Well, in typical traveller fashion, it is 4:40 a.m. on.....Saturday? and I am up and awake and alone on the terrace of our hotel restaurant with one weak light on and Louis Armstrong playing on the radio of a German Radio station. Hugo and I keep trying to place what Istanbul, what Turkey reminds us of. It's not enough for it to be itself, we search for a cognate in our already travelled experience. Around some corners it feels like Prague or Brno, this Czech city I was in for all of 2 days once. Last night, in Beyoglu (the g is silent of course) it felt more like Paris than anything else. Montmartre or one of the far-flung arrondisments. What it doesn't feel like is "The Middle East" or "An Islamic Country". Much more like what I imagine Greece/Albania/Bulgaria would feel like. It will, soon enough, feel like Istanbul. Then we can say, when we're in Iran next year (have to work on Hugo for that one), "ohhhhhh, this feels a little like Istanbul".
After breakfast yesterday,
after Hugo made friends with some guy called Gary from N. Dakota (they didn't talk politics), we headed off to walk. Looking for the sea of Marmara. Funny how hard it can be to find watet sometimes.
We wandered through smaller and smaller and quieter and quieter streets, past wooden houses,
past the local boys school and the local police training station until we finally saw ships. Marmara.
The street that runs all along the southern part of Istanbul and around to the other port, Eminou, is called Caddessi Kennedy.
My mother's maiden name was Kennedy so I figured I'd be welcome. Oh, and of course, in Turkish fashion, Caddessi is pronounced Jattessi.
We'd seen no dogs. Some cities, like New York, are dog cities. This is a cat city. Maybe because it's ancient or because it was once the seat of the Roman Empire (ever been to the Coliseum? cats cats cats cats).
So finally, on our morning walk along the sea we found our first dog -- and then a couple of more.
Later, in the courtyard of the Topkapi Palace, we saw 3 more - large, yellowish, one ear tagged, seemingly belonging to noone, flea-ridden.
We walked and walked, and saw a few occasions to breach the city walls (the old walls are mixed with newer walls and the entire city is ringed by a large 4 lane highway on which everyone thunders by doing 110 or 140 Kph despite the quaint 50 signpost.
We missed our last opportunity to enter the city and so were stuck for another mile or so walking by the water until we reached the Golden Horn - an area where there is an inlet that splits the Southern European side of Istanbul from the Northern European side and the European side from the Asiatic Side.
We finally found our was back in and went for a quick coffee (and a long conversation about carpets). After coffee, (10 TKL or about $6.50 - tourist area, don't ya know) we headed off to the Topapki Palace.
The guide book said to leave half a day and they weren't kidding.
This place is fairly big but it's also really sprawling and there are little buildings everywhere to explore. The crowds are fairly intense - there were, oh, probably, 500 school children - all about 3 feet tall, all wearing orange shirts. They were actually well-behaved and incredibly cute - practicing their English by abruptly approaching you and saying with mock-seriousness, "Hello. How are you. I am fine. Where are you from. I am from Turkey." Then they would laugh and run away. We're told that the place is packed in summer. I can't imagine surviving that. As it was I was shoved aside at least 4 times by cantankerous Europeans. It's nice to travel and encounter Europeans wbo are just as badly dressed and just as uncouth as the Americans. Sort of levels the playing field.
We didn't make it to the Harem which required a separate entry fee. arrrrgggghhh.
By that time we were on shaky legs and sort of done with the jostling. We did get to see the Treasury and all the unbelievalbe jewels and doo-dads and pendants and gravy boats.
The kitchens were also cool and impressive.
There must have been 4 or 5 long halls that were the kitchens, with these massive chimneys punched through the roof.
This place is from the 1450s and you can just imagine the bustle and noise and smoke in these kitchens. As Hugo put it, a lot of kebabs.
Of course the tile work is extraordinary.
The fact that they are all hand painted beggars the imagination.
(Oh, it's 5:30 a.m. now - the muzzeins have started. Our local mosque singer is not very good, I've decided. When he pauses to take a breath, you can hear others, from farther away, and they're doing a much better job.)
I'm fading a bit and might go take a nap before breakfast - you know - a little hour kip. Later.