August 19, 2002

Turkey (day 6)


Departure from Ortahisar. Mt. Ericiyes rosy at dawn from Barbara's windows. Seen off by Hatice, her father Ahmet, and Crazy Ali. Uneventful trip to Kayseri and from Kayseri to Istanbul - except that the woman who sat next to Mom on the plane was smellier than any person I've ever encountered - and poor Mom was stuck in the middle. (I think it was the woman's first plane ride, too.) We were grateful for the air vents and the strong-chemical-smelling hand-washing papers.

Now Istanbul. Hotel Nomade. Eleven at night local time. Hot and sticky and very tired, but having fun. Went to the Aya Sofia today - of course no sign out front says that landmark restoration scaffolding fills nearly half the dome... but even so, the space was majestic - monumental - beautifully proportioned. I was surprised by how much Japanese I could remember and understand as a Turkish guide was lecturing a Japanese group. Maybe I only understand pidgin Japanese? Maybe it was that I'd just read the guide book and knew what he was likely to be talking about.

Walked along Sultanahmet square, where everyone was out for a Sunday stroll. Family groups on picnics mixed with tourists and touts. I really enjoyed the Turkish and Islamic Arts museum - especially the ethnographic exhibits of tribal life and weaving. No explicit mention of the fact was made, but I think every single figure on display in the ethnographic dioramas was a woman. Learned the name of the criss-cross spindle I got in Ortahisar - and promptly forgot it again. Think it begins with K. But I do remember that they wind the yarn around the arms of the spindle in an X pattern - which hadn't registered with me before. Then when you have filled your spindle, you can slide out the arms and the stem and have a neatly rolled ball of yarn.

We were going to go to the Blue Mosque, but it was a prayer time, and the mosque was closed. Instead we walked back and forth along the cavalry bazaar, where I bought four small kilim pillow covers for $15 from a former resident of Ğrg¸p. At his shop I also learned that the peculiar looking rugs in Ğrg¸p were saddle bags. The plain striped kilim portion would have been next to the horse. The embroidered part would have been showing, and the pile carpet part was along the fold, where you'd want the most resistance to wear and tear. He also showed us some square and oblong flat woven tablecloths for eating outside - as at our wonderful garden picnic, but in nomadic times.

Back to the hotel to rest a bit, and then out to dinner. Incredibly slow service (other tables arrived after we did and were served before us) but very good food. Outside an old house, under a grape arbor on a very narrow street. Many cats. Fish and onions drying from the arbor, but white linen tablecloths and napkins. Fixed price. A giant splurge by Turkish standards, as our meal came to about $24 each. But we had wine, and mezes: eggplant puree, feta cheese, olives, tiny grilled shrimp, grilled mussels in a mixture of rice currants pine nuts and spices, and chopped roasted zucchini in a garlic yoghurt sauce. There followed a long pause while our waiter seemed to forget that we existed and then came grilled sea bass, and finally honey cake, watermelon, and sliced peaches. We kept thinking how much fun it would be if our husbands were with us. I suspect we would have gotten better service, too...

Tried to buy Mark a beer to share with Carol - a pint of the same Turkish pilsener I drank in Ortahisar. Didn't have the right change, and the store owner said I could pay him the rest tomorrow. Oh, I'm leaving, I said, and tried to give him a US quarter, to make up the difference. He waved it off. I thanked him, and said the beer was for my husband. He said to tell my husband hello from his friends in Turkey. So I will.

The hotel is hot, and we have a lot of street noise from the cafes below. Accordion music and voices and the clanking of glasses.

Small drama. Mom went to turn her bedside light on, and it flickered and then the whole bulb/shade assembly fell off the wall, dangling by a frayed electrical cord. She tried to unscrew the bulb so that it wouldn?t come on in the night, and with a loud POP the whole thing short-circuited, and went out. So did my bedside light. So did our plugs. Mom called the front desk. "My friend will be right there." Less than five minutes passed and the person knocked on the door. "I am sorry for your moment," he said. They'll fix that light in the morning, and meanwhile he reset the circuit breaker so that we'll have power. I need to stop using the computer, though, because there is only one plug on each side of the room, and I think we need the fan on, full blast.

Posted by EGP at August 19, 2002 8:30 AM