Sun 15/03/09 00:16
and getting ready for work

Yeah, I know that it was going to happen, that I’d be back home and getting ready for work at some time, but I don’t know, it seems a little too soon. After the day of mostly rain and cold weather I was looking forward to getting back to the warmth of Dubai, and it does feel good. I just don’t feel like going back to work just yet.

So what can I say about Istanbul that I probably haven’t already said? The city is fantastic, the people were incredibly friendly, the food was the best, and the women were gorgeous. Probably the one thing that I didn’t like is the amount of police. Everywhere you go there are way too many cops, on walls, in little booths, walking around, literally everywhere. Even the people that ran the hostel mentioned how much they didn’t like it. At some times it seemed almost like a police-state. That brings up a good question, why do governments hate their citizens so much? In Dubai we have security guards everywhere, in the US they monitor email and phone calls, and most of the other countries I been to have similar tactics to keep track, or maybe control of the residents. Why do they need to do that?

That’s maybe a subject for a paper some day,  but for now all I wanted to do was make the final journey part of the blog complete. Which will be done when I submit this post, but I will add a couple more for extra images and movies that I haven’t uploaded yet.

Sat 14/03/09 07:05
and I’m cold, wet, and tired

It was my last day here in Istanbul and I had hoped that the weather would cooperate with me. The sun was out when I first left the hostel, and in no time the clouds came in and shortly afterwards it started to rain. It rained for about 2 hours and that was about an hour longer than I felt I could endure. So after walking for about three hours I decided to start back for the hostel. It’s now 2 in the afternoon and I still have a couple of hours before I need to leave for the airport. Those extra hours are needed, I’m soaked from the rain, and I even used an umbrella, and I’ll use the time to warm and rest up before leaving. For some reason I got worn out earlier today than I usually do. Maybe it’s just the everyday thing that’s starting to catch up to me, or maybe I walked more hills today than usual, either way, I did about 10 miles and I’m beat.

The food is great here. I’ve been trying my best to sample as much different kinds of food as I can, and today I tried a breakfast dish that I think was lamb. It sure would be nice if I could remember the names of some of the things that I’ve tried since I’ve been in Istanbul, but age has sunk in and they say memory is the first to go. Last night I had a beef crepe that was just the best. I may go back to the main street and find some other place to hang out for the last hour or so before I leave.

Sat 14/03/09 01:07

It’s 745 in the morning and I’ve already had my first cup of coffee. In a little bit I’ll be heading out the door for another day of just wandering around the city. Today though, I don’t really know where I’m going to go. I’ve seen the things that I feel I had to see so everything else is just a plus. Maybe today I’ll check out some of the bookstores. There are so many here and except for a small one in the market, I haven’t gone into them.

Istanbul is so huge, and there is so much to see that I don’t think I can not have a good time today. My flight leaves at 740 tonight, so I have to leave the hostel at about 430. That gives me about 8 hours to wander. That seems like more than enough time since my legs start to wear out after about 6 hours of walking. Speaking of walking, I haven’t really been spending time monitoring how much I’m walking but the times I have checked it’s been around 15 to 20 miles a day. Every night, or late afternoon when I get back to the hostel I’m so sore that I can barely walk.  And each morning when I wake up, I’m fine and ready to do it all again.

Another random thought— I was told that some, about half, the people that I’d meet here would be rude, the other half very nice. So far I’ve been lucky in that I’ve met only really nice people. I think it has something to do with my awe of cultures that I don’t usually get treated very rudely… except that is in Russia. Russians for all their beautiful women, just are mean. Here in Istanbul the people that I’ve met seem to have gone out of their way to be kind.

I’m still here in Istanbul so maybe the next comment is being swayed by that fact, but I think I can say with confidence that this city is one of, if not the best city I’ve been to. The architecture, history, and culture are so interesting that I don’t think I’ve ever been to any place that compares. Like I said I’m here right now, and given time it may drop down a little in it’s standings, but damn, what a city. :)

Okay, it’s after 8 now and it’s time that I start to head out before too long.

Fri 13/03/09 10:41

So today I did what I like to do on every trip, explore. I knew where I wanted to go, and the direction that I should head, so I headed out this morning. It was cold… let me just say that at the beginning… it was cold.

