Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Istanbul dört: Would you like to buy a carpet?

First of all, this:
Let me introduce you to the blue mosque. Now, I'll be honest, she's kind of a narcissist. I mean, she totally photobombed us nearly every time we tried to get a picture in the main square.

Some random guy offered to take this photo for us. He later tried to sell us a carpet. Such was to become a dominant theme on this trip: helpful friendly people always want to sell you a carpet.
It's like you just can't get rid of her, that gorgeous building. It's even worse at prayer times when the speakers on her six minarets begin a swirling call and response to each other that fills the air almost forces you to stop what you are doing and realize just how big the world is and just how small you are within it. It is a beautiful and daunting feeling.

And, as we all know, when the world becomes too big and you become too small there is only one cure: lunch. All around the main square are winding side streets filled with carpet shops and restaurants. Nearly every roof overlooking the square has been made over into a restaurant terrace. The choice in food is nothing short of dizzying. On this day, though, having survived Haggia Sophia, the Basillica Cistern, and a photo-shoot with the Blue Mosque all before lunch, we were a little too tired to give our restaurant selection much thought. We simply wandered a short way down a winding alley, avoiding the dozens of carpet salesmen offering us "A look, just have a look! No pressure to buy!" until yellow umbrellas and linen table cloths surrounded us on both sides, muffling the roar of Istanbul traffic and blocking out the bustle of busy tourists and the ubiquitous carpet vendors. Again, it felt like stepping through time somehow, only this time not nearly so far into the past, maybe to the 1920's. And we were alone with the sway of the luminaries and the sound of a record player inside somewhere, while a solidary gentleman with a hat sat sipping wine and puffing a cigar. Then they brought us our food.

Lightly roasted chicken in a creamy apricot sauce with fresh vegetables and warm, flaky bread. And Istanbul's signature cup of freshly squeezed orange juice on the side. They sell it everywhere, that orange juice. In street carts and restaurants, they squeeze it right there as you watch. It tastes like a palace in summer. Everything we ate in that city was fresh, though, and that's Istanbul's secret to success. Even the breakfast we had each day at small B&B we stayed in was delicious because it was fresh. Fresh cucumber slices, fresh tomato slices, and fresh bread with a drizzle of honey or some dark, exotic olives. Oatmeal will never quite satisfy me again, I'm afraid.

After we finished that decadent food we just sat there for a while, pretending to be Europeans lingering over lunch rather than confused American tourists who had overeaten, until the waiter stopped by again, and offered to sell us a carpet.

1 comment:

Nancy said...

NOOOOO!!!!! Don't give up on Oatmeal! You can keep it fresh, too! Maybe add some...freshly cut banana. Or some raspberries you freshly bought from the store! Or some blueberries that come fresh out of the freezer!!