Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Day 4: Gobs and Pinkberry.

Turkey is actually quite famous for its medical tourism these days: plastics, cosmetics, eye-surgery, infertility, dentistry. The doctors at the major hospitals here in Istanbul are world-class and cost a fraction of what they would in Europe. So it only seemed fitting that Day 4 of the Fest should involve a bit of dental work. The whole experience was great. Efficient and painless both on mouth and wallet. I came out feeling like I had a gob full of polished chandeliers.  The event left me a bit spent though (early-rise!) so I passed most of the day just mooching around my neighborhood. All was not lost though! I discovered that Pinkberry (my favourite frozen yogurt) now comes in take-home tubs. O Happy Day.

OK so I admit today was a bit low on Boss action but rest days are always a vital part of a Fest, wouldn't you say? Here is a picture of the Boss taken from another time in Istanbul just to make up for it.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Day 3: Alisveris yakin da Boss

Blue Mosque

So for Day 3 of DaFest da Boss I decided I should go shopping. Not to buy anything of significance, just to enjoy a good browse mid-week. Fear not though Fest sticklers Da Boss still had an important role to play for I had to cross over her in order to get to the shops and cross back to get to more :-) and on each crossing I made sure I cooed and clucked with endless verve. I started my day by going over  to Yeni Kapi which meant I had to take the relatively new metro line which crosses over Da Boss at a stop called Halic (Golden Horn).  I absolutely love this ride because one minute you are in a dark, airless tunnel and the next minute the metro bursts into the sun and onto a bridge which gives a glorious view out to both sides of our Lady Straits.
Aya Sofia
I had chosen Yeni Kapi as the kick-off because I wanted to have lunch at the Syrian restaurant  - Fez Food.  (Yes folks - Da Fest da Boss is not an early-risers tour! ) Sadly for me the restaurant was closed during daylight hours due to Ramazan but happily for its workers it means they are resting all day and not working until night which is only right and just.
Lunch plans thwarted (but with good cheer) I headed over to Sultanahmet because I wanted to begin the rest of my day with a couple of eye-gulps of the Aya Sofia and The Blue Mosque. It is amazing how rarely I visit these two great laydees while living here but every time I see them I find them as beguiling and mysterious as ever. Especially the Aya which reminds me of a set from StarWars. Then again, everything can remind me of StarWars if I let it. (Example: upside down dustbin = R2D2; Three-Paw's midnight bull-roar purr = Darth Vader breathing; me in a bikini pre-wax = Wookie.)

There was a little market running near the Blue Mosque which had the usual trinkets in it but they were also selling Kanlica yogurt which I have heard is the best yogurt in the world so I bought a small tub and sat under a tree to enjoy it. Num Num.

I found this very helpful too...I wonder where the office is?

Now there is only one place to shop with a pouch full of yogurt and that is the Grand bazaar which I made my way to using some of the sloping backstreets that give tantalizing glimpses of the the Marmara sea. The Grand bazaar was as frenetic as ever. I do love her. There is never really anything I want to buy in there ( or can afford) but I love the glitter and colour and fragrances - even hirsute sweat has its place in these merchant alleys. I spent quite a while wandering around there until I discovered that a board marker (teacher's curse) had leaked through my bag and was having a right old scribble fest on the front of my skirt. I quickly asked for  a bin and discarded the perpetrator but the scribbles were there to stay. Luckily I am familiar with rogue scribbling  from my university days when a biro let loose on my bottom for an entire day at campus and it was only when I go home and looked at the back of my Coca Cola shorts I discovered it looked like a four years old had gone to town.   A bit schapshal to be honest but never mind. Half an hour later I unwittingly stepped like an elephant into a sinister grey puddle so it splashed up me and another woman (who go got quite kisgin (angry)  so I looked even more schapshal. Plus the corn on the cob I ate which dribbled all over my front. 

Time to go home.!!

But not without crossing the Galata Bridge. 

Fishermen out. Birds a flutter.

And a final browse down Istiklal Street. 
I mean look at the view from this clothing shop window.  Da Boss - she be everywhere.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Day 2: Cengelköy and rubber bullets

View to Europe from Asia

So for Day 2 of Da Fest, I decided I should head to Asia.
I know, I know. Ooof Asia!
What a show-off.
View to Asia from Besiktas
But it really is quicker to get there than it is to cross the Brisbane River and get to Ipswich. Ok. Maybe it is further than Ipswich but you can see it from Europe right!

