Enter the restaurant, leave the carpet!

Trip Start Feb 21, 2007
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Flag of Turkey  ,
Tuesday, April 17, 2007

How freaking cool is this??? I'm really here, I'm really in some crazy and foreign and exotic place that you only ever read or hear about - you never actually go these places, you just experience them through Disney (Alladin anyone???). Talk about a pinch me moment.  All night I'm just saying over and over again, I can't believe it, I can't believe I'm finally actually here.  I wander with the monumental Aya Sofya  (multiple spellings people but you get the idea), and Blue Mosque in sight.  How cool is that???  Now I wish I was staying longer.... or do I?

The bus arrived after a lengthy stop over on the Turkey side of the two customs checkpoints: one of our fellow passengers almost wasn't allowed in and I'm still not sure why.  hmmmm....  but fortunately I got my visa and through without a hitch, and we arrived 15 min. behind schedule.  Not bad.  Still people impress me with transportation more than the Italians ever will. ha HA!  During the trip I befriended the only other person crazy enough to go it alone backpacker style... a girl from S. Korea actually, who therefore made me all the more homesick for TKD and friends!  But it was nice having someone else to chat with as the rest were cracking jokes in Greek and singing along to the extremely BAD Greek music the driver was blasting.  uh, road trip anyone?  So we get off the bus at this terminal just outside the city, and according to all guide books everywhere and our hostels, we were to take a bus or train to a tram stop, then a tram the rest of the way and then walk it.  We started with a bus that happened to be right there going our way....which seemed a good idea until 5 min. later when we realized why so few were on it: Istanbul with 12 million + people must be perennially in rush hour.  Hell we might as well have been in NYC. geez.  The driver never called our stop, so we nearly missed it.  We get off and after much gesturing with a nice lady, start looking for the tram to take.  The next lady we talked to had enough English to tell us, well, you could take the tram, or just walk it, I'm going that way anyways.... excellent!

So we followed her most of the way, and after a good half hr of wandering eventually found our hostels.  All the while of course the only people with enough English to help you are people you don't especially want helping  you.  Guys that want to sell you everything from shoes to rugs, or just being 'friendly welcome-to-my-country-where-are-you-from-pretty-lady' kind of guys.  Super.  Turns out we're staying a block away from each other, and as we near the hostels, the guy that actually works at her hostel is showing us the way while trying to get me to change my reservations and stay at his hostel too.  Well I'll give him credit for being an active entrepreneur.  One of the best things about being a woman in the more noticeably sexist countries is that sometimes you get discounts on things, free things, or actual help.  One of the worst things about being a woman in this country is that you are never alone.  Or left alone is more like it.  Take your pick before someone else does!
After taking a long shower (we both had come from Santorini and were quite smelly by this point, having last had a shower on Sunday I think? mmmm, love that greasy hair!),  I met up with the S. Korea girl and we wandered to find a cheap restaurant, or well, really just food. I was STARVING.  We couldn't find the place her hostel rocommended, so we decided on a place with reasonable looking prices.  It's about 1.8 Liras for a Euro, so things look expensive, but you're really paying about half that in euros.  So like lunch was 8 Lira each, about 4 euros. Not bad.

Dinner was stupidly cheap as well, and for that we got loads of food.  We coudln't even finish it and all the while the waiter keeps coming up with other things maybe we want to spend our money on... how about fresh rice pudding, feel that? (he brought over a bowl) It's fresh! I made it myself, well maybe not, but it's fresh.... And he'd keep wandering over to chat us up and tell us how great some lady friend of his thought he was (so why'd she leave you to go travel some more?) and you know he's not married, am I married??  As it just so happens, sure I am I said, waggling my engagement ring at him. ohhh too bad.  Yeah sure.  How many kids?? How old do you think I am, buddy???  NO kids.  OH.  well that's ok then.  is it??? hmmmm....  what's your name?  Meghan (sorry Meg, it's the first thing that came to mind).  ahh, meg-han that is beautiful American name.  (this fake life thing is fun, I think I could get used to this haha)  but you have bad food there, only pizza and hamburgers (he's never even been!!!) but here is good food.  ahhhhhhh!!!!!!!!  but you have to love the way the converstaion went because we were just laughing at the whole thing and I think he couldn't tell if I was serious when he finally brought over a design for a new placemat and wanted our opinion.  It was a map of the area with the restaurant on it, and I gave him advice I should've charged him for: I said, hey, use it but eithe rmake the placemats paper or make a smaller copy so people can take it with them.  Then they'll have a map of the city but also be able to find you again.  How's that for advice, eh?

And THEN we get the owner over.  How is the food, so you are from Chicago then? (by this time I decided I should try pretending to be French tomorrow and see how that goes haha), yea I lived in Philly for 15 yrs but now I live here.  I go back. oh do you have family ther? no no, I go for business.  ahhh, that makes sense (no it doesn't, you own a restaurant).  yah, my main business is tiles, I sell beautiful tiles.  oh that's nice (thank God its not carpets! yes!!!).  yes you see? and he brings us over two framed letters of peple saying how great he  and all of his wares are.... and THEN guess what?  and af ter dinner if you like, I have a private store of carpets, but not just anyone can buy there, they are special invited so they come with good things and blahblahblahhhhhh.... awwwww shit.  here it comes.  Lucky for us by then we were nearly wiping our mouths with napkins and getting up.  Now, I give you good deal, but no pushing, you know peple on the street want you to buy carpets and its bad but here its special and no pushing but you can look if you want.  And then asked us AGAIN when we got up to leave to which we politely but firmly said, not tonight, thanks!  And then the waiter even gave us a business card of the restaurant with his name on it (thanks, now we know where NOT to go next time!) and basically wished us sweet dreams and promised free carpet samples when we return tomorrow which of course we promised we'd do.  But you know?  For all the hassling in the short time we've been here, in general (save for tonight, why can't I talk to you? you were nice before, now you're just friendly from the back - jerk),  it's far more amusing than it ever was in Greece or S. Italy.  Maybe Greece prepared us after all: say anything to get 'em to shut up.
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