Exploring Istanbul (Honeymoon Day 2)
First full day in Turkey, and by now it had properly sunken in where we were which caused me to bolt out of bed with excitement really early. Scott had barely slept on any of our flights (I'd slept a whole lot) and I killed time waiting for him to wake up by writing a blog post.
Our first plan for the day had been to try out some of the Turkish coffee that we'd often heard about, supposedly guaranteed to wire you better than any other legal substance. We'd apparently miscommunicated what we were looking for when we asked the hotel porter where to find this, because when we got to where he'd directed us it turned out to be a crappy local chain called Simit Sarayi and the latte that I ordered was thimble-sized, weak and watery. But not enough to dampen my spirits! Scott got a simit (sesame seed bagel) which seems to be a local staple and the simit vendor is to Istanbul what the hot dog vendor is to New York.
We'd decided to visit Istanbul's modern art gallery as a first activity, and chose to walk there instead of using transit.
This city is not only scenic. This city is filled to bursting with free cats! Cats are everywhere! Even though they are nearly all ferrel and rather scrappy looking, they are friendly and will give you a whiskery smile and a miao when you walk by. People's reaction to the cats is interesting. In any other place I could imagine them being regarded as pests since there are so many of them and they don't belong to anyone, but Istanbulites often here stop to talk to the cats and pet them, and put out little dishes of food.
Istanbul Modern did not disappoint. It was a perfect size. We managed to make our way through every one of the exhibits without collapsing in an exhausted heap afterwards - perhaps a first. They had some fantastic installation work, lots of video pieces and they even had an elaborate work with 2 drawings and some sort of a kaleidoscope by South Africa's William Kentridge. I didn't get to look at it properly though because it was being hogged by a group of museum-visiting Turkish men.
On our way home from the museum we gave in and sat down for a predictable Starbucks coffee and a solid dose of silent people watching. I stole a shot of this Starbucks man with the cat companion who adopted him and melted down his laptop bag.
More walking back in the direction of our hotel and I was able to sneak in a little shopping. It seems that in Istanbul, you cannot go wrong with red. I have never seen more people wearing red and it always looks absolutely striking. I've been wanting a pair of red pants for a while now and was excited to pick some up from the Mango here where they had 5 styles of red pants to chose from.
On our walk back home we turned into a really peculiar part of town. We haven't been able to figure out why, but it is an entire abandoned neighbourhood and in a prime part of the city. The more we tried to get away from this ghost town, the deeper in we seemed to get and the empty buildings were peppered with dangerous looking cats and children. Eventually we got past it and found ourselves in dodgeville, and it felt like we were seasoned fresh meat being dropped into a pit of hungry hounds. The eyes and heads of every local followed us as we walked by and we were feeling quite unsafe, though we have no idea whether or not we actually were. Either way, we were definitely more conspicuous than we'd liked to have been.
The final walk out of dodgeville was up a large and very steep hill which our unfit selves were only able to make it up thanks to a dose of adenaline. Back in our hood Scott decided to take off the edge with a food item that really should never be allowed, but is to be found all over the place here: a french-fry filled hot dog.
Our hotel in Istanbul was very fancy and came with a heated indoor swimming pool, a jacuzzi, a Turkish bath hot room and a sauna. After we'd gotten home and scrubbed the city filth off, we went downstairs in our cushy robes and made use of every one of them. We rounded it all off with some lovely Stoney Brook wine that we'd brought along, freshened up and headed back out for dinner to a place recommended by Time Out Istanbul called Meze by Lemon Tree. The restaurant was tiny and only had about 8 tables. The service and food were both impeccable, and the decor was simple and beautiful with Turkish-style geometric mosaic floor tiles that I could not stop staring at.
It is rare that Scott and I visit a place that is new to both of us, and so far this has been an absolutely incredible time. We've been having the best time discovering things and places together. It has been an adjustment doing this all without using our phones or computers along the way to work things out but what we've lacked in preparedness we have more than made up for in adventure.