Thursday, July 29, 2010

İstanbul, The Drug (Alternatively, Give Me A Bag Of Hot Chestnuts And I'm Yours Forever)

It was not a weekend you'd want to get in a fight with.  Thankfully, we got on quite well, and the only blow it dealt was to whatever energy reserves I had left after four weeks here.  And, don't mısunderstand me, that was a blow I'm stıll recovering from now, on Thursday, but, god, ıt was worth it.  İstanbul... imagine whatever you've heard about that heady, glorious, ancient, modern, ridiculous, exquisite city, and then think of your most recent sauna experience.  İstanbul never sleeps.  hiç.

It's late, so this is going to be a really disorganized post.  In no particular order, here is what we (my host mother, sister, various friends and an aunt, and me) did.

We ate kokoreç, a sandwich of grilled sheep intestines.  They sell it on the street as a sort of snack food, 24 hours a day, due to the insomniacal (word?) nature of İstanbul.  It's actually really tasty, and my only problem was that it was very spicy.  There were also mussel shells stuffed with lovely rice all around the mussel, and deep-fried mussels on sticks.  I must bring these techniques back home to Maine, where we have, in my completely objective and unbiased opinion, the best mussels in the world.  Türkiye comes in a close second.

Went to both the Aya Sofiya and Sultan Ahmet mosques.  Aside from being impossibly beautiful, my favourite thing about them is the way one resulted in the other.  Aya Sofiya was originally a cathedral, and when the Ottomans came in they built the Sultan Ahmet mosque directşly opposite it to show the Christians what was what.  The two make this gorgeous mirror of one another, and there are fountains and corn and chestnut (oh, the chestnuts... I'd only seen them sold by the Paris metro before, and how I love them.  Chestnuts were the last thing I ate in 2009,  The first thing I ate this year was sea urchin roe) vendors and rose gardens in between.  The Aya Sofiya is a museum now, and the inside is not only gorgeous but going through a centuries-long religious identity crisis.  It's got arabic written all over it, and the tiling and wall art is typicaşlly İslamic, but there are still paintings of Mary and Jesus and the angel Gabriel on the ceilings. 

The Sultan Ahmet mosque is still very much functioning as such.  When my host mother and I went in, we were given plastic bags for our shoes and big squares of light blue cloth for our heads.  The inside is carpeted and just as enormously impressive as the Aya Sofiya, but differently decorated.  There were tourists all over, it beıng a very famous spot with good reason, but also some people praying, etc. etc.  The women have to pray in this tiny enclosed area with high wicker walls, and I think it's just awful.  But it was incredible to see the two buildings one after another.  I really wished my Dad (the, um, biological one, in Maine) had been there to see it.  He's an architect and would have loved the whole thing and driven me nuts with all the history of the building techniques and all.

In İstanbul, there are burqas everywhere.  Here in Ankara you see plenty of headscarves, but I've only seen about two full-length anythıngs in the five weeks I've been here (I know.  5 week left and I don't know how I'll leave).  But in İstanbul, so many women go about with just their eyes showing through a slit, walking a step behind their husbands.  They're mostly tourists from İran, Pakistan and other nearby İslamic countries, but gosh.  Everywhere.  I almost died from the heat and humidity in my shorts and tank top, and I just can't imagine what it's like to go around day after day wearing long, heavy black - or, in one instance last weekend, purple - robes.  As if it weren't enough, you couldn't tell if most of these womens' husbands were secular or fanatically observant from the way they dress.  Insult to injury, or just plain cultural misogyny? 

The Grand Bazaar and Taksim (this incredibly long shoppıng street, probably the busıest in Turkey) are amazing, too.  I bought some spices, a(nother) cushion, too much Turkish delight (which turns out to be a) actually from Turkey and b) delicious c) screw C. S. Lewis, those books were preachy and boring) and a couple other presents for my family, and there are these men sellıng ıce cream that ıs somehow stretchy.  They throw ıt around on sticks to atract customers. 

Let's see, what else... The U2 poster is just somethıng I saw around İstanbul...I went to their 360 concert in London last August, and it wsa great, so it was cool to see they're coming here. 

There are a lot of stray cats everywhere ın Turkey.  Oh, and I figured out the colour settings on my camera!  I feel so stupid for not finding them for a whole month and a to read that manual one of these days.  Anyway, my life is a bit of a black-and-white fest at the moment.  I got henna-ed, apparently ın the Pakistani/İndian style (turkish henna is oranger, I'm told) yesterday, which was lots of fun for 5 Lira. 

Oh, and my host-aunt, the one who lives in the Black Sea region, is pregnant!  We might go back up there this weekend to see her. 

It's too late to arrange all these photos, I'll come back and edit this post later.  For now you'll just have to figure it out.  You can do it.

İyi geceler.

1 comment:

Tara said...

What a fantastic trip Imogen!! It brings back all the wonderful memories that I have of visiting Turkey!