Monday, March 07, 2022

Istanbul, February 2022

Istanbul, February 2022

Posted by Dave Adair on March 7th, 2022

"It’s only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth – and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up – that we will begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it was the only one we had."
~ Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

"More can't be the point."
~ Sam Harris

Greetings, friends - current, future, and former! Last I wrote, Julieta had just left me in Antalya, in the south of Turkey on the Aegean coast. Five days after she left, her 14 year-old daughter was coming home from boarding school for 10 days. She said to her mom, "Are we flying to Turkey?" Julieta burst into action, and 24 hours later had flights for them to Istanbul - leaving two days later, only eight days since she'd left Turkey. Bang! Zoom!! Like a Batman comic, the Argentinian Hurricane is coming back to Turkey, and bringing her lovely daughter Eli, whom I have yet to meet. We stayed in the ancient center of Istanbul and practiced our tourist-jitsu: constantly saying no to charming hawkers trying to shmooze us into their shops or restaurants. I used to be pathetic at saying no, but India has taught me well.

On our first full day we were laughing about how last-minute the trip was, and Eli's suggestion that we come, when Eli said, "Actually, I was kidding." Julieta's eyes got big and her face dropped! She said, you didn't want to come?!? Eli said, no, I wanted to come - but I was joking and didn't think we would. Oh, well that's ok, then.

We had some seriously cold weather as well as some sunshine and beautiful views. Eli got a cold, and Julieta started to get a sore throat. They were both fully vaxxed, but when they got home Eli wanted to get tested for the sake of her schoolmates - and they ended up both being positive for Covid. I thought I must have it, but somehow I didn't have symptoms and tested negative. Eli had mild systems for two days, while Julieta was pretty sick (and testing positive) for 10 days. The mystery illness isn't over for the planet yet, but we're getting much closer. 

I hope you like the photos and stories. 


Enjoy the 43 photos below. That's too many, right? What to do. Captions below the pics...

My first night in Istanbul since I was here in 1992. This is Hagia Sophia, (pronounced "EYE-yah So-FEE-yah,") built in AD 537 during the reign of Justinian the Great, the frickin' Byzantine emperor. Minarets were added as it was converted to a mosque in the 15th-16th centuries after the Ottoman Empire conquered Constantinople in 1453. It was the world's largest cathedral for an astounding 1,000 years. OMG, this kills me!

The spectacular interior of Hagia Sophia. Stunning! It's incredible to me that this huge and beautiful structure, open and spacious, could have been built so long ago. And you don't build something this size and just hope it will stay up. Math. Lots and lots of math.

Built in 537 A.D. - that's not a typo. Serious question: what were other civilizations building/doing in 500 A.D.? Some say this is the most magnificent building ever built at any time, and it seems unimaginable to me to have built 1,500 years ago.

One of many chandeliers hanging from the ceiling.

Aha!! Look what I found: Europe in 555 A.D., right as Hagia Sophia was built. First, my summary: Men are Bastards - they were then, and they are now. Sorry. From the text on the image: The Western Roman Empire ended in 476, after losing most of its land to various Germanic tribes. The Franks settled in northern Gaul, the Visigoths in Hispania and the Vandals in Africa. Only the eastern half of the empire remained. When Justinian I became emperor, he was determined to reconquer the lands that had been lost to the Germans. First, he sent his general Belisarius to conquer the Vandal kingdom. After this, he was sent to reconquer Rome itself from the Ostrogoths. This war is known as the Gothic War. Justinian also fought many wars against the Sassanid Persian empire to the east, and reconquered southern Hispania from the Visigoths. He died in 565 after a nearly 40 year long reign.
Note: The Ghassanids and Lazica were vassals of the Eastern Roman Empire, but on this map they are shown as independent states.
1. Sussex, 2. Kent, 3. Essex, 4. East Anglia, 5. Lindsey, 6. Dyfed, 7. Glywysing, 8. Gwent, 9. Fortriu

Still on our first day, we walked to the Süleymaniye Mosque, built between 1551 and 1557. (They built the whole thing in six years?!) It's considered one of the most beautiful mosques in Istanbul.

My travels companions this week, Julieta and Eli. So far they're both still talking to me. But it's only the first day!

This little beauty started circling our table at a tea shop as Julieta practiced her Turkish on her.

The view inside the Süleymaniye Mosque. The mosques are incredibly, elaborately, detailed.

We're not in San Francisco, where they don't put severed heads in front of a restaurant unless you used the wrong pronoun.

"Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you." Friedrich Nietzsche

In small neighborhoods these pickup trucks, loaded with vegetables, mostly, will call out and stop for people to come out and buy what they need. It looks like quite a social event, and the seller is part of the community, regardless of where he lives.

I love both the amazing structures like a giant mosque, and the dilapidated ones, like this beauty. It's the middling ones that pain me.

We walked on our first day for HOURS. A super day.

