I’m comfortably installed at a small seaside cafe on the Galata side of the Golden Horn. The waves are lapping at the pier and splashing the tables closest to the water. I’m on the third tier of tables. I’m in the shade, in a nice breeze and enjoying the view of people as much as the boats and the Topkapi Palace across the water.
Next to me is a couple in their thirties. He’s smoking a nagile, aka a hubbly-bubbly, hookah or water pipe. She’s in a full burka-style dress, with her whole face covered except her eyes. On my other side is a couple in their twenties with matching Blackberries sharing an ipad screen. She is dressed in very tight jeans and a tight T-shirt with cap sleeves. Her hair is not covered. I’d say only about 10% of the women on the street chose to cover their heads. Their choice in covering ranges from just a casual head scarf draped loosely to the full body covering. Skin tones average about an olive color, but can range from very dark to pasty white . In front of me is an older Turkish woman, with light skin and blond hair, dressed and coiffed in a manner that would put any Savannah socialite to shame. She would fit in perfectly sipping mint juleps with any southern ladies-who-lunch group. I can’t imagine her speaking with anything other than a deep Southern drawl! There are four backgammon games going on around me. The boards are available to borrow from the “house”. I have certainly found a “local” place!
This is my fourth day inIstanbul. I have tried very hard to pace myself. I usually get to a new place and try to see EVERY major attraction on the first day. I’m getting too old for that! My apartment is comfortable. My only “complaint” is that it is at the bottom of a valley. To get out of the apartment and up to a main road it is quite a climb for this poor old body! It DOES get easier each day… I don’t exactly DO any walking, let alone climbing at home in North Carolina. Our city is just now getting around to putting sidewalks in, so I drive everywhere. When I am on vacation, I walk all day long. I will come back in much better shape than I arrived!
Getting to Istanbul was a small adventure. My plane from Raleigh to New York was delayed more than an hour with engine problems but I had a two and a half hour layover in NY, so I had no problem connecting with my flight to Istanbul. That flight got into Istanbulmore than an hour early, so I was unsurprised that the taxi driver I had arranged for wasn’t there. But when he hadn’t shown more than an hour and a half later, I finally found an Internet connection, called my landlord (who had arranged the pick-up) and ended up getting my own taxi to my apartment. The landlord, Murat, met me at the apartment and helped me with my bags… heavy with the comforts of home. After showing me around the apartment, he kindly took me for an exploratory walk around the area.
We first found a grocery store… he showed me which grocery store was the cheapest up to the most expensive… and I bought a 5 liter jug of water. Murat carried that jug of water for the next hour or so with no complaint! He also helped me buy a prepaid cell phone and a metro card. We walked down to Taksim square and he showed me where the metro and funiculars to the old city were located. The next day he arranged to have 20 liters of water delivered to my door… which only cost me about $2.50 including delivery. Murat has been very helpful.
So… I’ve really spent the past few days getting my apartment in order and recovering from my trip here and the whirlwind tour that Murat gave me (that guy walked FAST, even with a 5 liter handicap!). I’ve been into the old city a couple of times and wandered around. I’ve let one carpet seller show me his wares… enough to know that I probably can’t afford any carpet that I would like! I found the gold han (historical market) where I intend to take some of Roger’s old class rings and other jewelry to smelter who will melt it down for me and make it into a thick wire which I can then have made into a bracelet (or two). The shop was closed when I got there, but I will try again next week.
Otherwise… life’s a trip!