“Power Through” – Istanbul, Turkey: Day 8 of Europe 2011

19 06 2011

June 18 –  and some of 19, 2011

Highlights: Galata Bridge, Galata Tower, Bosphorus Cruise, Pet Bazaar, Spice Bazaar

We woke up today and decided ‘We’ve had a busy couple of days, let’s just chill out today and take it easy. We slept in a little, went for a leisurely late breakfast in this great city that was at a perfectly warm temperature! ‘Why don’t we take the tram and take a walk down the Galata Bridge today?’ I said to f.  ‘Sure, we can have some ‘balik ekmek’ (fish sandwich) by the water and just relax’ he says.

So off we went, got our change for the tram and I even stopped to get some freshly squeezed orange juice at a stand close by. (Gawd I love being on vacation). We see one tram go by that wasn’t ours, which I was grateful for because it was packed with people who looked like sardines, and I am ever so slightly claustrophobic. Of course, the second train, which was ours, was no different. I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting really.

Slowly but surely my heart started to race a little bit, knowing that I would have to stand close to a bunch of strangers and be enveloped by the pasino… have I mentioned that I have a very very delicate nose and I am extremely sensitive to smell? Now I know that I sound like a spoiled North American brat, and instead of being so silly and dramatic about it all, some of you may be thinking ‘suck it up princess, you’re in Turkey for Pete’s sake. Get over it and enjoy the view.’ And the truth is you’re right. I should have been more ‘breezy’ and ‘go with the flow’ about it all, and yes when I complain about body odour in other countries, I am aware of how I must sound. It’s not my intention to be disrespectful to anyone or any culture, ever, but I would be lying if I said that the entire time I was on the tram I wasn’t thinking ‘Please Jesus, Allah, and all of the other Gods out there. Please pool your powers together and get me off of this train before I die a very slow and painful death.’  But then I decided ‘No! I am not a princess, I can do this… I will power through’…and by golly, I did survive!

Emininou Station could not have come any sooner than it did! We walked out of the station and there was the beautiful Bosphorus! For those of you who plan on taking a little tour around the Bosphorus on a boat/ferry… you don’t really need to do a whole day affair if all you want is to sit on the boat for an hour. Just come to Emininou station and there will be a million boats waiting to take you around the sea for an hour or two. They run every hour so whenever you get there, chances are there will be one waiting for you.

The Galata bridge is just what we expected it to be… and a little more. This bridge was full of fisherman on both sides… there was barely any room for me to lean over the bridge and pretend I was the girl on the titanic… but I managed. What was cool about this scene was that the fisherman weren’t just men, they were more fisherpersons if we want to get technical. We saw kids, young people and even aunties wearing their traditional attire all fishing! Awesome right!! Moments after we started walking the bridge, we noticed a bunch of people huddled in one corner more than the other, so we peered over to see what the drama was all about. There were kids jumping off of the bridge into the water! When we saw this one bicharo standing up there just staring at the water beneath him, I whispered over to f  ‘Aw look at him, he’s so scared to jump but all of his friends just did and they’re cheering him on at the bottom, so he feels pressured.’ He did end up jumping in the end… I guess peer pressure is another one of those things that translates into every language and culture all the same.

Crossing the Galata Bridge led us to the other side of the city where the Galata Tower was waiting for us at the top of a very steep hill. I’m sure my gluteus maximus will thank me for making that trek one  day. The view from the top of the tower was definitely worth the walk to get there and the tight squeeze we had to endure being up there with so many people in such a small space. If you are really claustrophobic my advice: don’t jump and ‘power through! Believe me… it is worth it!

On our way back from the tower, our plan was to head towards the spice market, but before we could make our way to the tram, we were stopped by ‘Ali.’  ‘Come on my cruise. I take you one and half or two hours on Bosphorus. You see European side and Asian side. English speaking guide. 40 Turkish lira. Best price.’  We got him down to 25TL and but we both had conditions. F says ‘ Do you have Efes (beer) on boat, and I said ‘ Ice Cream or no?’ Lucky for F the beer was in stock but I had to buy my ice cream before we got on the boat. It was a really nice ride… we got to see some nice hotels on the water like the 4 Seasons and The Kipinski.  ‘Su Ada’ is also along the water… it seemed like it was in the middle of the water so I think you have to take a boat to get there. Anyhow… it turned out that the guide didn’t speak English at all. In fact, there was no guide really… just a guy handing out Efes and Cay. But it was still a nice and peaceful experience. I don’t think it’s a huge deal if you don’t do it… but if you do you’ll enjoy it.

So after the boat cruise, we started to make our way to the spice bazaar. I said to f ‘why are there so many animals in here. Do they really have birds, cats and dogs in the same space as all of these spices? And gawd it smells awful for a place that should be aromatic.” Of course, after taking a bit of a closer look, we realized that the ‘spices’ were actually different types of animal food! Who knew that there were so many different types and textures of bird food… not I!

In our defence, we did ask for directions to the Spice Bazaar and we were led right to the Pet Bazaar. Firstly the two are next door to each other, so they are easily mistakable… secondly, nobody told us there even was a pet bazaar so we didn’t know we should expect it there. Definitely a mistake anyone would have made. Don’t judge us!

When we finally did make it to the spice bazaar, we found a lot of kiosks selling Turkish delight, pashminas, jewellery, children’s clothing and tons of other knick-knacks. F was pretty tired by this point since it was almost 8pm and we had a pretty intense day considering it was supposed to be ‘relaxing.’ But he was a trooper and I was happy because every other store had Turkish delight samples! I love Turkish delight and I love samples… it’s like going to Costco, we all know the real reason we go to Costco… it’s not for the deals, or the ‘bulk’ products. It’s all about the samples! Thanks for making Costco such a big part of my childhood dad…  gawd I love ya!

We spent our last night in Istanbul having dinner in the Kumpkapi square. It was a great dinner but unnecessarily expensive. I mean come on people… you get your seafood from your backyard, don’t even tell me these fish are a ‘rare’ and ‘exotic’ find. And if I order a ‘roasted red pepper dip’ obviously I would assume it comes with bread. Even the waiter assumes I would eat it with bread because he is the one who brings the bread without me asking. So naturally I would be wondering ‘ummm why is there a charge for the bread?’ I hate it when restaurants are sneaky like that. I mean why not just increase the price and include the bread in the dish? It’s fine, I will still order it for the extra 4TL! I’m just not a fan of people trying to pull a fast one on me… ah well it was a good meal nonetheless and we had even had some live entertainment as well!!

On our final day in Istanbul we finally found a restaurant that sells Efes and Nargileh!! Hooray, now we know what to do when we come back here in two weeks before heading to Portugal.

Istanbul finally done for now. On route down south to Antalya!!!