We had a sleep-in this morning – 9am. We got up and the house was quiet. We showered, dressed and pulled apart some bread to eat. There was still no sign of life from Leyla’s room after an hour, so we decided to head out and check out the village and find coffee.
We approached a café and asked if they served coffee and they told us no. As we were walking away, a sturdy, cheerful-looking middle-aged Turkish man called us back. He was trying to communicate something very earnestly to us in a booming Turkish voice. He addressed himself only to Jesse, which I am understanding is more common the further out from the main city centres in Turkey. We had no idea what he was saying, but he jauntily led us through the town, about a ten minute walk to a little café, presumable owned by his friend. Then he requested to exchange phone numbers with Jesse. He was very excited and insistent and there were at least five minutes of gesticulation and frustrated talking in Turkish. Then he shook Jesse’s hand, slapped him on the back like Jesse had won a medal, and walked away. It was all quite puzzling, but I have since learned from Leyla that Turkish people have a need to help others and fix problems. This man would have felt desperate to help us. The insistence on the exchange of phone numbers would be so that we could call him if we needed any further assistance.
In Turkey, Nescafe (yes, the brand) is served in cafes as regular coffee. Most cafes also have the option of Turkish coffee. Some will also serve espresso or filter coffee, but it depends. The owner approached us (the only two customers) and again addressed Jesse as to where we were travelling from etc. I sat in the corner making mud pies and trying not to be an embarrassment to either of them. We ordered two Nescafes and spent a couple of hours chatting.
When we got home, Leyla was still asleep. It was nearly 2pm. She seemed very sleepy and a little confused that we were up so early when she heard us come in. She insisted on making breakfast for us. We had already bought a loaf of bread and some cheese on the way home, and added this to the table. We all sat on the balcony, and ate apple, grapes, olives, feta cheese, yellow cheese, scrambled eggs, salad, bread and tea. My gut was enormous by the end of it.
Jesse and I were both feeling curious about our itinerary. Leyla had suggested to us a full day of sight seeing, and was still talking as such. But it was now past 3pm and the two of us wondered how this would occur. She had also warned us that she would be taking us dancing at Taksim, and that we would be having a big night out.
Pendik (Leyla’s suburb) is located on the Asian continent (Anatolia) and outside of Istanbul central. Instanbul is on the European continent. To get to Istanbul from Pendik, you need to cross a bridge or go via ferry. We caught a ferry from Kadikoy to Eminonu. Along the way, we saw Galita Tower, Ayasophia, New Mosque, some palace and Blue Mosque.
We visited New Mosque and were allowed to go on the tourist section. Women are required to wear head scarfs and everyone must take off their shoes and carry them in a bag whilst inside. It was very, very beautiful. I felt peaceful, and, at the same time, angry. This isn’t a political or religious commentary piece, just a snapshot of my honest reaction to various places along my travels. I felt angry that only men could pray in the main area, amidst all the splendour and grandeur, and that women were relegated to a plain area down the back near the entrance with the tourists, roughly the size of a bus.
We then went for a walk through the Spice Bazaar. It’s hard to do it justice in a written piece, but I loved it. Excessively crowded, both with people and wares, there were sweets, spices, cloths and trinkets enough to tempt even the most tight-wad traveller. Salesman were at every stall, engaging the crowds and enticing people’s custom. We bought some amazing turkish delight, which a young man cut off a massive block with a mini scimitar. There were many aisle and one could easily spend half a day in there, but we maybe spent an hour. The spice bazaar was established in 1660, and with the crowds and the diverse, high-quality range of goods, it’s easy to see how it comes to enjoy such longevity.
Once we emerged, Leyla could see we needed a break. We sat down at a traditional Turkish cafe and ordered Turkish coffee (which is always served with some pieces of Turkish delight). By far, the best part of this experience was learning how to read the coffee grinds, much like some gypsies read tea-leaves. We spent maybe 40 minutes entirely engrossed in this activity. This traditionally is only done with Turkish coffee, however. My cup had a lot of activity going on in it apparently!
Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to go inside either of these (we missed the visitor times) but we hung around outside the touristy area and took a bunch of random photos.
Dinner and Cultural Exchange
After all of our sight-seeing, Leyla insisted on taking us for traditional sea-side fare – bread and fish. Jesse and I were both very, very hungry and this sounded like a great idea. We walked back to the sea side and towards a row of restaurants underneath Galata Bridge (best explained here: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/turkey/istanbul/sights/architecture/galata-bridge).
There were dozens of fishing lines hanging down from on top. Leyla ordered for us and we were delighted when three half-litre mugs of beer appeared at our table, as well as enormous, fresh bread rolls each with a large fillet of fish, as well as lettuce and onion. We also squeezed lemon juice onto it. I have no idea wheat kind of fish it was, but it was delicious. and I were very full afterwards but Leila, who probably weighs maybe 40kgs, ordered a second beer and looked surprised when we didn’t. Then she chain smoked and we had a very funny cultural exchange, which is best explained in pictures. Jesse ordered Pepsi and I ordered Nescafe whilst we sat around for another hour and chatted. We were starting to understand that in Europe, 11pm is still very early, and there is still the rest of the night to enjoy. So we took our time and tried not to look tired.
This blog does not adequately describe how much walking we do a day. It is a lot, at least several kilometres. Which is why there is also a large focus on food! So again, after scrawling “See you Next Tuesday” on Galata bridge, we walked up to Taksim and went to a night club to dance. It was an awesome club, with a mix of Western and traditional Turkish dance music, and we were there for maybe three hours. I loved seeing how there was more of a focus on actual dancing and having fun than getting completely wasted. Both Turkish men and women have great moves.
After this, it was definitely home time. Trying not to fall asleep on the bus (which was waaaayyy overcrowded at 4am) we finally got home and crashed around 5am. It had been an awesome night.