Istanbul - 3 Hours Of Wandering Through The City -
I was sitting on the pavement of a small, colourful street in Istanbul. Car drivers were expressing themselves vigorously by the use of their horn, people were gesturing lively to their spouses or neighbours and passerbys stared at me without feeling any restraint. Staring at the failry white woman, sparsely dressed and hair like a bird’s nest sitting on the pavement next to a big red suitcase. I had been hauling that thing all over the streets of Istanbul staring with great admiration at all the little shops and cafes. I was wearing a white shirt that was getting more and more see-through thanks to my physical endeavors and the mild Mediterranean climate of Turkey. If not for the few drops of rain, the soft breeze in my hair and the glares of the shops tenants I would have taken off my shirt entirely.
I had set myself down right in front of a little bar and the owner was gesturing at me to come and eat something. I have had worse offers. I pulled myself up, using my suitcase for support, and followed the man. He pointed me to a small red table with matching chairs and gave me a flyer that listed all of the dishes he was serving in Turkish. I looked at the colourful pictures of all kinds of meat dishes and ordered – as I found out later on – a lamb kebab. Across the street an elderly man was brushing one of the many stray cats with a broom. The cat enjoyed the countless rubs on her belly and clawed her front paws around the brush trying to secure it to great delight of her beneficiary. I gazed at the scene for quite a while enjoying the moment of peace in this exotic environment. The owner appeared and proudly presented my lunch to me with a most endearing smile. No need to say I over tipped him at the end of my meal, if you are even supposed to tip someone for their service in Turkey. I asked him where the Grand Bazaar was, but he looked at me mystified. I just smiled and waved like a pro. I went on, stopping at the every cross point, and choosing the most appealing street. I wing it, that’s my trademark. In cooking, in presentations, in navigating... I wing it.
After a while I was getting closer to the more touristy places and asked one of the shop owners for directions. Take a left here, a right there and then straight ahead. “Only ten more minutes walking” I looked at him a little disgruntled and heaved my suitcase. After the ten minutes I arrived at a crossroads abundant with taxi’s, buses and all kind of local salesmen offering me jewelry and handbags. “Lady” “Lady” Lady” I heard all around me. This is probably the place. Children were running left and right of me, some carrying heavy trays of Turkish tea and others just playing around pointing at the many tourists. At the back of the little market place there was a big and pretty spectacular arch leading into a corridor filled with shops and people bustling about. I was struck with awe as I entered this corridor and looked at the mosaic ceiling and the shops abundant with colourful handbags, pashmina scarfs, shiny bracelets, red and orange glass lamps and stacks of Turkish delight. The same refrain rang in my ears “Lady” “Lady” “Lady” - “Look at these beautiful handbags! Only 30 Lira! Turkish delight in all flavors! Your suitcase could hold one of my beautiful tapestries!” I smiled at every single one of them, thanked them with a small hand gesture and walked on. That was not enough though “Where are you from lady? España? No, she must be from South America, they have the nicest figures.” I laughed. I could get used to this.
I walked through the corridors like a child in a candy shop. Slowly and staring at everything with my mouth open. I only had one hour to spare, so I needed to hurry up. I rushed through the many corridors with my suitcase tracking behind me, making that typical clicking noise. I stopped at three different shops selling those beautiful glass lamps in every colour of the rainbow and asked for their best price. Finally I bought two at 25 Turkish Lira a piece, around 8 euro, for me and Ali (Sorry Ali only 8 euro ;)). I stowed them in my ridiculously big red suitcase and continued my hunt. After half an hour I was pretty pleased with myself as I stowed away my new Turkish bathrobe – perfect for after a hamam - two pretty bracelets, a matching pair of hand painted bowls – perfect for guacamole and tortilla chips – and a cute little golden purse.
After buying all of that I was exhausted. I spent 15 more minutes trying to find the entrance I came in on and called a cab. The cab driver tried to rip me off by asking 160 Lira for a 30 minute cab ride, so it took me another 10 minutes to get another one at a reasonable price. Damn cheaters. I almost missed my flight because of the many traffic jams, but my sweet driver – Mustafa – gave me an apple to calm me down and told me all about his family. An hour later I gave him a kiss, much to his delight, and went on my merry way back home. Thanks Istanbul, we will be meeting again soon!