Friday, September 24, 2010

Eylül in Istanbul

I thought noone enjoyed celebrating their birthdays as much as I did.
Well, I was wrong.
Ganpati seems to have had a crazy 11 day party which ended in him going deep sea diving like every year.

Flowers on the street in Istanbul
Bombay seems to be in its festival recovery stages at the moment and the silent streets make me want to finally sit and jot down a quick summary of my September in Istanbul before it gets washed away with new memories.

It all began with a very delayed flight to Istanbul on Turkish Airlines. I managed to get through most of it passed out across 3 seats.
But no, they don't have individual screens so it doesn't quite pass my good airline test.
Then again, we got served breakfast. 80% of which was the special Turkish white cheese.
With the weird time difference I sort of forgot to brush my teeth till the evening that day. I know. Gross!

Turkish Coffee
Istanbul - it was definitely love at first sight.
Good blend of Asian and European. 
Love the cobbled roads.
Our hotel - Yasmak Sultan. Walking distance to everything nice.
Amazing breakfast. A variety of cheeses to choose from. Along with juices, teas, meats and jams in big bowls. I was actually pouring jam with a big serving spoon instead of spreading a thing layer on my bread. This was most definitely paradise.

Down the street from our hotel was a lovely restaurant called Faros.
Lunch at Faros
Amazing food. Great waiters. Very entertaining. They explained the origin of Turkish food and basically how the people of all the European countries were really lazy while creating their own recipes and just stole theirs.
This is where we had our first dose of Turkish coffee, apple tea and mezze.

Istanbul. A place with beautiful weather. I just loved walking in the sunlight. Something I can't dream of doing in Bombay.
Also a place where they call a blow-dry a blow wave.
Where U2 happened to be performing while we were there but I couldn't really care.
A place where you plan on going for a massage or Hamam and then get scared away by a big man called Muhammed.
And men shamelessly hit on you every 3 steps you take. Aku and I were called everything from Rani to India. We also got many paparazzo-stares. Was it our larger than life sunglasses?

Dinner at Kybel's Cafe
Everyone had a role on the trip.
I was the woman in-charge. The woman with the plan. Also the one with the camera.
My mom played the role of the lady on a mission to buy hazelnuts, teas and all things healthy.
My grandmom was hunting for Raki everywhere and would generally settle for Turkish wine.
Aku was the one trying to prevent everyone from buying too many souvenirs for the fear of having our home getting converted into a Turkish museum after the holiday. This happens pretty much after every trip. We live like the people of that country for a few months. Decorate our home with their artifacts. Drink their tea. Till stocks last.

The Blue Mosque
Now let me tell you about the fun part - the sightseeing.
We did a city tour with an amazing guide called Shakir who cracked many jokes along the way.
Visited the Blue Mosque and saw thousands of beautiful blue tiles. Blue is such a happy colour. After yellow. Also saw the Hagia Sophia. This was a basilica which was later converted into a mosque and is now a museum. Shakir really put things into perspective for us. He explained the changes that were made while converting it from a basilica into a mosque. Basically the Christians would face the East while praying while the Muslims would face the South-east. So the difference between Christians and Muslims is just about 10 degrees. That's all. It's that simple.

He also told us that going for a Hamam (one of the regular ones in the city centre) was one of the 1000 things to do before you die.
He said a question usually asked by many of the male tourists is "Will I be bathed by a beautiful young woman?" He said the answer is simple. The men are bathed by big men with big moustaches and the women are bathed by big women with small moustaches. Which makes me wonder - Why would you want to do that before you die?

Carpet store
Shakir also took us to a carpet store. The carpets were beautiful. I wouldn't buy one just cause I'm highly allergic to dust so unless I'm ready to sneeze all day I wasn't getting one. On the other hand, flying back to Bombay on a carpet seemed like an interesting idea. After seeing the prices I realised Turkish Airlines was a cheaper option. Plus there's the in-flight entertainment. I doubt Aladdin can beat that.

Fishing by the Bosphorus

That afternoon we took the ferry on the Bosphorus.
You look left and see Europe. You look right and see Asia.
It was amazing to know that people travel across continents daily. We saw some cool buildings by the river, the hospital where Florence Nightingale hung out during the Crimean War. All this while my grandmom told us all about Kemal Pasha and how he changed Turkistan which we thought at that point was just a person she had made up.

Spice Market
We then visited the Grand Bazaar - very okay.
And the Spice market - good for hazelnuts, apple tea and pretty pepper grinders.

Life couldn't be more exciting at this point.

And then we went for the Dancing Dervishes show which temporarily killed the wow effect.
So what do the whirling Dervishes do? Well, basically they whirl. Period.
My grandmom who finds it hard to sleep at night had her eyes shutting within 5 mintues of the show starting. She was having one of those Tom & jerry I-need-toothpicks-to-keep-my-eyes-open moments.
I guess it works better than counting sheep.
So that was an hour of my life spent in watching men do something that resembled Tibetan rites in big long robes.

The restaurant that cheered us up
after watching the Dervishes
To kill the sheer boredom of having to watch men whirling for an hour we cheered ourselves up with a good garlicesque meal. Followed by some Apple tea obviously.

Followed that by watching the US Open. The Tak Tok Tak sound was nice to hear.
Was more fun than watching Kyle XY, Grey's Anatomy & Everybody Hates Chris in Turkish. Surprisingly though, Everybody Hates Chris is much more tolerable in Turkish, cause you can't understand a thing maybe.

Men playing Tavla

Everyday in Turkey, we'd have a big breakfast, a bigger lunch and a ginormous dinner. I appeared to be one more month pregnant after every meal. I was pretty much on a cheese diet and was eating dolmas (rice stuffed in grape leaves) at regular intervals.

People in Turkey are so kind. So helpful. Even when they don't understand you. Everything works like clockwork.
It was like China but better. People are so happy, they play backgammon all day.
Overdosing on Apple Tea

Some may say I saw Istanbul through rose-tinted glasses. 
To be honest it was through apple tea-filled glasses.
Either way it was beautiful.

Incase you're wondering what Eylül is, well, it's September.


New Age Yogi said...

What is the name of the restaurant you went to (with the lady in the picture) after watching the Dervishes?

Neha Kamath said...

I really can't remember. But it was walking distance from our hotel. On the same road as Faros.

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