VISITORS I: The Clunes -At 5 o’clock last Sunday, we were excited to receive our first visitors from the US, Tom and Nancy Clune, friends from Wesley Church in Hadley MA. After they had re-hydrated from the long travel and recovered from their stressful taxi ride from the airport (which included several excursions onto the shoulder and a very liberal use of the horn), we all trekked down our hill to the waterfront. There, we acquainted them with our favorite pastime: watching the activity on the Bosphorus. After a suitably large number of container ships, oil barges, fishing vessels, ferries, coast guard boats, sea taxis, ferries, cruise ships, and pleasure boats had passed (first few minutes), we continued our stroll. We threaded our way through fishermen clustered in companionable groups who can be found here almost any time of day or night regardless of the weather. The men (always men) are happy just to be there – casting out and reeling back with a patient rhythm that seems tireless and timeless – although catching some of the baby bluefish that are currently migrating from the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara through the Straits would definitely make their day. We passed street vendors offering roasted corn, roasted chestnuts, fishing supplies, stuffed mussels, çay, simit (pretzel like bread with sesame seeds that Turks are addicted to), or some doner dünüm (roasted meat sandwiches). We had a lovely dinner at our neighborhood restaurant Sütiş and headed back up the hill listening to the evening call to prayer from the Emirgan mosque. Our travelers hoped they might enjoy a good night’s sleep despite the 7 hour time difference and many hours of travel.
Monday, the Clunes were on their own while Rich and I taught our Olive Oil Chemistry class at the University. Their plans were fluid and when we finally met up with them at the end of the day, we were awed by how much they had done: Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, the Basilica Cistern, and they had made a very special purchase with a very skilled salesman that they can tell you about if they choose (although they are not allowed to reveal the price). We met at one of our favorite restaurants: Galatali Fish Restaurant, in Karaköy with breathtaking views of the Old City and the Golden Horn. Afterwards, we acquainted them with local baklava , and grabbed a cab for a quick trip back home.
Tuesday we were able to join our visitors and be tourists in our city. We revisited Aya Sofia – as amazing as we remembered – and the Bazaars. We surprised ourselves by finding the Rüstem Paşa mosque on the first try and enjoyed sitting in the blue tiled magnificence as the last rays of the sun first warmed, then abandoned the holy interior. More photos here.
Dinner at Imbat revived us and surprised us with its inspired pairings of flavors and its tender meats and fresh vegetables. The plating incorporated design elements found in the mosaics and tiles that we had seen earlier that day and we couldn’t help but snap a photo. The coffee dregs in your Turkish coffee is supposed to tell my fortune – here they are in mosaic like detail. If you think you might be able to help Pat tell her fortune, fill out the poll below.
Wednesday was our slow day, and we hit a mid-day Bosphorus cruise that got us out on the water and showed us many of the palaces and fortresses lining the shore. It was fabulous to see our own neighborhood from the water, and to marvel at the fortress: Rumelihisarı, that is but a few blocks from our home, famous for having been built in 1451 in just four months in preparation for the battle for Constantinople by Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II, and yet still standing today. We hopped off the boat on the Asian side, at the Küçüksu Palace, a “hunting lodge” of breathtaking magnificence, enjoyed a late tea, and then hopped back on the next boat and back to Beşiktaş Işkele (Ferry Station) to grab a bus back to Emirgan. More amazing photos here.
We got up to the Sabanci Muesum for our last shot of culture before retiring to our home with Nancy, Tom, and our Turkish friends Zeynep and Kutsi. We had delivery pides (like pizza), beer, and more baklava for dessert, and christened our dining and living room as entertainment centers. By Thursday, the Clunes were off to explore more of Turkey.
VISITORS II: The Storks, the avian kind: After saying good-bye to our human visitors, we were delighted to welcome unexpected visitors on Friday – a flock of storks. Little did we know that these magical birds make the Bosphorus part of their migratory pathway. Watching a flock of them – perhaps about 30 individuals weave back and forth across the straits – was unlike any other group of birds I had ever seen and it took us awhile to realize what we were looking at. Storks are large, white birds, and fly in a fluid but tightly packed group – not the V we associate with geese or ducks. Their regular powerful wingbeats seemed synchronized and the light played tricks with their white feathers so that they appeared as a group like a wrinkle in the space time continuum. Sorry, I couldn’t find a hyperlink for that.