postcard from Istanbul

Istanbul …Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Bazaars and bazaars again and again and mosques of course – so many architectural beauties that this city has to offer, that I was just turning my head from one side to another, not knowing where to look first. Simply amazing! Beautiful. I went to Istanbul with two touristic sites on my mind I had to visit- it was Blue mosque and Hagia Sophia. I plan to go back!
Therefore, this trip was just dedicated to simple pleasures, wandering through Istanbul, getting lost, talking to people, drinking čaj, eating burek, drinking čaj again, talking again to locals, just embracing the Istanbul spirit and lifestyle, and I have truly fallen in love with the soul of this city.
I was captivated by the beauties of Blue mosque and Hagia Sophia, but two things I will remember Istanbul by are walks along the sea of Marmara and čaj sipping in local čaj places.
In these occasions, walking by the seaside and čaj sipping, I met so many nice Turkish people who shared their stories with me.
As I was walking by the seaside, just 5 meters away from the sea of Marmara an older man approached me. He was selling čaj to the passers-bye. I had no intention of sitting down, I really enjoyed walking by the seaside, but something in the eyes of this nice, old man just stopped me from refusing a čaj offer from him.
I took čaj (1 TL) and went to sit on the bench next to his, took out my ‘travel novel’. (on Istanbul journey I was reading Jorge Bucay’s ‘Dejame que te cuente’). The old man brought me hot čaj in a beautiful glass cup. One minute later he came again and pulled out a pack of cigarettes. I don’t smoke, occasionally only, very rarely..but it was a nice gesture and puffing cigarette balloons into the air by the sea of Maramara was just a perfect moment. I was enjoying the cigarette, sipping čaj and reading the book. Ten minutes later an old man came again and he just looked at my cup, to check if the glass was empty. He just made a short wave with his hand and he smiled away, partly at me and partly at glass of čaj.
I knew he would come again to check…and 5 minutes later he was by my bench again. By that time my glass was empty and I showed him with my fingers that I would like one more čaj. He slightly bent down in his body and pressed his arm to his heart.
Čaj was ready in less than a minute.
Yet again he was stopping by my bench to check if I had finished another cup. When I sipped the whole of the 2nd čaj, he brought me another one and said simply ‘no money,no money’. He brought his arm to his heart again, showing that this čaj is on him and that he is honored to treat me with this cup.
I sat there for two hours or so, reading the book, enjoying the sight, looking at people, staring at the sea, enjoying the warm breeze. Two hours went by quickly and it was time to stand up and head towards the Kadikoy ferry stop. Still had to cross the Bosphorus and meet my friend on the other side of Istanbul.
I am still fascinated by this European and Asian parts of Istanbul.
So many stories from Istanbul…I could just walk through its streets and observe, and just go on like this for the first couple of months and only after getting a better image of the city I would go to visit its museums.
Just sitting in Istanbul, taking one spot and not moving for couple of hours can’t bore you. I am usually always in the movement, I love to walk and I can’t sit for too much and stay still but in Istanbul sitting meant travelling, just standing still for half an hour or hour or more, meant participating in a live theatre. In Istanbul even if you spend hours alone, you are never alone…well, at least I didn’t feel like this. There is always somebody who will approach you in this moving live theatre. Somebody will sit on the bench next to you and smile at you, say something in Turkish and although you make a gesture that you do not understand what they are saying they will just keep on talking on and on, just raising their voice and waving with both of their hands, to make themselves more understandable. It is a pity to interrupt such a conversation, it is just such a perfect image of Istanbul and hospitality of its people.
I had to go to Taksim. Had no idea where that was. Still had two hours to meet my friend and I was considering walking there. I was somewhere near the Grand Bazaar and I asked two men in the street about Taksim. One of them repeated loudly and very precisely just to check ‘Taksi’ or ‘Taksim’. ‘Taksim’ I said louder now, adapting to their way of communication. One of them took me by the hand and showed me all the streets I had to take, and where I had to turn right and where I had to turn left..all just using his hand. And I found the tram station. Somehow!
Still was holding onto this idea of walking to Taksim. When I asked the next passer-by about the distance from where I was and Taksim and made a signal with two of my fingers that I would like to walk, he just looked at me and his face showed just how much my mission was ‘mission impossible’.
I climbed the tram and arrived to Taksim hour later. Had no problems arriving because there was another passer-bye who took me by the hand and walked with me.
In the beginning I was a bit terrified by the dimensions of this city and inability to speak Turkish, but just one day in Turkey proved me wrong..I didn’t speak Turkish and most Turkish didn’t speak English but I always managed to get the answers to my questions and find the directions and places I was asking for. Amazing, truly amazing city!


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