From an Airport to the Mediterranean
Trip Start Jul 31, 2007
10Trip End Aug 28, 2007
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as i board the plane i'm greeted by enthusiastic flight attendants, all spanning the age spectrum -- from young, beautiful and dark-eyed to old, beautiful and bright-eyed. as i take my seat directly in the middle of the plane, surrounded by turks on either side, i begin reading "heat" by bill buford. early in the flight i learn that my leftwards neighbor immigrated to the states in '97 and started a food truck business in long island and now lives with his brother in a basement apartment that costs some ridiculous $800 monthly rent. dinner arrives (no chicken dish left -- only ravioli) with a mini-bottle of red wine ("how old are you?"). the plane hits slight turbulence and, as my family would say "not surprisingly" or "obviously" or "very tosha," i swing my oaf-like piano fingers to my right and lose both half my wine and the respect of my surprisingly kind rightward neighbor. the wine spills all over my neighbor's pants and leaves a small stain on the kitten that she is carrying under her chair. she does me the honor of naming the stain after me -- "anton." i apologize profusely but am secretly a little excited to have at least a piece of a kitten named after me.
as i read "heat" i'm enamored by the prospect of practicing (no, no, i mean cultivating; no, no i mean finding, establishing, realizing) my culinary skills in the shared kitchen of my college house next year. i have grand plans to keep the place clean as i cook both breakfast and dinner for guests and housemates alike. keep the place clean?!
having smoothly landed in istanbul, i walk down a traditionally long airport corridor until i reach "passport control," where i find myself first in line to be checked. as i begin to walk up to the booth, i notice a "visa" sign far off in the distance. just like any country looking to make a few quick bucks, turkey requires that you get a visa immediately prior to entry. as soon as i get in the short line for a visa, it seems as though every plane that had been delayed for the past 24 hours decides to land and throngs of people pile into the passport control lines. i find myself last in a languishing line that sputters every few minutes in order to progress forward. eventually the people ahead of me switch to the "turkish citizens" booths and i join, cutting my projected 4 hour wait into a 1 hour one.
erol greets me warmly as i walk outside and we take his car back home, driving through a heavily populated, still-developing istanbul. we see ex-shanty towns that had transformed in mere years into apartment complexes; we travel from europe to asia to europe and back to asia; we visit erol's old house on the water and finally arrive in kadikoi, where erol's mom cooks me breakfast and shows me my room -- very generous woman!
after waking from a 5 hour sleep, erol and i attend a nearby turkish franchised restaurant sultanahmet and then drive to the european side to the ex-patriot community town called ulus. there we spend a good part of the evening at a great ex-pat bar/restaurant (sunset) drinking and staring at the bosphorus and the color-shifting bosphorus bridge (it has massive lights that switch colors every several seconds). the colors are fantastic, the area is mediterranean, the feeling is post-work freedom. we then travel to ortakoy, where clubs and bars abound; after taking a look at ortakoy mosque and one of istanbul's top clubs (anjelik), we drop into a 4-story restaurant named ortakoy kahvesi where we drink apple-flavored tea and play backgammon for the rest of the night. sitting on the 4th floor terrace we stare into the open as i learn how to play a traditional turkish game. we hear neighbors to our right speak in english with all kinds of accents -- a group of 5 students, 1 russian, 1 italian, 1 asian and a few others i couldn't recognize. they speak about dougie houser, md. it brings back memories. we drive back and i fall fast asleep.