Now in order to get to Asia you can cross by ferry at a number of different Iskeleler ( ports): Besiktas, Kadiköy, Karaköy, Eminonü. I chose Besiktas because I wanted to walk down through Nisantasi on my way. Nisantasi is one of the more ritzier hoods in Stamboul ( and thus it is only fitting that the one participant in this week long Fest should experience her delights - if only on the way to some place else!) It's a curious sort of place. Known for its extravagant shops and pretentious cafes but then wedged between them are High street chains, simit sellers and quite a ghastly shopping centre called Citties.
Tesvikiye Mosque

I like walking this way because (a) it is all downhill and ( b) it passes Tesvikiye Mosque which I find rather fetching. This mosque is absolutely the one you want to be eulogized in when you die and if you are a Turkish celebrity then there is a good chance you will be.  I also like it because it is one of the many peripheral characters in Orhan Pamuk's  Museum of Innocence.  I love this book but many I know do not. Fair enough. I think readers are understandably  put off by the obsessive (self-indulgent) way Pamuk Bey describes the forbidden lovers' relationship. Endless, circular details, tiring in topic and words. But at times beautifully crafted as well. And isn't that what forbidden love often is: obsessive, self-indulgent, circular, beautifully crafted at times? I agree though it is a self-indulgent piece that only a writer of his fame and resources could possibly get away with . But (and here's my small but) if one only views this book through the prism of Kemal and Fusun's relationship then I think the reader is doing the book a great disservice. For if one reads carefully, there is another love affair going on here.  The writer's love affair with Istanbul. The sound of ship horns rising out of the fog, the perilous nature of dolmus rides, Yalis in summer. This is the true beauty of the book and I will never tired of reading his homage to her.


There is even yet another reason why I love the mosque and it is because it is very close to Fat Dog who can generally be found lounging outside The House Cafe. Fat Dog is such an institution that a few months back panic ensued on Facebook when Fat Dog had not been glimpsed for a few days. How anyone could possibly lose Fat Dog is actually beyond me but then I did once see her two streets down from her usual post so she is much more ambulant than appearances suggest.
Happily Fat Dog was at her usual post today.


Ok so finally I boarded a ferry to Asia and then something happened which is to be expected on a week long Fest. I changed my mind. I mean I still wanted to go to Asia but instead of breakfasting in Uskudar proper down by the water I saw a number 15 bus passing by and I felt compelled to board it and follow the coastline up for a different breakfast view.

Well ok, the breakfast view was similar. Cay, Bread and Beyaz Peynirli Menemen... except it was cheaper than on my dirty, car-logged street.

And the setting was a little nicer too.

As was the view


I even had tomato plant to eat with.

And a bird friend...

This particular spot was in a village called Cengelköy. It had a lovely laid back feeling to it.  Trees with limbs as big as trunks; leathery green leaves; unbroken views of the Bosphorus.  I know it is going to sound a little silly but it felt like Asia. Tropical, welcoming, meandering.  Men fishing by the water. Young boys helping them out while their younger sisters ran round like mad cats under the trees.  

Apart from the huge flag  of Atatürk. That I felt that was distinctly Turkish rather than Asia in general. Still I would have been worried if he hadn't made an appearance.

 The most amazing thing about this stretch of the Bosphorus though was how idyllic it was. So close to the hub of istanbul and yet so few cars, no hordes of people and no choking dust.

In the afternoon I returned to Europe and decided to join a few pals for the Gay pride celebrations In Taksim . A barrage of  water cannons, gas and rubber bullets later, I would probably choose not to include it on any future Fest da Boss itinerary. Very disappointing especially since they had only decided to ban the march 13 minutes before it started which meant people who had come to Taksim Square in celebration ( not protest) suddenly found themselves being herded by police in three different directions.
At least she came prepared :-)
It was quite frightening to be caught in the surge of the crowd with nowhere to run because the police had blocked each way. We eventually found our way out though and spent an hour or so chatting and laughing with fellow attendees although occasionally our conversations were interrupted by gas and water cannons. For these moments we chose to hide in a  a Tekelist (an off-licence) which should always be one's first choice in such situations.  

Finally when it became clear that the march was not going to happen we bought some beer and wine and sat in Cihangir Park and watched a beautiful sunset with all the other march refugees. 

