Trains, Boats, Trams, Buses, Taxis, Funiculars and Feet: the only transport we didn’t use today were submarines and airplanes. We’ve often remarked that city travel is deceptively tough. You cover a lot of ground, stand all day, and duck people and obstacles.
Istanbul, with cobblestone streets and steep hills is just as hard as an all-day hike in the mountains. Of course in the mountains you can’t grab a fresh juice from the street vendor or stop in a cafe for a coffee and a treat. Damn, the juices here are good. The Apple, Pomegranite and grapefruit are the best we’ve ever had. Suck it mountain hiking! We’ll hike Istanbul. (For now.)
Our first stop was the Whilrling Dervish ‘museum’ for tickets to the evening show. They sell-out early according to Amanda’s research. It’s Easter Sunday and streets are quiet, but there are already a few people huddled around a man selling tickets for 40 Turkish Lira, about fifteen bucks.
He looks at Lily and says “Under 8, free’ with a rolled ‘rrr’. Amanda politely says “She’s 12, we’ll pay for her.” He takes another look at her, waves his hand and says “She’s free’. We have used her diminutive size to get ‘youth’ tickets from Jordan to Japan, but this one was a gift!
The first public transport of the day is a funicular, a cable-tram railway system where used on steep slopes where the ascending cars balance out the desending cars counterbalance each other. We did them in Brazil, and I think somewhere in China. It’s just fun to say ‘Funicular’.
At the bottom Amanda had planned for us to grab a ferry to our next destination, but fortunately she notices that none of the ferry signs identify the right destination – “Karakoy”instead they say “Kadikoy”. I’m not sure I would have picked that up. Amanda studied linguistics in college and is fluent or competent in a few Romance languages. Turkish is hard, and it’s got very few roots we recognize because it’s in its own linguistic family. But she hears distinct sounds and remembers foreign words very quickly.
Not getting on the wrong ferry (which would have taken us to Asia) is easier than getting on the right one. We walk a few miles up the coast on the direction of a local that spoke good English, but he may have been mistaken. We find more ferries and buses, but opt for a cab to our destination. It’s not worth exhausting ourselves.
Fish market looks good if you eat fish, but none of us do so we e continue on the tram to the grand bazaar, but it’s closed on Sunday (or Easter Sunday? – that seems improbable in a Muslim country right?) Instead we grab some cafe food and drink, this time at a touristy place on the main street along the (closed) bazaar. It’s not as good as we’ve come to expect.
It’s 2pm, and we’ve not really done anything except trapse around Istanbul sampling food. There are worse things to do on a vacation day, but we all expect more. Fortunately the evening, a Whirling dervish performance and a trip to the bath house are guranteed to anchor our day’s agenda. That’s not for a few hours though. Amanda says ‘Let’s go get coffee in Asia!’
And so we did, as one can only do in Istanbul, scoot across the Bosporus on a ferry (the right one), and grab a cup of Turkish coffee, tea, baklava and a milk pudding on another continent. It’s a fun ride on the ferry. Emma and Lily roughhouse to blow off a little steam, although I don’t know where they get the energy.
Even with all the sugar and coffee, our energy is waning. I take little cat naps at the cafe’s we visit, sitting up. Amanda is in a daze all afternoon and evening. Lily even asks for some coffee – which she never needs.
The Dervish performance is fun and interesting, and mercifully short. Emma and Lily both sleep through the second half. There really isn’t much to it (if you don’t understand Arabic) aside from the spinning.
Dervishes are sects of Muslims that have taken vows of extreme poverty. The Turkish variety, the Mevlevi order, is known for it’s whirling ceremony. The dance called a ‘Sema’ is one of many Sufi ceremonies designed to teach religious ecstasy, and is not meant to have an audience. But it’s become an attraction in Turkey, and presumably the proceeds go to the poor, as that’s the Dervish tradition.
The final minutes of sunlight illuminate the grand Istiklal street, which is one of the main walking streets of Istanbul, and closed to traffic today. It’s packed with locals and tourists. There are street acts including musicians and someone in a full American Indian headdress. Go figure. We hear some college kids singing in a group, and we laugh that they are probably singing Easter songs. I start to belt out “Here come’s Peter Cotton Tail” and Amanda follows suit, getting strange looks. (Yeah that’s us over there being stupid.)
We eat at another place called ‘Parole’ …aaaannndd it’s pretty bad. There is no Turkish food on the menu. We came to get Emma some comfort food, and indeed she wolfs down here plate of garlic and olive oil pasta. I’d give my right leg for a good felafel, but that will have to wait.
What do you do after a long day? You go to the bathhouse, dammit. Amanda read a dozen reviews before picking the Aga hammam, which is mixed ages and gender. It’s historic, but has been completely renovated and is solid marble inside. It’s not a pool bath house like the one we were in in Spain, it’s one where you pour hot water over your head from a basin. We get short soapy massages and get fully relaxed before they bring us some apple tea.
Amanda barely makes it back to the apartment, and answers questions like she’s drunk. She’s tired. The girls and I all open our computers, but the wifi is out again (grrr) and we’re really too sleepy to do anything except close our eyes. It’s nearly midnight, and we start again early tomorrow.