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Istanbul (not Constantinople)

Written on: Saturday July 11th, 2009

Brita, my friend from Vienna, had just been offered a new job as marketing director with Ikea. But before slipping back into the world of cubicles, business meetings and expense accounts, she wanted one more getaway out in the world. Visiting me in Turkey was the answer.

It was I who arrived first into the city, wiped out from the long train journey south. Fortunately I was able to catch a couple hours of sleep before Brita's smiling face came strolling through the front door of our Sultanahmet Hotel.

"Hey kid! How are you?!?"

'Great! How was your trip down?'

"Fine. Will tell you all about it."

We caught up for a while before heading out at night to see what Istanbul had to offer. Possibly the most significant attraction in the city, the Blue Mosque was brilliantly lit up in the night sky. It was impossible to avoid admiring both it and the nearby Hagia Sofia, but I decided to be patient and wait until the following day to explore them more thoroughly.  Instead, we strolled about the city, taking in the diversity of the place.  It was more harsh than I expected, with men constantly yelling commands AT you instead of asking if they could help you or be of service.  But, I figured, I was still tired and perhaps this wouldn't seem so significant the following day.  We ended at a roof top cafe overlooking the city lights as well as the river.  A fine meal was served by an overly pleasant staff, once again returning a positive note to my opinion of the Turks.

The next morning we toured the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia more in depth.  Both were stunning, but the latter got my nod as the more impressive structure.  After a brief stroll through town for a bite, we did something that one does not have the opportunity to do very often: we crossed from Europe into Asia in about twenty mintues!  The Bosphorus River separates the two continents, and grabbing a ferry from Eminönü to Üsküdar made the journey a snap.  Getting our fill of the Asian side of Istanbul, we proceeded back down the Golden Horn, taking in the sights of the city along the shore.  Nighttime saw us heading into unchartered waters.  We trekked blindly north of the Galata Bridge in search of fabled restaurants serving exquisite local cuisine.  After many wrong turns and hills climbed, we finally arrived at a little nook of restaurants.  We chose something low key and dived into the raki.  It was a fabulous finish to a relaxing day in the city.

Having a bit of time this afternoon before our flight out of town, we opted to tour the Spice Market and the Grand Bazaar.  The Spice Market was outstanding!  Hundreds of kiosks selling exotic spices, teas and sweets.  And it was just as much a feast for the eyes and nose as it was for the tongue.  The brilliant colors practically lit up the interior rows of shops, while the never-ending diversity of scents thoroughly tested your brain to come up with the origin of the smells.  When Brita finally selected a shop from which to make her purchases, we were seduced by the workers with free samples of many, many goodies.  And since she was unable to eat the sweets, it was I who was forced to sample the local baklava, honey squares and chocolate.  Yes, it was a difficult job. :) 

Our last stop of the day was at the Grand Bazaar.  The place was a zoo...a huge conglomerate of shops selling seemingly everything.  Gold, jewels, clothes, hardware supplies, live animals, etc were offered by the more than 4000 merchants trying to peddle their products to both locals and tourists alike.  A single t-shirt was all the business they got from us.

After returning to the hotel, we said our goodbyes to the owner and once again donned the backpacks.  The city tour was over...now it was time to get ruined!



From B on Aug 10th, 2009

getting ruined can have a positive aspect..incredible but TRUE!