Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Some of My Thoughts Today and Last Night 8/5/14

  1. İstanbul is big. Çok büyük (very big).
  2. It's much more manageable in the daylight and without a fifty-pound suitcase each.
  3. The crowded pedway in Alsancak, İzmir was nothing compared to Taksim Square at 10 pm on a Monday night. What are all these people doing? It's like being lost in one of those ultra-packed schools of sardines you see on David Attenborough documentaries.
  4. For some reason, the busses coming into the İstanbul Otogar (bus station) take you through a labyrinthine basement before surfacing at the terminal. I swear I've seen places like this in my nightmares. First, you see sparse yellow lighting that dims in the distance down the dark tunnels to your right and left. Buses with damaged axels are jacked at strange angles. Other busses have their engines exposed, although no workers are fixing them. The cement beams of the roof of this multi-floored basement are just above the busses' roofs which makes you keenly aware of your own claustrophobia in your dark bus seat. Eventually, you see ramps climbing upward toward the surface (that you hope is above); yet, the ramps are constructed at inclines that you are certain your bus cannot ascend. (The groaning of your bus's engine suggests you are right.) When you do get a rare glimpse ahead, you note at least five busses halted in front of yours. Some drivers use their horns more than others, although it's to no avail. During this bizarre processional, occasionally the light of unexpected terzi (tailor) storefronts shine brightly through the bus windows. The shops, stalls really, advertise cleaning and clothing repairs for bus attendants. White, starched shirts hang like bleached skeletons on crowded racks. Between these shops there's a sitting room with a few men in chairs and a television which resembles the set from Sartre's No Exit. Your bus takes a sharp upward turn that defies the laws of topology. These turns continue as the yellow light of the corridor dims in and out again. Finally, the deep blue night sky begins to appear out the windows, and you continue to ascend to the terminal. When the bus does come to a halt in the middle of a mess of bus traffic, you're let off, given your baggage, and then you're walking through bus traffic three-lanes deep. These massive vehicles slide by your nose like moving walls, and you advance forward one lane at a time until you're finally on the safety of a six-inch curb. Just as you're hoping that soon you can leave this Dante-esque environment behind, Jena says, "I could really use a bathroom." So then you're dipping into the nearest building, following dented backlit signs that promise a WC, and where do they point, but down a stairwell--back down into the gloom. Jena leaves her bag with you, arms herself with one lira to pay for what will probably be an uninspiring squat toilet, and channeling the breath of Eurydice utters, "If I'm not back in ten minutes, you can presume I'm dead."
  5. Having a tour guide who is also a close friend in İstanbul is AWESOME, especially when she meets you for breakfast in front of your hotel. However, seeing a close friend can make you pretty homesick.
  6. There are dolphins in the Bosphorus. Who knew?
  7. Whenever I hear that a place in Turkey is touristy--like İstanbul--I always presume there will be a million annoying American tourists speaking English and sounding dumb. (Like I probably sound.) But, around Turkey, there are lots of Turkish tourists, European tourists, and other Middle Eastern tourists. And a few Asian tourists.
  8. Street food in Turkey is pretty great, as it is in most places. Today I had my first plain simit (round thing like a bagel) and spent a lot of time contemplating whether or not it was better than a bagel. At this point I side with bagels, but I'd rather make a simit if I were to make one of them at home. That might persuade me to their side.
  9. I have now been introduced to the best baked potato I've ever had (kumpır). Jena and I plan to emulate it at home. (I didn't necessarily have the toppings described in that picture; I would argue that the ones I selected went better together.)
  10. Touring a city like İstanbul is freaking tiring. Especially when it's hot. Luckily cold water is pretty cheap and easy to come by.
  11. Baklava is really tasty. (Duh.)


  1. Hilarious description of the bus terminal! Happy to report I never saw it... We used Pegasus Air to get around.

    I'm sure you'll find somewhere to spend your time until you settle back into Kayseri, but if you find it fun to look up new places, we met some lovely Scottish pensioner expats who live in Okçular near Ortaca; I hope to make it there some day for the great hiking. It's probably in the opposite direction you want to go, but housing can be found starting at $21/night with wifi and a kitchen (or at least access to a shared kitchen): https://www.airbnb.com/s/Ortaca--Turkey?price_max=50&hosting_amenities%5B%5D=4&hosting_amenities%5B%5D=8

    Thought of you last night - we used the last of our spices from the Spice Bazaar to make a Turkish dinner for some friends here in Thailand. I was hoping to find Baklava at the Muslim bakery but settled for date bread!

  2. Thanks for this comment, Bobbi. It helped inspire me to go to our current out-of-the-way place in Finike.