Sunday, May 8, 2011

Day 5 - Thursday in Istanbul

I’ve gotten all mixed up with my days and have lost track of what point we are in our trip. I realized that we flew overnight, so lost a day on arrival. Thus, we landed on day 3, which I mistook to be day 2. Either way, it’s not a big deal, it just throws off my blog a bit. We are currently on day 5, our last full day in Turkey. It was also a day that we chose to take our all-important Grateful Dumpling pic, but first a little background.

This trip was funded and inspired by our hard work, sweat and toil over the Summer making and selling dumplings. When we tell people we are going to Turkey and Greece with our dumpling money, they are shocked, and wonder how many dumplings we sold. Believe me, we sold plenty, all hand made. If there ever was a time that we earned a trip, this was it.

Our plan was to take pictures of all the locales that we visited thanks to our dumpling travel fund, and this entailed making a portable banner that we could pack and bring along. R made this beautiful banner literally the night before we left, and it turned our beautifully. We needed to decide where to take the pic, and figured it would boil down to either the Hagia Sophia or the Blue Mosque. We finally chose the latter.

It’s quite an undertaking finding the right shot, which means casing a location, getting the right frame of reference, and then asking someone to take the shot. We took it from multiple locations before choosing one we liked. Once that was done, our day was free to do more exploring around the city. There were two places we wanted to see before we left, the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Market.

According to the guide books, the Bazaar is where you get hassled to no end to buy something. Plus, it’s a labyrinth inside, and apparently it’s easy to get lost. This obviously gave us reservations, but we figured it was all part of travel. As long as we were safe and our hair looked good, there would be no problems.

Another aspect of travel where you really get a feel for how the other half lives is taking their public transportation. In all the big cities we’ve visited, we’ve taken the subway or bus, and Istanbul has a city tram that runs above ground. The first job was procuring tokens, then figuring out how to catch the train. The rail runs right along the streets, and it’s a bit precarious when it runs by because the thing is huge and takes up the entire road. Riding it was actually fun, though I had no clue where we were going, or where we’d been. I just followed R and the kids.

The train actually stopped at the Bazaar, and we headed into to meet whatever fate awaited us. Truth be told, it wasn’t that bad, and the people were for the most part friendly, if not eager to sell us their wares. I personally could not, for the life of me, figure our how a person decides between vendors. They all sell the same thing, and charge the same prices. What distinguishes one from the other? Maybe it all boils down to salesmanship. We were all set to leave when A mentioned she wanted to get a lamp. It was time to get down and dirty.

We went amongst the different vendors and first priced the different lamps. Then we tried to talk them down. We got one guy to drop from $8 to $5, and feeling proud of ourselves, we met up with R and N near the exit, only to see that numerous other vendors charged $5, as well. Oh well, at least we didn’t pay too much, I think.

You realize that they’ll always win in the end, and at some point, you just have to accept the fact that you’re going to get a little taken. It’s all part of traveling. After the market, we had our usual tea time, followed by a swim, then a venture back out to see Spice Market. Again, the Market is a swarm of humanity, and all of the vendors sell the same stuff, at the same prices. Who do you choose?

One thing that was fun was that once again, people were quite taken by the kids, and because it was the Spice Market, there were plenty of sweets and treats that they showered onto the kids, especially N. They were both in hog-heaven. Interestingly, we met several Americans at the market, and one couple lives in the same neighborhood as my mom in LA. Can you believe that? They overheard me telling the sales guy that we were from Vermont, and he introduced himself and said they lived in LA but their daughter now lived in MA. Crazy.

After the market, we headed back to hotel, but first grabbed some food. We weren’t sure where to eat, and happened upon a burger joint called Bambi Cafe. How funny is that? It seemed like a Roy Rogers or Taco Bell in the US, cheap food that only the locals ate. They even had a Bambi Burger. We couldn’t pass up this opportunity. And yes, as usual, the people in side were super kind to the A&N, once again showering them with candy and attention. It was quite endearing, and I think N was starting to like it, even though he was coy about the whole thing.

After supper, we stopped at sweet shop, had some local rice pudding, and then headed home. We were tired from a long day of walking and swimming, but were still having trouble falling asleep.

Tomorrow we’re off for Greece, so it should be a long day. Until then, thanks for reading.

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