Istanbul (not Constantinople)

We arrived here Wednesday afternoon and walked one kilometer from Dolmabahçe Palace, where the taxi (from the airport) dropped us off, to our apartment. There wasn’t a normal address for the apartment, and the website information said to have the taxi driver call to get directions. I looked at a map and figured we could just have him drop us off at a nearby landmark and walk the rest of the way. We could and did, but wow. Lotsa people, not a lot of sidewalk, a big hill with stairs that I had to carry both Charlie’s and my suitcases down while wearing my heavy backpack. Laurel and I enjoy watching “The Amazing Race,” and I kept thinking, “This would be nothing for the Amazing Race contestants. I don’t even have to go fast. Suck it up, New Cadet!” (Ok, that last part came from my days in the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets.) I guess I need a variety of motivations in somewhat stressful situations. So anyway, we’re here. Thursday we walked to Galata Bridge but didn’t have time to cross into the old part of the city because the sun was about to set. Today (Friday) we walked to Taksim Square/Meydan where the 2013 protests occurred. Then we walked to a nearby restaurant/hookah cafe for an early dinner. (We didn’t partake of the hookah.) It was cool and windy as we sat on the patio, and our waiter suggested we sit closer to the restaurant where it was warmer. After we sat down at the second place, he said the other reason he had us move was because he didn’t want us to have to see the Syrian refugee children begging as they walked down the sidewalk. Oh my. This morning I had coffee with the young lady who advertised this apartment on Airbnb. She said Turkey not only is allowing these Syrian refugees into the country but granting them citizenship. When I commended her on her country’s goodness, she replied, “We are not as good as you think.” She said there are some in the Turkish government who want to change Turkey from a secular country to an Islamic one, and they believe that the Syrian refugees-cum-citizens would vote in favor of an Islamic country. Istanbul is already bursting at the seams. Our walk to the bridge yesterday was fraught with traffic danger including Laurel nearly having her arm taken off by a train. So it’s a big deal that two million people are being added. I don’t know what the dispersion is, i.e. how many have made or will make their way to Istanbul; but I think it’s a pretty tense situation.
Tomorrow is the first of a four-day Muslim holiday, Eid al-Adha or Sacrifice Feast, in which the faithful celebrate Allah sending Ibrahim/Abraham a ram to sacrifice so he didn’t have to sacrifice his son, which in Muslim tradition is Ishmael, not Isaac. As we walked to the bridge yesterday, we saw a sheep with a big orange stripe painted down its back walking next to traffic and pedestrians. I guess someone was taking it home to slaughter because that’s the traditional celebration. You’re supposed to give 1/3 of the meat to the poor while your family and friends eat the rest. The orange stripe was henna used to decorate the sheep before its slaughter. Government offices and some businesses will be closed for the next four days, but I’m hoping we can go to the grocery again tomorrow since we’re running out of food. Although I have allowed Charlie to start eating wheat (!) and he’s mostly doing fine with it, I know that wheat continues to cause me GI problems. I haven’t found any gluten-free bread in Turkey or any peanut butter and the cheese is…not good, so pretty much every meal has to be something cooked. Although I make sliced potatoes with onion and scrambled eggs with tomatoes for brunch every morning, I really don’t feel like cooking a big dinner as well; so we end up going out to restaurants. I can’t afford for us to eat out every day, so I’ll have to buy some chicken/tavuk or beef/et tomorrow for dinner. I could cook rice/pilav but not the way I would in the US when I boiled it in vegetable broth instead of water to give it some flavor; I can’t find broth here. I don’t know how they cook it here – it’s good – but plain rice and chicken don’t sound terribly appetizing. I can’t make a green salad because there are no greens at the grocery (nor were there at the farmers market in Kusadasi). I have to come up with an entirely different culinary repertoire. There’s no dishwasher here although the listing said there is one, so I spend a lot of time washing dishes, too.

The gate at Dolmabaçe Palace is guarded by soldiers who stand in bullet-proof glass boxes which must be outrageously hot.

The gate at Dolmabaçe Palace is guarded by soldiers who stand in bullet-proof glass boxes which must be outrageously hot.


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Hagia Sophia as seen from Galata Bridge

Hagia Sophia as seen from Galata Bridge


Some of the many ferries on the Golden Horn, an inlet of the Bosphorous Strait that separates the old, historic part from the newer sections.

Some of the many ferries on the Golden Horn, an inlet of the Bosphorous Strait that separates the old, historic part from the newer sections.


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A view from our apartment

A view from our apartment

Taksim Square

Taksim Square

2 thoughts on “Istanbul (not Constantinople)

  1. The tensions there must be great as the world seems to be heading toward another very major war. Be well and may God continue to keep you throughout your travels.

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