On the next day we took a ferry from Canakklae to Gallipoli and after 5 hours’ drive we were back in Istanbul. After lunch, we headed for the Grand Bazaar – the mother of shopping malls. We were keener in the Egyptian Bazaar so after Sam left us at the Nuruosmaniye entrance and told us to return to the same place by looking for the smallest shop numbers; the husband and I made our way to the Spice Bazaar.
We had a few friends from the same group with us and we had a great time squeezing through the crowd along Çarsi Caddesi, ogling at people while they ogled at us – the only 6 Asian faces amongst them. It was much more exciting than in the Grand Bazaar to me. We were mixing with the local crowds, young children in winter wear that seemed to puff them up impossibly, old man sitting in a corner drinking Cay and smoking and families buying stuff for Bayram. It was a down-hill walk so we just flowed with the crowds. It was easy to get our bearings as all we had to do was ask “Spice Bazaar?” and someone would point downwards along the same street. The people were so warm and helpful, and they would smile whenever you smile at them. We saw fruit vendors, nut vendors, shops selling table clothes and cushion covers, Thermal wears and coats, lingerie ornaments and many others that I regret not having a video cam!!! With camera, you always missed something while you were snapping another…
We smelled the Spice Bazaar before we saw it, serious!! And we were all mesmerized by the sight when we first entered the bazaar. The array of colors, scent and sound was sensational and it gave me a sensory overload….. I wanted to try and buy everything!!! Thank God my husband was the sensible one between us and he stopped me from making some big mistakes like trying to buy 100g each of ALL the lokum from the first shop we saw…
We took picture at every shop, ate a evet(?) kebap; which incidentally we noted that had lesser meat then those purchased by locals and I stuck my face to a shop display with combs of honey; golden brown, thick and delicious looking….dreaming of how it would taste like on a piece of warm toast….oh yes… Turkey to my dismay is not a good place for a diabetic like me for there were too many kinds of sweet temptations (from Lokum to honeyed figs to Baklava to puddings to ice-creams) along the way that I could not resist, ended up having cut my carbo intake to compensate for my gluttony.
And of course we had to visit number 31 after reading so much about Orhan in the forum I told my group about him along the way and to my pleasant surprise all of us ended up in the same shop! I went in asking for Orhan and was told with a BIG smile that he will be back and when he did, he said “ ya… lemonlady ya” and he was all smiles. Bwtween us we bought 12 from him and he was so patient when we could not decided being spoilt for choices.
I bought a Rose of Istanbul, Sultana, Musk oil and a mix that Orhan highlighted was lemonlady’s favorite. But I was afraid LL would mind so I requested for some variation, adding more of the floral oil to give it a sharper edge. He was trying to get my husband to buy the Ottoman but the stubborn man simply refuse to wear any perfume so Orhan settled with spraying some extra on him after filling a bottle for someone else.
The walk back to the Grand bazaar was tough. It was like walking up-stream in a flash flood as everyone else was walking towards us… and the uphill terrain did not helped… very soon we were panting and needed a stop. So we browsed some hand-made table clothe and ended up buying them! 2 at the price 10YTl were really cheap for something that beautiful so it was a good deal….
We spent some time in the Grand Bazaar, taking photos, peeping at shops and cafes…..but soon I got bored…. I did not come with an aim to buy anything and soon all the shops begin to look alike to me, same wares, same size, even the sales person look similar…… The husband and I were NEVER shopping person so we decided to retreat to the mosque outside the bazaar. We sat there on a bench and heard the prayer calls and suddenly he said “Arabian Nights….. lets watch it again when we get back” and I cuddled up to him, feeling right at home under that chestnut tree outside the mosque.
Later we met Sam, had tea with him at a café in the middle of the Grand Bazaar and talked about Turkey, its people, family values, education systems and how the country and its people are a unique blend of Asian and European ways ….We told him the contract we saw along the way, the new automobile on the highway immediately followed by a mule-cart, the dressed for success look of people in city areas and the traditional houses in villages, the cool, modern façade of Turkish people yet with the warm down to earth friendliness of heart.
