Part 2: The Gang Fine Tunes Their Sketch-dars
Trip Start Jun 03, 2009
86Trip End Ongoing
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Sarah and Lindsey arrived in Istanbul well rested from the Ambien they took. We met up with Brittany at the hostel. We decided to check out the two large bazaars in Istabul, the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar. The Grand Bazaar was not at all what we expected it to be. The whole thing was covered, and it was paved and not very busy. It was more like shopping in a big mall. The spice bazaar was very cool- there were bins of spices, all kinds of candy, lots of teas. It smelled delcious, and most of the merchants would let you try the
products. We purchased the apple tea we had been enjoying during our time in Turkey
Lindsey and Sarah decided to go to a traditional Turkish bath. Our hotel manager in Pummakale had recommended her favorite bath, so we decided to try it out.We got to the bath and decided
to do the traditional massage and bath. We changed into towels in the changing room and headed for the bath. The bath was a hot steamy room with a marble slab in the middle. Around the raised marble platform were faucets and a jacuzzi. As soon as we walked in, half naked old Turkish women ripped our towels off and forced our naked bodies onto the hot slab. They proceeded to vigourously scrub our ENTIRE bodies with a loofah like mitt. It was amazing how much dead skin came off. Lindsey's lady pointed to her arm and said, "OHHH you are very dirty." They then massaged us and washed our hair. Then they rinsed us off and we sat in the jacuzzi and splashed ourselves with cool water. We floated home, and since we had done laundry in the morning, we were the cleanest we had been in months.
That night we had dinner on the Bosphorus with our new friend Deanna. She is from Washington DC and had come to Istanbul for a few days before she had to start her business trip. She works for a nonprofit education organization, and was there to facilitate the
transporation of 25 Iraqi students from Istanbul to Washington DC
The next day we decided to go on a tour of the mosques of Istanbul. We decided to start at the largest mosque, the blue mosque. Unfortunately, we chose to go at noon on Friday, the muslim holy day. There was a service going on. We thought it was just the normal prayer (you cannot
enter mosques to vist during the prayer time) so we waited for 15 minutes, the 30 and then an hour before we decided to move on and come back later. We walked down to the Bosphorus and over the bridge. We successfully went into our first mosque. We used the scarves provided to cover our heads and legs. For lunch we stopped at a stand by the river and ordered Patso sandwiches, which are a hot dog, fries, mayo and ketchup in a bun. We went to the New Mosque and then back to the Blue Mosque. We all really enjoyed the mosques. The walls have no images of people or animals, so they are covered in geometric and flowery designs in beautiful colors. They all also have low hanging chandeliers and ornate carpeting.
That night we decided to go out and Deanna joined us. We had heard that Taxim was the place to be, so we drank some Istanblue (again, it was horrible but we felt we had to because we were in Istanbul). None of us had been out in such a conservative country, so we weren't sure what to expect or how to dress
We were slightly shaken from this experience, so we settled on a bar with seating outside. As we were sittting there we noticed that there were not turkish girls out alone. There were some out with their boyfriends, but we were the only group of all girls. There were plenty of groups of Turkish guys and foreign guys, including a group of 18 year old British boys on their gap year who decided they were too cool to hang out with us
The next day was the 4th of July and Lindsey and Sarah went to the Hagia Sophia, This was originally the seat of the Orthodox church, but was converted to a Mosque by the Ottomans. The Christian paintings were then covered up and painted like a mosque. Some of them have now been uncovered, and it is cool to see the juxtiposition of the mosaics of Jesus and Mary next to the arabic writing that was added by the ottomans.
We were all craving a burger, and seeing that it was the fourth of july we thought it was only fitting that we go celebrate with a meal at Mcdonalds. Some of us, Brittany and Sarah, decided to go for the full American experience and "superboyed" their meals. This was the best decision ever, even though they didn't mean to get meals that were quite as large as they ended up being. Lindsey and Deanna went with the "historical fish sandwich" at the snack stop next door. Then we all decided to go back to the room and take a nap.
That night as we were walking out to dinner a Turkish man invited us to sit outside his carpet shop and smoke hookah with him. Deanna, still needing to fine tune her sketchdar- for some reason thought this was a sketchy situation. *for those of our loyal fans who are wondering, hookahs are filled with flavored tobacco, usually apple or mint*
One of the carpet shop owner Osman's loyal customers, a Norwegian man named Thomas, was also sitting there with him. Thomas was an importer exporter who buys concrete in Turkey and sells it to Iraq and Libya. Deanna, still not quite tuned in, asked him if what he did was illegal, and then added, "You know, just between us." Luckily Thomas was not offened and thought it was rather funny. We sat with them for awhile, and Osman told us a lot about Turkish life. He was from Van, in Eastern Turkey, and had some of the famed Van cats. Van cats are large white cats and are characterized by their distinctive eyes. Males have one blue and one green eye, and females have one blue and one yellow. They also like to swim, which they learned to do in Lake Van. We learned that you are not allowed to take them out of the country. However, Osman said Brittany could have one as part of a marriage proposal, and he even threw in the hookah. The owners of van cats are very proud, and more than one turkish man has offered to show us their cat photo albums
We were starting to get a little hungry, so we ordered mezze- turkish appetizers served with bread- from the restaurant across the street. When they arrived, Osman told us the bread was Kurdish and proceeded to tell us he was Kurdish. The Kurds are a minority in Turkey that have been oppressed since the democratization of Turkey. They are not allowed to speak their language, wear their native dress, or use their alphabet publically. Although pressure on this minority has eased in recent years, Osman told us that 8 years ago he would not have said he was Kurdish outloud, it remains a part of kurdish life.
The next day Brittany went to go pick up Tom from the airport. Lindsey and Sarah set off for a street art exhibition that was going on by Taxim- in the day, it is not sketchy at all. Unfortunately, the exhibit was closed so we started walking through the streets. We met an Australian girl who had recently travelled overland through Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and Iran. If anyone is concerned about our itinerary, they should talk to her, as she was there during the protests in Iran and seemed unfazed about it. She also walked across the Afghani border, and was greeted by a man who said "Hey dudes, whats up?" and she proceeded to stay with him for the next three days. She was, by the way, with two other travellers. She recommended the fried mussel sandwiches at the fish market down the street, and we decided to take her advice. The sandwiches were amazing, but we think we might leave her travel advice alone...
That night Lindsey and Sarah said goodbye to Tom and Brittany, and boarded an overnight bus to Fethiye, a city on the Turkish coast.
Moral of the story: Following boys from "Holland" into a club= sketchy. Transporting concrete between Turkey and Iraq= not sketchy. Staying with a random Afghani man= sketchy Accepting invitiations to tea and hookah from a man on the side of the street= surprisingly unsketchy
Glum: Waiting to see the street art exhibit, and it was closed
Glow: Meeting Deanna
Glum: Almost getting sold into white slavery
Glow: Meeting us to save her from that fate
Glum: We only found the sketchy part of Taxim and not the fun part
Glow: Dinner and Hookah with Osman and Thomas