Blog 2013
Three Months in Istanbul

"I have not told half of what I have seen."                       
Marco Polo

visit scenic istanbul

Below are Blog entries for April 2013.
To see the older entries for March, click here, and Jan/Feb here.

Extra Photos are here
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April /4-All Things Come to the Center of the World
Is it my imagination, or has Istanbul gotten more crowded? I've seen situations I've never gotten into before; like I did a few days ago outside the Spice Bazaar. I got into a crowd where I was pressed up against people on all sides and we were being pushed along, like it or not. It's rare that we get a seat on the tram; and often are crammed in like sardines. People seem to be more impatient and likely to cut you off or even push you to get there faster. The crowds at the major sites have been insane around Easter week; but here's the kicker, a friend tells us, "wait til Greek Easter." I hear you can't walk in Beyoğlu without bouncing off Greek tourists. Glad I'll miss that. I'm starting to fuss more. Maybe I will be ready to go home in 3 weeks.
There are suddenly more shops run by Syrians. Not surprising. Many people have had to leave Syria. Today, I came upon a shop that had similar things to what I'd seen in a couple other shops run by Syrians. I asked the shopkeeper, "Syrian?" He said that yes, most of the things in the shop were from Syria. I said, "no, you. From Syria?" He seemed surprised and asked how I guessed. In another shop, I met a man from Syria that had sold antiques before. He lost alot of great pieces when he had to leave. He said that the village that made much of his new inventory had been wiped out. Such beautiful textiles he had.
Went to a hockey game last night. Culture shock! Girls in headscarves and hockey jerseys banging on davul (Turkish big drum) for their teams. There are a suprising number of rinks and teams here; and yes, women's teams. Go Bogazici!

April /2-From the Sublime to the Ridiculous
Dolmabahçe Palace is just gorgeous. I sure wish we could have gotten a proper look at it. Construction was completed in 1856 for the Sultan to move into when he decided that the Topkapı Palace was too old fashioned. We waited for half an hour to get tickets. You are given an entry time, and ushered in by language group. Our interpreter was just awful. I'm used to Turkish accents, but I couldn't understand half of what this girl was saying. Oh well, I just wanted to gawk anyhow. Unfortunately, they rush you through so fast that you miss alot. I kept dawdling to poke my nose into every open doorway. After awhile of that, they put a herder on us, who kept shooing me along. I felt rather cheated.
On a more mundane note, the grocery stores here are silly. Just like at home, they have dumb prices like 1.59; but if you don't have exact change at the registers here, they freak out. Sometimes, they even keep candy bars up front and pressure you to buy them to get your total closer to a whole lira amount. I spent 36.15 TL at the store today and tried to pay with a 50 lira note. It brought both registers to a stop while they tried to come up with change. Jeez.
I've gotten behind on blogging when we've had visitors. Guess I'd better catch up before my daughter arrives in a few days. Should be some interesting things to post then; I have a feeling she's going to make me go outside my comfort zone. We have enjoyed showing previous visitors our Istanbul. B & R gave me an excuse to go hang out at some Narghile cafes. There is one that, years ago, only took up one space in a courtyard of shops. Now, I've returned to find it has taken over the entire han. We sat down in a small room and ordered some coffee and a hookah for B. I abstained because I was getting over bronchitis and didn't want to push it. After awhile, a Turkish man in a business suit walks in like he owns the place. He sits down across from us and an attendant brings out a big pipe with not one, but TWO brass lions on it. He smokes awhile and then addresses B, "you look like a professional." Huh? "You look like a professional smoker, a pasha." (note: he does) Apparently this guy holds court nightly and picked us to have a conversation across the crowded room. He says they call him "John Travolta" and asks us where we're from. So he knows a guy with a Turkish restaurant in Charleston, SC. Yes, been there. Small world. Strange world.
About 3 weeks left before we go home. Home. Still not sure whether I'll be happy or sad about that. I'm a little burnt out after having to spend over a week wading through crowds of really rude tourists. I love North Carolina, but I'm not feeling pulled back there yet. I think I may be on the wrong planet entirely. My home is 200% more comfortable than this place; my life, so much easier. But, Istanbul dominates all your senses and keeps you in the moment. I tend to be in my own little world. Istanbul keeps me focused.

The background for this page was created from a strip on tiles on the floor of the Kariye Church.