Monday, April 12, 2010

Don't You Know We're Riding on the Istanbul Express

We pulled into Istanbul yesterday after flying from Venice to Rome to the Istanbul airport, which is named after Turkey's favorite hero--you guessed it--or you should have anyway--Kemal Ataturk. If you come here, you will see his picture everywhere. On the money, on stamps, on signs, on pictures in restaurants. He is truly ubiquitous.

As I write this, sitting in our hotel. the Hotel Acra in Sultanahmet, right in the center of the historic district, I am listening to the call to prayer. It is very evocative, even though Turkey is a secular nation. You see everything here from women in the most modern clothes to women who are completely covered in black except for their eyes, although we were told that they are probably not Turkish but are usually visiting from Iran or other very strict Moslem countries. Still, hearing the call to prayer, even if many Turks don't go except on Fridays, does make the Turkish experience different from most of our other travels. Istanbul is also colorful, noisy, crowded, and the traffic is just as bad as we remembered it, especially when you are trying to cross the street or when, as often happens, you have to walk in the street.

We did a lot of walking today and the streets and sidewalks are uneven with lots of stone and brick. The steps in most places are uneven so you need to be very careful when you walk. There are also lots of cats around. That hasn't changed at all. I have refrained, so far, from taking too many cat pictures. But here are a couple.

We are enjoying the sights and sounds of a great city. I will have more about that in my next post. But I can say that the lokum (Turkish Delight) is great if you find the stuff that is made from honey instead of sugar--it doesn't come in the regular boxes--and the pomegranate tea is better than the apple tea that is usually pushed, although I really prefer regular tea either in a glass or in a cup. Just remember, if you come to Turkey, to use one third tea and two-thirds water or the tea will be too strong. But if, like me, you love eggplant and lamb, Turkey is a culinary paradise.

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