The first stop in my day was Starbucks, yep I know, but it just seems the right thing to do at least once in every place I go. Not that it matters if I don’t go to one, just seems right. :) Then it was to find the tower that stands out in the skyline. It’s in most of my photographs as the single tower, I got there and went to the top. Interesting view but not that spectacular otherwise. Then I took off for a church a ways away. I headed out and walked for about ten or fifteen minutes and guess where I ended up? Right in front of Starbucks. I don’t know what happened because it was total shock to me that I was backtracking the whole time. At least I knew which way I had to go now.

Armed with a new purpose, and the Kafiya Church as the target I redoubled my resolve and headed out once again. I walked along the river for about an hour taking some photos but mostly just admiring the landscape. The city is loaded with history, and I love history so the hour went really quickly. In the distance I could see what looked like the church that I was looking for so I kept just going towards it. When I got close I lost sight of it because other buildings were blocking the view, and then I entered a street and there it was. I honestly can’t tell you how remarkable the whole scene was, and the pics that I took really don’t relay how stunned I was. There is this cobble-stoned, narrow road, that I swear had an incline of about 70 degrees. No lie, it was so steep the the cobblestones were more like steps than the paving of a road. It was so steep that when I left I was worried that I’d fall if I went back that way. Okay, now you know how steep the road was, so I’m huffing and puffing and trying to look like I was in shape when I get close to the church it turns out that it’s not exactly a church but more of an abandoned school. How disappointing. :(

I decided that I must be going in the right direction because I do have a map, I just don’t really know where I my location is on the map, but I have an idea. After about 10 minutes I realize that I’m in the middle of a very Muslim community. Most of the men had the long beards, and all the women were completely covered. I didn’t see any European looking people anywhere. I wasn’t worried, but I did feel out of place. Anyway after about another ten minutes I hit a main street, still very Muslim, and I was loving it. I stopped in a little shop that was selling bakala (pastry). I buy it in Dubai, but at the grocery store and without a choice of kinds, but the guy sees that I’m curious about the different types so he starts giving me samples, and I end up buying a mix. While I was standing there I could hear some old guys laughing at me. I don’t think that they were really laughing at me, but more at an American. I must of heard the word “American” about 5 times and then laughing. It’s all good, and as far as I’m concerned it was fun. So I’m eating bakala for the next 10 minutes as I walked along. Then I ended up at a major street, and see tram tracks, and in the distance is an American. We really stand out from everyone else. First we almost always seem to have a backpack with water in the pocket. Usually we’re white males, and just generally just have “a look.”

So I walk up and start talking to him. That in of itself is something that I don’t think I’ve done twice in my whole life, okay maybe twice but it is rare for me to just walk up and start talking to someone. I asked him if he knew where the church was and pointed to a sign, which pointed to the church.

The church was really impressive in that it still had some of the mosaics hundreds of years old on the walls. As for grandeur the mosques completely overshadow it though. I always seem to be able to imagine what it must have been like back hundreds of years ago, I think that’s why I like history so much, I can imagine being there. For that reason the church was worth the walk.

After that I wandered around going up alleys and around mosques, if there was a street that looked interesting I went. All in all it was a good time for my last full day in Istanbul. I still have a half day tomorrow, but I don’t know what I’m going to do.

Fri 13/03/09 01:48
crap… Friday the 13th!

It’s about 845 in the morning and I’m doing the usual thing, playing on the computer before I get ready to see the sights. The weather has really turned sour, I don’t know what the temp was yesterday, but I checked today, and the high will be 41. That’s a little cold for a guy that lives in Dubai, but I’ll manage. It’s raining right now, and it’s expected to rain the rest of the day.

I’m not sure what’s planned for today, Maybe go back to the Blue Mosque and get some better pics. The ones I took yesterday didn’t really turn out. For that matter, neither did the ones inside of the Hagia Sofia… It cost money to get into the Hagia, so I won’t go back to take some pics there. I thought about it though, but in the end the photos that I took may not look very good to others, but they still do what I want them to do, and that is remind me of the experience. There is also a tower that I want to visit, and then I still haven’t had a chance just to wander around. That, I think, will be my goal today, just to wander. When I think about it, I’ve been going in the same direction every day so far, and maybe I should just start in the opposite direction today. With one more day to go, I can always go back and see some more stuff that I want to see before I leave.

