On October 19, Sankar and I left for a 10-day visit to Turkey. As we boarded the plane, I was carrying a few worries. I had loved my years in Turkey, and had already set about preserving my memories through writing and photography. What if my old friends and the sights I encountered on this trip didn’t seem the same? Would that overwrite my memories, changing the way I felt about the experience? What if I was overcome with sentimental sadness thinking about our former hilltop apartment, gone from us forever? That apartment was glorious, all the more so because we shared it with several dozen guests, and—five times—with our kids.
Maybe it would be best just to leave Turkey alone, to leave it as we remembered it.
But I guess we are optimists down deep, so off we went. The Delta flights through Paris went smoothly, and we arrived in Istanbul at approximately 7:30 pm on Sunday, October 20. Our neighborhood would be new: Ortaköy, a few miles south of where we’d lived. As our cab wound through its extra-narrow, dark streets trying to find our little hotel, I felt my sense of adventure awaken. Maybe in addition to revisiting friends and monuments, we’d learn something new.
Our little hotel was on Müvezzi Sokak, steep and straight as a pin up from the Sea Road at the point where the Çirağan Palace sits. We had a small room, but it offered a nice view of the Old City, the Bosphorus and even the Kiz Külesi (Maiden’s Tower, far left in the photo) in middle of the harbor.
A buzzy jet lagged strangeness hit us on day one. We went down to breakfast and were reminded of the Turkish habit of drinking Nescafe, not “filter coffee” in the morning. The buffet’s Western selections encompassed some nondescript flaky cereal, lukewarm milk, and orangeade. Alas, we weren’t quite ready to embrace Turkish breakfast items like tomatoes, cucumbers, and olives.
Our first outing was to the Istinye Park shopping mall. I know this sounds shallow, but Sankar was after some new pairs of slacks—Turkish designs fit him so much better than those in States—and they would require time to alter. While he shopped, I wandered around looking for a gift for Angela, buying susamli fistik (peanuts with honeyed sesame seeds stuck on them) for Greg and some cifte kavrulmuş (twice roasted, nutty) Turkish delight for gifts.
We ate at our favorite food court restaurant, Kaşik-La (With Spoon), although I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as I had hoped because my biological clock registered 4 am back in the U.S.
|Istiklal is hopping even on a Monday evening.|
|Which milky pudding looks best to you?|
|I ate the whole thing.|
|It was late by the time we got back to the European side.|
|Muffin papers, anyone?|
|Hittite relief at Yazilikaya, about 3,300 years old.|
|Beautiful roads throughout Turkey|
|The underlayment that makes them possible|
After taking this photo, we noticed a fleet of white vans lined up, all with Japanese writing on them. Sankar greeted a couple of the waiting Japanese drivers in their language, and we walked away, puzzled. Later we realized that this was the day the Marmara Project, a railway tunnel underneath the Bosphorus, was to open. A Japanese construction firm has been working for years on this ambitious project. On this day, the Japanese Prime Minister and a number of other dignitaries were in Istanbul for the opening ceremonies.
We sat for awhile and drank tea in this obscure part of the Old City, enjoying a wonderful view of the ancient walls and the Sea of Marmara.
Poking around, I believe, always leads to something good.
Returning to our hotel room late in the afternoon, we noticed our window had been draped with the Turkish flag.
In the evening we walked to the Beşiktaş pier and watched a twenty-minute firework show that we both agreed was “Fourth of July times five.”
Our friends had been the same, and the sights, both old and new to us, had been inspiring. It was a wonderful trip!