This is our neighborhood, and our hotel is just down the block. It's an ancient area, just near Hagia Sophia, but also too tourist-oriented. The hawkers try to arm-wrestle you into their restaurants, but they do give up after a few days.

A tea and coffee house. Turkey LOVES their tea, incredible how much people drink. They drink more than twice the amount of people in the UK (and 14 times what Americans drink, duh!)

I may do a whole post on food presentation here. I've never seen anything like it.

You have NEVER seen so many pampered, well fed, and healthy "wild" cats as you will in Turkey. And dogs, too, including huge dogs that normally would never be running free. People leave food and water for them everywhere - on sidewalks, at the coastline, in parks, and they have these little cat community houses. They cats are calm and affectionate, many of them. The NYT writes, "In Istanbul alone, a megacity of 15 million people, there are thought to be 130,000 dogs and 125,000 cats roaming free."

Taking a ferry today across the Bosphorus, exploring a new neighborhood in Istanbul. Warm in the sun, biting cold in the wind. Beautiful in all weather. The Bosphorus, (or Bosporus,) also known as the Strait of Istanbul, connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara, and by way of the Mediterranean, the rest of the world.

We stumbled across this dramatic restaurant in the Grand Bazaar, a huge covered market built around 1480. Wut?! Amazing over-the-top place. It's called: Nusr-Et Steakhouse Sandal Bedesteni. It just rolls off the tongue, no? If you're looking to buy a steak that's covered in gold foil, this is not a joke, you can get that here. That's the equivalent of lighting your cigar with a burning $100 bill. Classy, people, really classy.

Starting a long-ish walk on the last day of our 3-person group tour of Istanbul. We've crossed this bridge across the Bosphorus in all kinds of weather, and there are always many fishermen here.

Proof! Fishermen day and night. I assumed they were catching some substantial fish, and thought the small fish on their lines were bait. Turns out, that's what they're after. They look like sardines.

İstanbul has an incredible number and variety of neighborhoods, and this city of 15 million people is buzzing. I've made a list of people who should come here for a visit: (1) Everyone. Yes, it's a short list, and you are on it.

Turkey is famous for its sweets - they really are incredible. And Istanbul is famous for the presentation of food. This tower of sweets is much taller than I am.

I don't know what this says, but I'm assuming they're telling real men to sit like real men, not little school girls. It probably says, "Your legs should be spread wide, like your opinions, which should be similarly irritating."

My new favorite dessert in the world, seriously: baklava with ice cream. I'd never seen it before and thought it was a terrible idea until I tried it. Now I think it's a terrible day if I don't have it.

One of a hundred neighborhoods I visited, and a fountain in front of one of a hundred giant mosques in the city. Not kidding.

As I'm walking down dark streets on the way back to my van, or in this case my hotel, in a city that I don't really know, it seems very funny. How do I know where I'm going? How do I know it's going to work out and I'll be ok? And the only answer is: you'll find out for yourself that it DOES work out. And these amazing experiences/adventures change you in ways you can't anticipate, virtually always for the better. As I've said before, no one NEEDS to travel. But if you're tempted and afraid, that's perfect! Just go, and you'll know.

I like this street scene.

The famous Spice Bazaar, built in 1664.

I had just lifted my phone up to take a pic when the first firework went off. Nice timing. Apparently I have fireworks ESP. Send cash and I'll tell you your fortune. Hint: it involves you coming to Istanbul!

I'm walking across the bridge that carries cars, pedestrians, trams/street cars, and restaurants, with the Süleymaniye Mosque up on the hill.

I didn't think much about this tower, but looked it up after I took the pic. It's a Roman monument, so old it's original date is lost to history. But it was repaired 1,000 years ago. What will be here in 1,000 years from now, I wonder?

The famous Blue Mosque looks more blue in this photo than it did to my eyes. I didn't adjust anything. It's a 7 minute walk from my hotel, but I never managed to go. Weird.

One of my many ferry trips, waiting to take off.

Walking along the Bosphorus I came across this very comfortable coffee shop right on the water.

Hey, a mosque!

I went to a restaurant that had no menu, they only served the typical Turkish breakfast all day until it closed at 5 pm. I ate almost every bit of this. Moo.

Kitty condos with a view.

This very Turkish method of preparing and serving hot meats for sandwiches was invented about 100 years ago, and is seen all over the country.

When I couldn't get my hands on baklava and ice cream I would have these sweet fried dumpling things. Yum.

When we first arrived we took a private Bosphorus boat tour, about two hours, and it cost 50 euros each. That's a little expensive, but I thought it would be worth it. Then I found out that the public boat tour is just as comfortable, goes farther, stops along the way, and costs 2 euros each! I ended up taking that one twice. Near the Black Sea is this old fort used to control passage and collect taxes from passing ships. There was a 1 kilometer long chain (.6 miles) that they raised to stop boats from crossing.

A coffee shop with hanging book lamps. Congratulations for getting this far!

(The End)