Monday, November 8, 2010

Istanbul!

After our huge road trip, we made it back to Istanbul in one piece. The next morning, Sunday, was relaxing ... until we tried to get Jen back to the airport. There must have been a parade or something, because we could not get back to Europe! We spent about an hour searching for a way over, and finally arrived in Ortakoy. This was a new area of Istanbul for me, and with kumpir in our bellies, it was great to just soak in the sun. What is a kumpir you ask? Well, it is a huge baked potato loaded with goodies. Mine had olives, ham, cheese, peppers and some random things in it. Delicious.
Being a junkie, I wanted coffee after Jen headed off to the airport, but had to make do with a makeshift iced americano. While drinking our coffee, Katy and Andie made some good progress on their sign language. Byeong-Hun later laughed, telling me that Andie is great at fingerspelling while Katy's fingerspelling is kind of crazy. But Katy's signs are easy to understand, while Andie is a little cute and awkward.
Katy and Andie left to drop off the rented car, and BH and I went for a long walk up to Taksim. This is a night-life area in Istanbul that I had not yet seen and thought it could be fun. The walk was long, but enjoyable, and some helpful Turks eventually led us to the square. Earlier that day, there had been a terrorist attack in Taksim. Luckily, nobody died save the terrorist, but it felt weird to be so close to what could have been a crisis.
I'm not entirely certain about the political situation in Turkey, but I think the attack had something to do with the Kurdish separatists. Although there had been a ceasefire, it had ended earlier that week. Anyways, it was very odd for Turkey, which does not have much religious violence or extremism. Again, thank God that nobody else was wounded.
BH and I ended up at a pink cafe called Cafe Morkedi, which is a nice place for finding more information on the scene in Istanbul. After some more coffee, we left to meet Katy and Andie near Sultanahmet. We were quite early, and were able to make it to a mosque and the spice bazaar before meeting up. I had not yet seen this mosque (on the Sultanahmet side of Galata bridge), and was surprised to see some tiling better than those found in the Blue Mosque. Istanbul has way too many things to see.


After bumming about for a while, we finally met up with Katy and Andie. We met up with some of their friends for some meze, which is kind of like a Turkish version of tapas, and raki. Raki is this crazy strong alcohol, kind of tastes like licorice, and turns white when added to water. Fun. At one point, some musicians came into the restaurant and started to play some music.

video

In this video, Byeong-Hun is saying that we are enjoying our meal and that there is music, but he doesn't really care because he's Deaf. Haha. After they played, there was an awkward silence so I applauded. They then came over to our table to ask for money. Apparently, it was not the restaurant's musicians, but a group that came in for individuals to pay. Awkward. The meal was followed by the last ferry home, going back to Katy and Andie's place, playing some cards, and sleeping on a nice warm futon.
The next morning, Monday, was my last day in Turkey. Katy, BH, and I went to Sutlanahmet to see one of Katy's favorite sites: the Basilica Cistern. I'm glad I went. This was one of the most amazing things I've seen in my life. This ancient, underground watering hole is just beautiful, and was, apparently, uncovered accidentally. I think the first two times I came to Istanbul I was too cheap to visit the Basilica, but I'm glad I made it this time.

Two coals of shisha and then a good dinner later, I was back in the train to Sofia. BH stayed behind for a couple of days to see some of the other attractions, while I hit the books. There is still a lot more I want to see in Istanbul, and I can easily imagine myself returning this year.

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