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Around the World in 210 Days

Turkey Talk

TURKEY | Thursday, 6 December 2007 | Views [2050] | Comments [14]

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“SleepingInAirports.com. A Guide to Cheap Lodging for Cheap People.”

 Thank you, Sleepinginairports.com. You helped us choose our airport well. It really wasn’t too bad, in the Swiss sector of Basel-Mulhouse airport. The restaurant terrace we described before was almost completely abandoned, and we really had a nice campsite going on. The only hiccup in the night came right before bedtime, when I convinced Alex that our comfort was more important than the embarrassment that would come from dragging a second bench from around the corner and making a “Queen size.” So I walk around to where the second bench *was,* and much to my dismay another couple had swiped it. They built themselves a fancy double-wide bench, and flaunted it as they stretched out across them. I was jealous, I will admit it, but more than that I was angry because I had been bested. Bested by a pair of sneaky, arriving-later-than-us punks that knew they should go up the other escalator as to not rouse suspicion from our camp when they stole my second bench. So, Alex and I flipped and flopped throughout the night, making the best of our single bench… Occasionally I would awake with a numb foot or hand, which wouldn’t be a problem except it made me want to flip off the other couple, and seeing how my hand was numb that would be impossible. Quite the paradox.


Anyhow, we woke up around five and moseyed downstairs into the “living room,” aka the EasyJet check-in counter. We were numbers two and three on the flight, which meant that when our boarding was called, we got to push through all of the “B” people, who were clogging the exit (intentionally, I presumed). The flight was quick and included another bird’s eye view of an endless chain of snowy mountains.

As we de-boarded, we could already feel the difference from Europe. Mainly because we had to buy visas just to get out of the airport. Our hosts were so very gracious enough to pick us up from the airport, perhaps sensing our tendency to get ourselves completely lost on public transportation.

After recuperating for an hour or so, one of our hosts, Hande (a native Istanbul-ite), took us down to the river, and to Alex’s absolute delight, to a Starbucks. It was definitely a trip highlight for her when we entered and she saw the winter-only seasonal red cups that she loves so much.

The next day, Hande took us back down to the river, and this time across it and into the heart of the “European side” of Istanbul, known as the “old city” (check this out; Istanbul is actually on TWO CONTINENTS! The river separates the European side from the Asian side. It makes Basel-Mulhouse airport, which is in three countries, way less impressive). The European side is where most of the “tourist stuff” is located, including the Blue Mosque, Aya Sofya (that’s the American, aka easy spelling), and the Grand Bazaar. We didn’t go to any of the museum-ish stuff, but instead took in the sights. We did go to the Grand Bazaar, which was grand and bizarre. More on that in a minute. As you look out over the city, the minarets (the mosques’ equivalent of steeples, perhaps) stick up into the air like tall, skinny towers. They really are cool, but the most impressive part of them is realized in the morning, noon, mid-day, and evening (or something to that effect). That is when the calls to prayer are made. Men sing (something non-English) over the loudspeakers attached to the minarets. Every mosque in Istanbul emits their own song, and the entire city echoes with the sounds for several minutes. It’s really different and new to us, which we like a lot.

Speaking of different and new, one the most unique parts about being in Istanbul has to be the transportation. As I mentioned, we traversed the Bosphorus River to get from the Asian side where we were staying to the European side. The way you cross is by catching a three-story ferry boat that costs only 1.30 lira (a little more than one dollar), and takes about twenty-five minutes. It really is a fantastic way to get to the other side of the city, and as our host Collette mentioned, has to be one of the coolest ways to commute to work (assuming you are not running late…). Even cooler, as you float across the Bosphorus, men walk around the ferry selling Simits (sesame-seed-covered bagel-esque bread) with fresh orange juice, and others sell glasses of a very popular hot tea with a couple cubes of sugar. Everyone sips on their tea as they cross the river, and it creates such a calming atmosphere. The other completely novel form of transportation we have encountered is the dolmuş. That “S with a squiggle,” as I call it, makes the “sh” sound, so it’s pronounced “dole-moosh.” Dolmuses are taxi-yellow vans that hold 7 people and cost the same as a bus. They drive (as quickly and crazily as everyone else here) from one point to another, which is designated by plastic placards hanging on the windshield. Whenever you see one, you just throw up a hand designating the number of seats you need, and if the driver has that many available he pulls over, hits a button which automatically opens the sliding door, and you hop in. The payment system is somewhat primitive, as the people in the back just pass their money forward via passengers in the middle seat. They hand the driver the money and, while swerving and honking, he makes the change and passes it back. We quickly learned not to sit in the middle row, as Turkish sentences are usually passed along with the payments.

