Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Beauty on the Bosporus

I have a special place in my heart for my fellow expat ladies whom I met in my German courses.  Getting used to a new country and culture is so much easier when you have pals to go through it with you.  Plus, I love hearing people's stories.

There is a very large population of Turkish people who immigrate to Switzerland and Germany.  My two friends Dilek and Ozge are Turkish.  Truly kind, awesome and funny ladies.  When they talk about Turkey, they both get this very excited look - only the kind of look that someone gets when they truly love their homeland and culture.  Both emphatically told me that I should visit Turkey. After their stories, I decided that "should" was quickly becoming "absolutely need to."

Guess who's coming to dinner?
When our Florida friends Dave and Lauren contacted us about a conference that Dave was going to be going to in Turkey, we didn't hesitate to agree to meet them in Istanbul.  

It was incredible.  No.  That's not the right word.  There is no word to describe the depth of enchantment that Turkey has.  I'm not kidding when I say that I would move there, despite having to be careful about drinking the water.  And I'm a bit of a clean freak, so extremely high praise. 

Blue Mosque
I knew it was going to be good during the most hilarious and terrifying cab ride of my life. From the airport to our hotel let's just say it looks a bit like a road rally.  Not a lot of staying in one lane, kids standing up through sun roofs of moving cars, no seat belts and really fast aggressive driving.  Dave picked up some key Turkish cabby phrases that our driver howlingly laughed at as Dave practiced repeating after he yelled them at passing vehicles and pedestrians in the road.  

Basilica Cistern
We pet the stray cats (even though we were advised not to) and fed them bits of döner, saw a man get an extremely close shave with a flaming spoon, talked about Switzerland with a shopkeeper at the Grand Bazaar whose parents live in the neighboring city from us.  We tasted real Turkish delight.  Before this, I was not really sure what the hype was about or why Edmund in "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" would ever betray his siblings to the White Witch for a tasty morsel.  I'll just apologize to my brother and sister here and say that after seeing these gorgeous, candy jewels, scoot over Edmund, I'd think about getting in that snowy sled myself.
Inside the Hagia Sophia

Topkapi Palace Harem
Very little can compare to trekking through the Topkapi Palace harem, seeing religious relics like the beard of Mohammed, touring a 6th century, underground Roman cistern filled with bloated, nearly albino carp, and finishing it all off with a sunset cocktail with old friends on the shores of one of the most important waterways in history. Or seeing the intricate mosaics of the Hagia Sophia or turquoise tile work of the Blue Mosque, hearing the call to prayer waft over the city from the mosque minarets, or smelling the aromas of hundreds of spices on the last stop of the Silk Road - the Grand Bazaar.
Grand Bazaar copper stall

Shores of the Bosporus at dusk



Turkish Delight
Tea vendor in the Spice Bazaar

You haven't seen the last of us, Turkey.  We'll be back!