I just spent a glorious week in the magnificent city of Istanbul, Turkey.
Istanbul, for me, was strangely familiar. On one hand, the culture, religion, and language are all reminiscent of Turkmenistan. On the other hand, Istanbul was a refreshing reminder of the existence of all the modern conveniences and excesses of what I associate with the “Western World:” consumerism to the max, navigable and various forms of public transportation (here I exclude Houston from the “Western World”), restaurants galore, toilets that can handle toilet paper, movie theaters, etc. Istanbul is truly a mix of East and West and rightly deserves its name, “A Country on Two Continents.”
Enough chattering and philosophizing. Hehehe. Here are some hard facts about my vacation.
Forms of Public Transportation used:
1. Turkmen Airlines. Cheap and safe! Extensive meal provided.
2. Tram. Light-rail style.
3. Funicular. Underground subway/elevator that takes up you a steep hill. 3 min ride max.
4. Trolley. Running to catch and jumping on are absolutely acceptable even in heels and skirts.
5. Train. A tad bit sketchy after dark but absolutely functional. Runs along old city walls.
6. Bus. Route takes the place of a carpool lane with multiple stops, interesting.
7. Ferry. Scenic, relaxing, concessions provided but not included. An hour ride for about a dollar.
The theory behind mass transit seems to be: try everything possible to get our 15 million people where they need to go. Miraculously, this hodgepodge, no, extensive network of transportation was wonderfully easy to navigate. Istanbul-ites may complain about the traffic but why drive??
1. Backlava . I tasted everything at least once. Trust me, hazelnut is the best.
2. Street corn. Savory and delicious and salty!
3. Dried Fruits. Particularly what I think was a persimmon or date? Don’t know. Ate it anyway.
4. Fish. Wonderful delicious. Enough said.
5. Doner Kebab. Fast, cheap, delicious. Kinda small though . . .
6. Juice. Fruit juice is all the rage with juice shops, called vitamin bufes, elbow to elbow.
7. Iskender Kebab. Delicious, slides right down, order twice as many orders as you think you want.
8. Unknown white steamy drink sold at night out of what look like samovars. Sprinkeled with cinnamon. Expensive (2 lyra) but worth it.
9. Turkish delight. Why are Americans generally uncreative with their candies? Fabulous. Like gummy candies for grown-ups.
10. Pite. Turkish pizza.
11. Cheese and olives and lots of them. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
12. Nutella. Seems to have spread world wide. Apparently originated in France??
Turkish words learned (spelled phonetically):
1. Kach-How much?
4. Afadarsingiz-Excuse Me
5. –yorium-Ending of first person present continuous verbs, can be stuck to Turkmen verb stems for mediocre communication
6. Past tense, numbers same as Turkmen, vocabulary such as ‘pillow’ all same as Turkmen
7. Charlashmak (Turkish-to work, Turkmen-to exchange or bribe)
Famous Places visited:
1. Blue Mosque
2. Topkapy Palace
3. Princes Islands
4. Istanbul Modern. Wonderful art museum. I recommend it!
5. Spice Bazaar.
6. Grand Bazaar.
7. Starbucks. Hehehheeheh. Twice. Do I feel guilty? Only a little tiny bit.
8. Taksim square.
Not famous places visited:
1. Tea Garden- The tea keeps a’coming and the Nargile (Hookah) keeps a’burning.
2. Movie Theater
3. Ariel’s Apartment. Thanks for your hospitality!
4. Bar with live band playing “Turkish Fusion” which is, for the record, much more difficult to dance to than techno. Did that stop me, you ask? Not at all!
5. Multiple Park benches usually accompanied by one or more cats.
Favorite activities in no particular order.
1. Eating food and people watching on a park bench.
2. Sitting and drinking upwards of four to five vases of tea consecutively. Yes, vases. Then finding the closest bathroom. Flushing the toilet paper. HA!
3. Walking with arms linked. This is ok for any mix of genders or ages.
4. Scrabble after breakfast on terrace overlooking the sea.
5. Riding the ferry with feet propped on railing. Listening to country. Yes, I know. Don’t judge.
6. Biking lost around an Island. How lost can you really get on an island? You would be surprised.
7. Eating Magnum ice-cream while sitting on a wall, particularly caramel flavor. Try that for intense chocolaty taste sensation.
8. Buying street food.
And that about sums it up. If you can’t tell, my trip consisted mainly of eating, travelling via transit to a different area, and eating again. Oh, with the occasional, often accidental, seeing of a historical sight. It was heavenly.
Turkey is a must for all travelers.
Miss you all. E-mail me whenever!