The night ended with a cultural show and belly dancing at Kervansarai and we all had fun. However I felt a little sad that Belly Dancing had became a rather explicit and crude, (in the case of one of the dancer who had a bad breast implant and keep flaunting it) crass nightclub act. To me, it should be an art, with sensual subtlety and coy seduction veiled with shyness and some mystic aurora that allures while the dancer dance with pride and confidence in her own body without openly stating the “ come-on”….do I make sense?? I don’t know… but the husband could not get what I was saying and Sam told me that the one I wanted are dated and that Belly Dancing was suppose to be explicit as they were trying to attract the Sultan and stood out amongst thousand others….so maybe I was wrong…
On our last day in Istanbul, we had a free day. However it clashed with Kurban Bayram and we were told that all sites would not be open till 1pm.
This day we visited the Yerebatan Cistern (10YTL) (I’ve ran out of vocab to describe its beauty… just want to say it a MUST GO!!), walked on the cobbled streets of Sultanahmet, visited Arasta bazaar (?), saw a sacrifice (yikes.. bloody…), took the tram(65 Kurus, any distance) to Karakoy for dinner at Golden Horn Restaurant under the bridge (the grilled fish was the best I had… but if you visit this restaurant do bring Turkish Lira as their conversion from Lira to USD was disgusting. 5 of us had 5 fish, 2 salad, water and 2 Efes beer totaled at 115YTL but when we asked to pay in USD the guy just told us 90USD without any rates shown. A calculation showed that it should be only 81USD but he refused and we were not able to pay by credit as he said the machine was down so we had to haggle and settle with 85USD… felt ripped off not because of the price but the whole incident… it’s a matter of principle I think...)
But what I loved most was just to sit in the gardens and felt the entire place swirled around me. Old palace, new crowds, old trees, new birds; same sky that people stood under thousand years ago. It was like a tapestry of history and culture, with legends of old, weaved by the expert craftsmen called time, about all that happened in an era long ago, with Sultans and kings and lords…. I could almost see the past shimmer by, some shadows behind a tree, a wisp of silvery giggle when I was not trying too hard to grasp. I shivered, as the past rushed towards me, glided through and then departed… but never too far away to be felt as it lingers on in its old haunt….
We went to Taxim before heading off for the airport and found the whole place alive and wired-up with the New Year’s Eve Concert. Crossing over from Sultanahmet to Taxim was like crossing a time portal, and all of a sudden we were in a different Turkey. Old and new, mystic and hip, Asian and European…..it sent a chill down my spine to note the stark difference….
The square was lighted with lights and decorations. They had a big stage in the middle with loud music playing. The crowd was crazy…. Dancing, hugging, chatting with friends, living their live, showing off that they are alive under the spot lights. Suddenly I felt old…I did not like this Turkey? I prefer the quiet one where history spoke to me and the caress of ghosts comforted me. Perhaps I was never young for I never like crowds and lights and loud music and parties. But to see this after 10 days of the other was traumatizing for me….It was a great party, for those who wanted to know, and some of my group actually danced on the street side to the hip music and pleading to Sam to stay longer, just a little longer….But I longed to be away though I pretend to sway to the beat so as not to be a party pooper… I yearned for the other side of town, of the cobble streets, the tall castle walls, the prayer calls.
Taxim that night was different from the Taxim we arrived in the wee hours on our first day; it was another world that squeezed through a gap while we were away in other parts of Turkey. Gone were the pigeons, gone were the street vendors that smiled shyly at us with their simits, gone were the tranquility within which my husband and I held hands, munching our simit, walking and feeling glad to be there together….It was my dream to be in Turkey with the one I love, no knowing then that it would be him 10 yrs ago when I last visited, and this time my dream was fulfilled….so I told myself to accept Taxim, for it was a part of Istanbul, Turkey and be glad that we get to celebrate the break of new year there……
Thus end our journey to Turkey, and thus end my long and dull tale…. But we made another promise this time, that we would be back, after our retirement and spent a much longer time there…..and I meant to keep it.