Thursday, Perşembe: Continued Adjustment
At day two, our internal clocks are still going through a re-set process. Today started for Rich at 3:30 AM – two hours later, the morning call to prayer was his call to come back to bed. Pat, now on a different schedule, slept ‘til 8:00 AM and wondered why Rich lay abed until 11:00 AM. It was a delightfully lovely slow morning, NesFit Cereal for breakfast and coffee, Pike’s Peak instant, from Starbucks Canada. We confirmed the proper functioning of the upstairs shower – with its electric heater (still no gas).
We enjoyed our lunch of yogurt and peaches in the garden and finished up with ice cream bars discovered in our freezer (continued thanks to Jennifer). We are anxious to catch up with Sarah and Becca and send update statuses to our friends stateside and reach out to friends in Istanbul. At three, Jennifer and Michael were back awaiting the gas man – who never cameth – but we were assured tomorrow was the day. Meanwhile we made arrangements with Jennifer to have a housecleaner visit us regularly on Friday. Anastasia is a Maldovan expat who speaks no English but fluent Russian and reportedly moves refrigerators unassisted. We are told that her workday will be 9-3 and she will expect to be paid 100 TL (about $50).
In search of a neighborhood restaurant we can call our own, after consulting with TripAdvisor and English speaking neighbor Duygu, we made our way to Sutiş, translation: “sweet milk.” This incredible spot is but a five-minute walk along the waterfront. It is famous for its desserts and soup– but on this hot and humid night that was not what we wanted. Our open air dining included some salads, grilled lamb chops and Islender kebap – a stew like mixture of meat, tomatoes, onions and yogurt. Food was tasty but Rich didn’t appreciate the contributions to his meal from the many feathered friends overhead in the sycamore trees. We were told that being so marked meant he would have particular good luck. Next time we’ll ask to be seated at a table under the awning.
With full bellies, we walked home past a bride and groom posing for pictures at a quaint ferry house along the waterfront. While the lovely bride smiled demurely for the camera, the handsome groom tried hard to pose as the James Bond like stud suggested by his stylish tuxedo.
Water traffic was still busy at 10 PM. We especially enjoyed a well-lit two-story boat that cruised by with a wedding party in full swing. The guests line-danced back and forth as the ship made its way back to a ferry landing in downtown Istanbul. Prolific wedding celebrations were something we remember from our previous trips to Turkey. Are there as many weddings in the US or are they just not so public?
We took a bottle of Proseco, two glasses, and Rich’s camera upstairs to the fourth floor terrace that is temporarily available to us while Jennifer tries to rent the upstairs flat in our building. The views of the Second Bridge and the Asian side of the Bophorus are breathtaking and the constant breezes welcome. We toasted our good fortune and the hopes that we will take full advantage of the opportunities that have been presented to us here.
As I type this, I am listening to music from a nightclub across the Bosphorus. I hear a mix of Turkish-Greek dancing music and US songs such as Iz Kamakawiwo’ole’s 2011 remix of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” and the music gets louder and fades with the breeze. The tunes are punctuated by the lonely sound of a melancholy horn from a passing tanker.
Rich tells me that our global coordinates, 41oN, 29oE – and that this latitude puts us not too distant from our latitude in the states. Yet it is clear, we are a long, long way from Amherst, MA.
Friday, Cuma: Trip to Boğaziçi and Welcome Dinner
Today we started out with a quick breakfast and a trip to scout out Boğazici University thanks to our neighbor, Duygu, who is also a Professor of English there. While she helped to administer an English proficiency exam at the Boğaziçi, we wandered around both South and North campuses, endured a brief but thorough rain-soaking, marveled at the presence of both a Starbucks (South Campus) and Dunkin Donuts (North Campus), found our building and office on the North Campus. We had to make our way through the hundreds of feral cats and dozens of dogs that seem to be the true owners of the two campuses. Felines sat in trees, on benches, at each canteen or restaurant, and even inside buildings. A-frame houses had been built for them and bowls of water provided for them throughout the campus. Students indulged the cats, feeding them scraps from their lunches despite signs everywhere that advised them not to. We had lunch at a student canteen, finishing up with the ubiquitous glass of çay (chai, or plain tea).
One spot on campus has a particularly impressive view of the ruins of a fort in the foreground and overlooks the Bosphorus. It was here that we reconnected with Duygu. A few minutes later, our good friend, Zeynep, arrived and after warm hellos and some introductions, we all headed back to our home at Toramen Sokaği.
Zeynep’s friend Kutsi arrived and we had beers and toasted Istanbul and each other from the rooftop terrace before making out way out for the evening. Zeynep had arranged a welcome dinner for us with old and new friends from past Zeytin (Olive) workshops: with Zeynep and Kutsi were Meltem, Kazim, and Iklil.
Situated on the top floor of the “Hettie Hotel” in the Karakoy neighborhood, the Galatali Restaurant boasted priceless views across the Golden Horn of the Topkapi palace, the Blue Mosque, and the Hagia Sophia – which first glowed from the light of the setting sun and then were artificially illuminated in the jet black night sky.
The highlights of our nine course mezza dinner were the first dish: a juicy sweet melon, and the last dish: super fresh octopus that had been poached, then finished in savory slightly hot sauce. But in between were six heavenly dishes that you will just have to believe us were out of this world. Of course there was rakı, the ubiquitous anise-flavored beverage. On our way home, we stopped at what we were told was the world’s best baklava spot: Güllüoğlu. Sometimes words can’t describe so I won’t even try to convince you that “the world’s best” is not overselling this place. We promise to take all our visitors in Turkey there with us.