A first walk.

Istanbul Travel Blog

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The next morning, I find myself entangeld in the bed linen, while the blanket has fallen onto the dirty floor. No wonder: after all, the linen is almost smaller than the mattress, so there is no way to make it stay ontop by tucking it around the sides. So we get up and shower.
Showering, in our bathroom, means causing a medium flood disaster because there is no such thing as a curtain. So I crouch down into an awkward, almost upright foetal position, paying attention to not moving the shower head too far away from my body, as this would most certainly bring forth dangerous hydro-ricocheting. That position enables me to - unwittingly - peek behind the base of the sink. The motive is unknown to me, but someone has placed a transparent plastic bottle there, half-full with a white liquid. I forsake further inspection, because inspection often leads to infection; and white liquids are suspect to me anyway, lol :-)
We have breakfast and head out. We have no orientation at all; we pass a beautiful graveyard (which is also a café, lol) and end up in the Great Bazaar.
The Great Bazaar (Kapalı Çarşı in Turkish, means "Covered Market") makes you go ahhh and ohhh for a couple minutes, then, realizing that there are but jewelry and (fake) clothing shops, it makes you want to leave. Or maybe it's just because we were two boys with a small budget - I bet if you turn my mom loose in there and give her a credit card, you wouldn't get to see her for the next week! Okay, jokes aside: the Great Bazaar is nothing like a modern shopping mall. It's a maze of corridors, all maybe four or five meters wide, and each of those aisles look alike. They are bordered by equally small shops (about 4000 of them), most of which have incredible riches of gold jewelry on display - or cheap, touristy and/or fake stuff.
Tip: Don't expect too much. You must not miss the Great Bazaar, that's for sure, but if you really wanna do some western-world shopping, try Istiklâl Caddesi, Sisli or one of the two modern shopping malls (I'll expand on those later on in the blog).
Leaving the Bazaar, we buy two cups of Ayran. It's very popular down in Turkey, comparable to Coke in the US maybe. It tastes like salad dressing. So we sit down on the stairsteps to the PTT headquarters and drink salad dressing (PTT is the state-owned company running much of post, bank and public utilities stuff).
Tip: As I learned later, Ayran is yoghurt with water and salt. I don't exactly cherish it, but you should try!
So we make our way through the University quarter. Almost no tourists, but hundreds of students people the streets instead. International students also, and many beautiful native girl students (no offense, hahaha)! I get hungry and follow Peter's advice to seek out a Börekcisi - no more Köfte! And indeed, if hunger ever should haunt you in Istanbul, go look for Börek, which is puff pastry with meat or cheese or spinach. It's cheap, too.
Walking aimlessly, we land in a sloped street where all that's ever sold is ... guess! ... beltbuckles! Every single store offers beltbuckles. Some, on closer examination, even have large reels of belt strap. As we turn around a corner, a stark scent confronts us; we're in the small lane of flower stores. Another street corner, and here we go: smiths hewing at steelpots and tinplates, smells of hearths and dust; noise from the carpenters' backstreet ... wow! Basket makers, sieve makers, grill makers, clothhanger makers, you'll find all of them in the northwestern Eminönü district. Frankly, I can't figure why each trade "owns" its street. So maybe there is a (historical) quarter where the guild of the smiths was allowed to work - but beltbuckle shops? Kinda weird.
On our way back home, we pass by a süper market and lineup at the checkout with a bottle of juice that was explicitely (!) priced at 2.25. The cashier, a fat young woman, points wordlessly to the cash till's electronic display, which says 6.25. Ha! I decide to put it back, but my friend starts explaining the digital misconception, ignorant of the fact that the clerk ist less than proficient in the English language. In return, she madly hurls at us what sounds like nasty turkish curses. But maybe it wasn't, I don't know Turkish, and 95% of the population is very, very friendly! Perhaps she was just in a bad mood, since they were having a blackout again. They had candles flickering in the aisles, in fact, it was as romantic as a supermarket can be.
Twice, we walk all the way around the big Hagia Sofia complex looking for the entrance, due to the fact that several signs say "Entrance", each with a big arrow to the left, but you go left and left and left and there is no open door!
Tip: Getting there before 16:45 does the trick, hahaha. They close all gates at 5pm!
It's just after five when we get to the hostel. Peter's been awaiting us, eager to sell beer and to find victims he can kill time with, for example playing chess or backgammon. But it's been one hard, hot day and we tell him we were going to take a nap for an hour or so. Hahahaha!
Heinrich whispers my name, again, our room is bright(er) as day. The one-hour-nap somehow came to be a nine-hour-nap, it's two in the morning; and the fucking floodlight on the street is giving the nocturnal dark no chance. In the first moment, he was even thinking it was two o'clock at noon, lol. I let out a deep sigh which sharply relapses into silence as my wandering gaze hits the floor. Ants! Millions, billions of damned ants, some without and some with wings, and the latter whirr around, land on my bed. I fling them down and we commence a ruthless genocide. But there's no use, if you kill one, ten comrades will appear out of nothing, carrying the corpse of their friend away. After ten minutes, we give up. They must've taken pleasure in breadcrumbs we've dropped on the floor, whatever. We fall back into our beds, sleeping for another eight hours, amidst myriads of small black insects. Second day in Istanbul.

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photo by: Memo