed to bundle the TP up and toss it in the garbage can. I’m kind of glad I didn’t know this rule beforehand, because in my state, I would’ve had a real mess on my hands.
We ended the night at a bar that looked like Prince’s bedroom. I haven’t been in Prince’s bedroom (yet), but odds are good it looks like this.
There was a sweet picture of a cat behind the bar that I really wanted to take home with me. I offered the bartender to buy it from him, but no dice.
The staff at the bar were very nice. They gave us multiple fruit plates and free shots. Sarah took about a million pictures of this bartender. I think she was kind of sweet on him.
Laura told us that women come from all over the world to be sex tourists in Turkey. Apparently Turkish men are very attentive and will have sex with whoever. I decided to keep a close eye on my wife.
And then, everything got a little psychedelic. I think Sarah and the bartender might have collaborated to slip something in my drink. Again, just as I imagine a night would be like in Prince’s bedroom.