Istanbul Part I: Mustaches and Mummies

Yep that’s what I first think of when I think of istanbul. Then I think about how it’s the most magical place on earth; chock full of dried fruit, stray cats, elaborate mosques, and yes, the faint smell of mummies and diarrhea. Turks are, for the most part, some of the nicest people I’ve ever met as well. Since it’s a matriarchal society, women are highly regarded and treated with more respect than other cultures. What does that mean? It means that when I got lost, 20 men would gather around me with their phones, searching for maps and calling friends until they agreed on where it must be and one man would take my arm and walk me to my destination, say bye three times, then turn away wanting nothing in return for helping other than the satisfaction of getting me to my destination. As much as they wanted to guide me, they also wanted to feed me. The spice bazaar is the Olympics of herbs; 88 shops in one giant L-shape of chaos. It’s reminiscent of Canal Street, when men try to lure you into their warehouse to see fake Chanel and Louis Vuitton bags, except they’re selling you overpriced walnut stuffed figs, Turkish delight, Iranian saffron, and teas. Through my investigations I found out a) what one should pay for every single item by going OUTSIDE the bazaar to the back where the locals shop b)that the yummy smelling teas and doused in perfume c) that if you walk through the spice bazaar, you will come out very, very full.

Backing up though. I got to Turkey after a miserable time at the Marseille airport where I missed my flight which was at 1:55. Which I thought was PM. And it was AM. Because WHO IN THEIR RIGHT MIND FLIES AT THAT TIME??? So I showed up 10 hours late and had to buy a new ticket which ended up wiping out my Santorini budget which is why I went to Crete where I wasn’t even supposed to go in the first place. But I suppose everything happens for a reason. I was so wigged out though after spending the rest of the day in Aix-en-Provence in the rain, crying, so the flight was a bit emotional.

Here, for the first time, is an unedited excerpt from my journal:

Airport. Its just me and a hundred turkish men. Mustaches, short hair,
big bellies, gray slacks, pointy leather shoes. Deep voices,
halitosis, “ehs” and epic staring. The lights flicker, feels like were
in a ramshackle basement, I don’t understand a word. I got two bags of
liquids, 2 containers of mace, and small scizzors onto the plane. I’m
out 150 euros and ill be damned if I don’t get them back in one form
or another. My back has a piercing pain from shoulder to shoulder, my
knees are buckling, eyes bleary, and my stomach is swollen from the
fibres of lentils and chickpeas. A skinny woman casually carries a
baby through the rain, its wrapped in a soft white cloth. Cheap. Like
something my parents would use for the back of a car for a dog to lay
on. I can feel the tension, were late, theyre staring, I’m so tired.
It hurts. This is horrible. What am I doing??

Okay scratch everything. These are the nicest people in the entire world.

As for these photos, they’re from my first day. I got off the plane, completely terrified that I was now 100% sleep deprived in a country that was as far East as I’d ever been (and plan on going in Europe/the Middle East) and my language wasn’t as prevalant. I soon learned that prevalent was relative though because anyone in uniform speaks English and they’re more than happy to help lost American girls, and those who only speak a few English words are more than thrilled to try them out on you. After I found my way to my friend Ipek’s (from AUP) apartment and dropped my bags with the maid who didn’t speak a word of English (we communicated through google translate) I decided to go for a walk so I hopped the train to Taksim. After cringing with my eyes partially covered past the rows of shwarma (seriously upside meat pyramids being shaved onto buns are beyond revolting) I found a place to get my mulberry on, a sketchy grocery store where the guys posed for a picture, a pack of 10 year olds who came up to me and said “you is sex” (uhhh exscuse me!?), a vintage district, 100 stray cats and dogs, and so many distracting pieces of street art my eyes nearly blew out of my skull.

Over the course of my time there I made friends with fisherman (which in turn leads one to find the best restaurants), bought a sick knife from a fisherman, went to half a dozen mosques, got lost in a hookah alley, bought 5 lbs of dried fruit, rode on the back of a motorcycle up the Bosphorous, nearly cried at the sight of tissue selling  gypsy babies passed out against walls in the unbearable heat, dodged a completely possessive and obsessive Turk who I agreed to have apple tea with, saw baby dolphins, conversed with my friends maid only with google translate, and kept stone cold sober. Except for the last night. If you can swing, it GO GO GO!! My favorite things about Istanbul were:

1. Spice Market

2. Street art

3. Hagia Sofia

4. Bosphorous/motorcycle ride/dolphins

5. All of the insanely cool things I bought (and wish I bought) but can’t show you because they have to be distributed first. There’s a lot of metal and a lot of embroidery though.

So anyways, here’s day 1:

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