By the way, Turkish is by far the most non-English language we have encountered yet. There is no trace of English, Spanish, Italian, Latin, Martian… it’s completely different. Luckily for us, Hande actually teaches Turkish, and could not help but make flash cards and cheat sheets for us, which have key phrases and the 0-10, as well as loan us a (kids) game she uses to acquaint foreigners with the language. We have sort of figured out the pronunciation, and know a few words (bir = one, iki = two, lutfen = please, tershekurler (sp) = thanks, and, of course, odekler = ducks).

As I mentioned, we walked through the Grand Bazaar, which is a Massive tunnel of carpets, tea pots, gold, silver, ceramic pots, socks, souvenirs, hookahs, Turkish Delight, nuts, rugs, carpets, carpets, rugs, and counterfeit perfume. It sprawls across a tunnel from the top of a hill down to the shore, with off-shooting passages connecting more of the same. After walking through the covered portion, you walk out into the crowded streets, where there are even more shops. And the shopkeepers do not sit patiently, waiting for customers, but clamour, squawk, whistle, and shout for your attention. It was an awe-some experience, to say the least. On Tuesday we went to another bazaar, this time an outdoor market with canvas canopies, which had more of the same. It was like what a flea market might be if a hundred of them were joined together and they sold fresh fruit and vegetables. We bought over 5 kilograms of produce and snaked our way through the bazaar before heading home.

It has been a very new and different experience being in Istanbul, and we really love it. It is definitely hectic, and the drivers are insane, but it also has a calm, relaxing feel to it as well. And, most surprisingly of all, we haven’t been in one single McDonalds.

Tags: Markets




For this delightful and informative posting you have earned a 24 hour grace period in which I will NOT bug you asking for a delightful and informative post of some kind.
Tershekurler very much!
The clock has started.

  Richard Dec 7, 2007 6:14 AM


Sounds very cool, good post. I have spent a fare amount of time in airports and I'm pretty much convinced they are a sort of interdimensional time vortex.

  Lefty Dec 7, 2007 10:03 AM


well this sounds like a place i could spend a long time in and feel right at home. so much shopping oppertunity and here i am stuck in lubbock with our boring stores. it amazes me that you two luck out so well with the people you stay with. that is to cool that you will get free language lessons with your room. how is the food, what is it like and what kind of fruits and veggies do they have. the ferry does not sound all that great what with being top heavy and all but then the cab rides don't sound to much fun either, so i guess i would walk. how is the weather, warm, cold, hot? and i see there is no mention of dogs in this report. i want to know if the barks of dogs have a differnt sound to them over there as the language is different from all others you have been hearing? is it a nice or harsh language? well as we gear up for Christmas here and feel the hole left by you two being around the world from us i hope that over in Turkey there may be small signs of the season. as we come closer to the holidays i know that with me the sense of not feeling complete will increase and the wanting to know that you both will be able to have some sort of Christmas will intrude. but back to the now and here or rather there, are the colors wonderful and rich in the people and landscape? what knid of animals are you seeing? remember we all long for the details that make us see what you see, hear, feel, and smell. well maybe not every smell or feel but you get the drift. shannon with all the gold hanging around it should be a wonderful place to pick up a trinket or two, like maybe a slave ring and braclett for the ankle and toe and maybe a puzzle ring or two, hmmmmmmm, i'm just saying nice small, not to much room taking objects. oh and tigger says he would not mind a wife with an accent so long as she is small and cute. coco would like fruit and food products. have you two purchased a friendly grocery bag yet, this place sounds like it might have just what you need, but i would get one with wheels. love to you both mom

  mardi Dec 7, 2007 10:35 AM


Great post! All I want to know is did you see or touch any carpets?

