15 September 2007

AlSo: Istanbul not Constantinople

I woke up rather feisty and took a 1 ½ hour walk. Erzurum has an amber indoor bazaar that was built at the behest of Solomon the Magnificent. I walked around the citadel as well, and during the first half hour or so of my walk I had the entire city all to myself, as most folks were back napping after their early morning breakfast. I tried to find a market that was open and, after a long time searching, found one and pounced while he was still laying out his wares for the day. I got some tomatoes and cucumbers, etc with a little stale bread and went back to see the boys up and about. Well, up anyway. We engaged in the second edition of the Infidels’ Clandestine Breakfast Picnic and then walked to the train station after hearing from a less than effusive Turkish Airlines ticket agent that there was not service to the airport. There was a dolmus from the train station, and we said goodbye for now to Justin before making our merry way back to Istanbul. The flight top Istanbul and a Havas bus to Kadikoy to the ferry to the tram to the Sultan Hostel where we immediately reunited with Nat, Sourma and Regina. YEAY! We talked with them and Volkan, the check-in guy, before heading up to the rooftop for a beer and a look at the view. We heard about their travels, including to Olympus which was awesome, Butterfly Valley which didn’t actually have any butterflies, and Ludones which turned out to be a British colony with a bunch of meringues on wedding package vacations. Earlier in the day they had spent time at the Grand Bazaar where they wheeled and dealed like only those two sisters can. We went to dinner together near the Blue Mosque at the Arrasta Bazaar. Quite touristy and a bit of a shock after having been in the east, truth be told. The call to prayer came about 7:25 and was preceded by a few loud booms, which I thought was a “get ready” signal for the end of fasting. Fasting for Ramadan is broken by first water and then dates, which according to Regina (whose parents are practicing Muslims) was the fruit Mohammed used to break his fast. Often soup with bread follows and then a main dish and then dessert. The whole are between Aya Sophia and the Blue Mosque is transformed into a Carnaval for the duration of Ramadan, and the first weekend was the craziest because public school still hadbn’t started and everyone was keen to celebrate it. The Blue Mosque had a string of lights whose message would change many evenings after the fast could be broken. The first night it said something like “Hos Geldiniz Sehri-Ya Ramazan”, which I think might mean “Welcome to the City for Ramadan” but I defer to others whose Turkish extends beyond my 10 words. Food and craft stalls were everywhere and absolutely swarming with people and vibrance. Our lot had a nargile and some cay before going back to touristy, secular Sultanahmet hostel row.

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