Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Istanbullda Birkadin


That means I'm a woman in Istanbul. And what an amazing city Istanbul is! There is no way I can see the modern art museum, and Topkapi might fall off the list too. On Monday, after visiting the Phanar, which is nearly on the water and a 10-minute cab ride from anything important to tourists, I wandered in the neighborhood. Lots of very old, brick-and-wood buildings being restored, but others very run down. I was told the "Fener" neighborhood is the most religiously conservative neighborhood in Istanbul; nearly every woman sported a headscarf and long coat over long dress. Fascinating too: a man selling garlic from a makeshift cart, hawking to second and third-story customers. From there, I hopped into a cab with two English speakers headed to Taksim Square -- they wouldn't let me pay -- and capped all this off with a walk from Taksim through the shopping street, Istiklal Caddesi (second photo here). The boys would love because a small red trolley runs up and down the street at very long intervals. I bought lots of little, Turkish things today: rose water (for a face toner or food flavoring), some antique post cards and Turkish music. (Books are very expensive here $50+) Huge New Year sales here. I found hand-knit baby booties from a villager selling on the street.
Had dinner by myself, wishing I had someone to talk to. But traveling alone means you meet more people, and experience more instead of concentrating on your companion. I asked in stores twice about places to eat, and landed in a bustling mezze taverna -- a "meyhane" -- the kind of place where locals have small portions of pan-seared fish, pickled greens that look like miniature olives leaves, spicy puree of tomato and raw onion, with raki diluted in water. It was perfect.

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