Love you guys...mom

  Sandy Dec 7, 2007 12:52 PM


It just turned winter in West Texas. I am sort of housebound thinking of my traveling peeps and their piles of luggage they have lugged. I wonder to myself if Alex realizes that the 24 hour preaceful period of me not bugging yall is OVER. I can just see her eyes rolling back in her head right now as she hears the news.

I don't know how much US news you pay attention to but I am getting a kick out of news pundits talking about how Obama will benefit from a connection to Oprah. I know my connection to Oprah didn't really turn my life around. So far.

Everything seems to remind me of you guys. A mention of Starbucks reminds me of you guys getting Seattle style lattes in a place that is famous for Turkish coffee (not to mention footstools)

I was paying some bills then I remembered Andrew warned me that I better quit pushing the envelope so I had to stop paying bills because of the envelope pushing involved.

We have been watching a non stop Anthony Bourdain marathon on PBS that consisted of watching him travel and eat exotic foods in exotic places where you guys buy Big Macs.

Last night in the middle of the night I was watching a cinematic masterpiece. Billy Bob Thornton was playing the role of Karl in Slingblade. Easy to get that role when you write the story, direct the movie and are born for the part.

He said something that reminded me of you guys.

His fellow "inmate" at the mental institution said...

"I don't like people who talk all the time. I like to do all the talking, which is why I think I'm so fond of you, 'cause you're so easy-going.

Although I do sense a little tension in you from time to time.
So, you were out in the world, huh?
What was it like?

Karl: It was too big.

  Richard King Dec 9, 2007 9:29 AM


re: the spelling in the post above:

pReaceful is the way all the cool kids are spelling peaceful now.

  Rrrricardo Dec 9, 2007 9:32 AM


This message brought to you by SleepingInBlogSpaces.com

I am going to just curl up over here and take a nap. It seems sooooo quiet and all. shhhhhhh
Don't tell Alex or Andrew.

  Rrrrricardo Dec 11, 2007 6:59 AM


move along

nothing to see here

even the crickets are askeered to chirp

  Onlooker Dec 12, 2007 7:00 AM


I agree we need something new, how do you expect me to teach well if I have nothing to read on the net while I have my class read the chapter and answer teh questions at the end

  american gladiator Dec 13, 2007 8:36 AM


Note to American Gladiator. There are some AWESOME snacks in the teachers' lounge this time of year. You can sneak away from the class. I am pretty sure they won't misbehave.

Now regarding the traveling duo
you are all being punished for my sins.

I beg too much for info regarding the trip so Andrew is going all Daniel on me to teach me a lesson.

I will repay you all with some insider info I have learned about Santa.
It is no longer politically correct to call Santa's helpers "elves"
Henceforth they shall be called subordinate clauses.

  Rrrricardo Dec 13, 2007 9:06 AM


Is it still okay to call freshmen elves, or satans spawn.

  spanky Dec 14, 2007 1:24 AM


Re: post #11
Yes Spanky. They are a sub class of the student species also known as the non people.
Freshmen have no standing in our society.

As Dr. Phil would say..."how's that education degree working out for ya?"

PS - Speaking of non people,
have you heard from my son or daughter in lawyer? Remember how cool they were back in the day?

  Richard King Dec 14, 2007 2:27 AM


Andrew... just to surprise you about 100 times more than you THINK you could be surprised by a link:


  Danmark Dec 14, 2007 6:30 AM



Where you under the mistaken impression that someone named Andrew checks this corner of the interwebs?

As they say in Turkey...
no way

  Vladimir Dec 14, 2007 11:24 AM

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