In at the deep end

Bir, Iki, Uc, Dort!

September 21, 2008

I always find it hard to write an entire post about a city, even one as amazing as Istanbul; it requires having an opinion on things, and I find they’re treacherous things at the best of times!

I’ve been having a fantastic time in Istanbul, not least because I’ve spent the time being shown round by a lovely Turkish girl by the name of Melahat!

This lovely girl spent endless hours giving me the low down on the best places in Istanbul, all the drinks and meals, not to mention the local slang and some interesting insights into Turkish life!

We did just about everything there is to do in Istanbul (yeah right that’d take a lifetime!).

There’s me in the middle of the Bosphorous, with the main bridge in the background.

This is the Turkish speciality of erm.. something-er-other, it’s quite nice but I’m told the batch we had wasn’t up to its usual spice level!

Kumpir, basically a baked potato (except uhh.. boiled) stuffed to bursting point with everything from gherkins to yoghurt to olives to beetroot (and anything else they can lay their hands on!)

Post haircut a way up Golden Horn.

Istanbul is Purdy!

A street performer on Istiklal.
I swear this guy is the most talented motherfucker I even met; he was singing, playing really fast flamenco guitar and riding a unicycle.
In four months not a single street performer has got a penny from me, this guy got all my change (about 80p).

A film set I ran across near Istiklal, seemed to be doing a protest scene (note the poor guy clinging to the railing on the top right!)

The spice bazaar was absolutely incredible, scents from hundreds of spices (and a number of the more pungent shoppers!) mingled to create a heady mix that verged on overpowering.
Me and Melahat performed an experiment whereby she would go up to the stall and ask the price of something, then I would try a couple of minutes later.
Surprisingly the shop-keepers proved quite honest (or observant) and the prices were pretty much the same.
Unlike my first taxi, which cost me 20YTL when it should have been around 5…

Oh well, I can count up to 50 in Turkish now and ask “Nekidar?” which means “‘ow much is it?” which seemed to do the trick when getting my hair cut (initial price 12 YTL, final price 5! :D)

My cynicism has taken a step up lately, as everyone around is trying to rip me off it seems.
I was walking down a road near the Iranian embassy last Monday after handing in my passport, when a guy walking in front of me (who buffed shoes for a living) dropped his brush.
I found it rather odd that he didn’t notice the loud *clack* that the wooden brush made when it hit the pavement, but nonetheless tapped him on the shoulder and pointed out the fallen brush.
“Thank you very much sir, where are you going?”
“Uh, just to the internet cafe…”
“Oh, that internet cafe is for tourists, come with me! My friend run internet cafe half price!”
Hmm, how convenient, still I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt for the moment and follow along.
We stopped in front of a shop:
“We drink chai or Turkish coffee here! 10 minutes only!”
“Erm.. Thanks but I really have to get to the internet cafe right now!”
“Please! Don’t insult me!”
“Byeeeee!” I yelled over my shoulder as I walked determinedly in the opposite direction.

I thought nothing more of it until two days later I went to pick up my passport (with said Iranian visa) and walked down the same street.
This time I simply stepped over the brush and kept walking.
About half an hour later I was walking down the same street again in the opposite direction.
“Jeez, do these guys never give up?”
I don’t know what the rest of the rouse was but from what I’ve heard they’ll either charge you exorbitant amounts for the supposedly free chai, try and sell you a carpet, or simply spike the tea and strip you of everything you own.

I leave Istanbul on Wednesday, many experiences and one Iranian visa richer, woo!

  • James Pa

    Good luck in Asia, take it easy and keep on enjoying it! See you soon, James