Flying and arriving in Istanbul

Sept 21-Frankfurt airport-

Waiting for the flight to Istanbul, and–what time is it? Or, as they say in Turkish, saat kach? We had what they referred to as “a short night” on the plane: a few hours of darkness, during which we slept very little.  Luftansa is a cushy ride, with cool bathrooms and a terrific entertainment selection of music, movies, TV shows, and audio books.  After listening to Brian Eno’s Music for airports (how long had it been?), I settled on Hard Times audiobook, which engrossed me to the point of sleeplessness. Each character perfectly captured, no overacting, Dickens’ feminism and fury at class hypocrisy clearly coming through.  At what point in Dickens’ life did he write this?

Hanging out with Lois and Clare, waiting for the call, going over some of the past, playing Jewish geography.

The call has been given.  Time to go!

September 22- Istanbul

Adventures last night and today, of the getting-our-feet-on-the-ground kind .  Last night, after meeting up with Kathy, Frish & Veronica, and later Beni, searching out a restaurant not too touristy,  during which the eight of us ordered too much and were surprised by the bill, though it came out all right.  I think it will be hard to find bad food here.  Overpriced, no problem.  Great yoghurt, eggplant, cucumbers, lamb.  Ordering carefully and in an organized manner will be the key. Lots of laughter and bonding.

After dinner, a meander through Sultanahmet square, and tea in the Bazaar, listening to some musicians, and watching the nargile smokers, both men and women, separate and together.  Many shops with charming salesmen, engaging in a most persuasive way, hope springing eternal.

In the morning we embarked for the Pera Museum, across the Golden Horn in Galata.  (So fun to be retracing the steps of Kemal Pasha, from Jenny White’s detective novels). Back to Sultanahmet Square, to buy the jetons and cram ourselves into the tram to Karakoy, then up the Tunel, an underground funicular, the second subway built after London.  One tunnel, two stops, running from the bottom of Galata Hill to the top. Then an exploratory adventure to find the Pera museum, located on a boulevard that winds along the outside of the hill.  The museum is a beautifully repurposed old hotel, founded in recent years by a very wealthy couple, committed to promoting emerging Turkish artists in may media, including film, and housing some of their personal collections as well. The lovely, smart, and articulate Fatmah guided us through it all. The art show features the work of students from an Izmir art school, all of it interesting and some of it outstanding.

Ate lunch at the Culinary Institute, which was good but not memorable.  Then more and more exploring around Galata, finding the main pedestrian drag, Ishtiklar, FULL OF PEOPLE, finally escaping down some side streets to find a specific shop in Ciangir. This took us through small streets that wound down.  Ooh, a hamam (Turkish Bath), and we were tempted to go in, but Clare wasn’t getting  a good vibe, so we moved on. On and on, getting further into parts where daily life is lived.

Popular tea spot

“The state has no business here”

Pickles!

The buildings are mostly in a state of lovely decay, though some are being energetically renovated (by whom?). After getting turned around, we finally found the shop, a little hole in the wall, full of scents and soaps and other over-priced items, run by an emaciated Englishwoman (not a reassurance). In front of the store someone had developed the habit of taking a pee, so the smell prevailed. Not an invitation.

By now we were exhausted, but did not want to return to the hotel, since we planned to eat in Galata, so we proceeded down the hill to the water, hoping to find a park and somewhere to rest. Found respite in the Kilic Ali Pasha Camii (mosque) which took us off the busy street and provided some quiet time. it is one of the 300 designed by Mimar Sinan, architect and builder to three sultans.

Sought some way to sit by the Bosphorus, but could not find it.  Recuped enough to set off back up the hill, straight up, through small streets busy with evening activity. The street signage is mostly not there on the small streets, and at times the names of streets a not the same as what appears on the map.  Newer signage might include the street name (Kumbaraci) the name of the immediate vicinity (Tomtom), the intersecting street (Istiklal), and the larger district (Galata).

More adventures getting to our restaurant, a yummy meal of meze and fish, then further adventures along Istiklal, people watching, buying Turkish delight and other sweets, and finding our way back to the Karakoy tram stop, and finally to Sultanahmet and bed.