Thu 12/03/09 12:24
neither do I

So I left the hostel shortly after leaving the last blog entry. It was bright and sunny, and the weather promised to be warm. I felt confident that not taking my new sweatshirt with me was a wise decision. Without any sense of getting lost, I headed out for Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque. I kind of felt like I knew exactly where it was and there wasn’t any problem finding it. On the way I stopped for a pasta dish that I think is something like a breakfast meal. It was good, and I wish I lived somewhere where things like that were common, just walking along and decide to go into a local shop, 2 minutes later you’re walking out with a nice meal. Going through the drive through at McDonalds seems so impersonal… that’s the best word I can come up with… impersonal.

So I get to the park between the two mosques. I’m taking pics and to be honest I don’t really know where to go to get inside, so I start following some of the people who are walking on the side of sofia. That’s when I guy sees that I’m kind of not sure where to go, and of course he comes up to talk to me… all the normal alarms go off and I try to ditch him. I figure that he’s going to try to get me to hire him as a guide, even though he said that he wasn’t a guide. It turns out that he lived in Dubai for about 10 years. He knew all the places that I usually go, and none of the places he mentioned were prompted by me, so he was for real. Anyway, he’s talking to me as I’m walking, and he tells me some history of the mosques, and tells me some other places that I should see. I was still uneasy, but he was talking history, and I love history. So he ends up asking if I’d take a look at his shop, a carpet store. Okay, I finally figure out what’s going on, but at that point it was too late. I go into the shop and then I get passed off to “his cousin” the owner of the shop. Who snaps his fingers and a guy just standing there starts unrolling carpets in front of me. It was so funny, I knew I wasn’t go to buy anything, but then he starts telling me the history of the rugs, country by country, knot by knot. Did you know that Turkish carpets utilize the double knot technique, which by the way lasts longer than the other methods because they as they get older, the knots get tighter… single knot rugs lose the threads. For a half an hour he’s giving me the very thorough history of rugs, and the benefits of Turkish rugs. No lie, it was very interesting. If I had more time, and I didn’t feel like I was expected to purchase, I would have stayed longer.

So it was on to the Mosques. The Hagia Sofia is absolutely awesome. It’s huge, and everything as impressive as I had hoped. The amount of history that has transpired since it was built just radiates through the building. After that I moved on to the… Topkapi Palace. Pretty much the home of the Ottoman Empire. Unfortunately, I didn’t really have a good time. It didn’t really have interesting architecture and it was just a museum. Not that I was bored, it’s just after the Sofia, not much could compare. I stayed there for about 2 hours though and I did see some remarkable stuff.

Oh, yeah, I almost forgot. I’m heading up the hill to the palace and a guy and a girl stop me, the guy says that I look like someone he knows in Florida. The guy had no accent, and he was with a girl so he was legit… yeah right. I talk to him for a couple of minutes and he says that he’s a rug buyer, and wanted to know if I was thinking about buying a rug. If I had any questions he could probably help me make a good decision. Oh my god… he was so smooth, I was buying his story until he mentioned helping me, and then I politely excused myself. It was so funny. Rugs must be a big business to be that sly as to use a team to get people interested in buying.

So I’m done at the palace and am heading to the Blue Mosque. It’s probably just as beautiful as Hagia Sofia, but it doesn’t quite hold the same meaning for me. I take that back, it is more beautiful, but still second. The weather has gotten cold. When I say cold, I mean that it feels like it’s going to snow type of cold. My best guess is that it’s about 35 degrees and I didn’t bring my sweatshirt. I’m the smart one. :)

Back to my story, I’m walking down the hill, and guess what? A guy pulls up beside me as I’m walking and starts talking. This time I wise to the lines. He starts just like the first guy this morning, and I tell him that I already went to the rug store. He asks if I’m the art history professor that Ashen had met… I say yes. So I think he’s going to realize that this is a lost cause, but no. I even tell him that I’m tired, and I’m not going to go anywhere except back to the hostel. This guy was an amateur, he was doing the history thing, and that is interesting to me, but he doesn’t get the fact that I live in a Muslim country, and keeps telling me things that I already know. By this time I’m freezing, but I do like the company, so I let him ramble along. He tells me that I need a cup of tea and his shop is only a little ways away… geez, don’t they get it. I was starting to get a little bit annoyed by now, not really at him, but just because I wanted to leave. I finally broke free and headed back to the hostel on the way I grabbed a kebab and wandered the grand bazaar for the second time. Then it started to rain… and it’s been raining ever since. At least it’s not snow.