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Day 1: Da Fest da Boss

Windy laydee - I have been called worse!
As of 3 p.m. yesterday afternoon (after giving a test to 11 fasting students who seemed to waver in their concentration  from time to time!) I am on holidays for a week.
Now  when I booked the time off, I had hoped to go on a little excursion to the south-east of Turkey: Nemrut, Lake Van, down through Hatay to Antakya.
But then Three-Paw decided she needed to see a cardiologist in order to complete the holy trinity of specialists : the amputologist and dentist having already been ticked off her must-do list.
I'm glad she went though because she has a heart complaint which I now manage with tablets twice daily. But the cardiologist was not cheap, hence my scuppered holiday plans.

Never mind. Being the super lady I am, I  have decided instead to hold a week long fest here in Istanbul which I shall call The Festival of the Bosphorus and other areas of High excitement in the Vicinity of My Lady, Istanbul. (Short name: Da Fest da Boss.)

I see this boat and I are of the same mind!
Clearly the best way to kick off such a grand fest is with an evening cruise down the Bosphorus to the Black Sea. I have actually done the day cruise a number of times but this is the first time I have gone in the evening.  Confession: In the past I sometimes found myself a little disinterested in the scenery...blah blah houses..blah blah boats..but now, because I know the curves of my lover, The Bosphorus, I found the whole trip fascinating.

Windy laydee and the Rumeli fortress
The weather was quite moody like my lady Straits. Swirling clouds.  Choppy seas.  And bridges!!

Then, as your approach the mouth of the Black Sea (and the controversial third bridge) it really does feel like the end of the world.

It kind of helps when you can see both halves. 

I ended up getting off at the penultimate stop because I have always found the last stop very touristy and pushy. Good decision. Meandering tree-lined lanes, even a beach with golden sand.  Families enjoying the last of the sun. Children playing (apart from the thirteen year old girl who asked me for a light. Doesn't she know I am a defacto Ramazan enforcer. Tsk)

All in all, a very pleasing start to Da Fest!


Today I discovered a breakfast place just down the road which does one of the tastiest menemens* my taste buds have ever encountered.  The place was actually upstairs so there wasn't a clear sign at the bottom that menemen even lived there! It was a great place to sit and watch my local neighborhood going about their business without eating in their face.   I am very conscious of  eating during Ramazan although there are plenty of Turks who do not fast and happily munch on baklava and cigarettes in plain view.  Actually the air is much cleaner during Ramazan because a lot of Turks do stop smoking for the month. The air is infinitely cleaner to the extent that sometimes I find myself being a defacto Ramazan enforcer. Doing a gentle tsk with my tongue and an upward tilt of the head in true Turkish style when I see a smoker on the street.

 * menemen is a Turkish breakfast dish made with eggs, tomatoes, peppers. I like to add white cheese and hot paprika to mine.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Blog Hog

It is only good and proper that when one lives in Istanbul during the summer solstice one should observasarus the setting of the sun over the Aya Sophia from the rocks of Asia. Fortunately I am good and proper so that is exactly what I did last Sunday. Accompanied with a classy bottle of "Dikmen" red wine and some oven hot Ramazan Pide.

Unbelievably a couple of dolphins even decided to cruise past as the sun set - for dolphins are good and proper too.

What is probably less good and proper is the fact that I simply do not know which photos to choose so I am being a blog hog and adding way more than I should.

Iyi Summer Solstice :-)

Sunday, 21 June 2015

ambcholic (adj)

I have realised that I have started ambling round my town in a slightly melancholic manner. I admit that amble and melancholy sound contradictory but if anyone can pull off a contradictory saunter it is me.

I know where it is coming from too - this ambcholic way.

It is the understanding in my bones that it is time for me to move on from Istanbul and yet at the same time I still love her.  I do not love my job though and I feel as if my feet are planted in sand. Liable to sink or simply disappear with a small shift in the wind. I need to stand on rocks again. Find the illusion of stability at least! (For we're not really ever stable any of us, are we ? Our lives can change at the swish of a tail but illusion is necessary. It is what makes us keep on taking that next step.

So now I find myself wandering around Stamboul as I always have with a dance in my step at the way she beguiles me. But  now also  I feel a weight in my toes. My toes that are gentry trying to lead me away.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Hayirli Ramazanlar

Yesterday evening I had the fortune of being down by the Galata Bridge as the first iftar in the holy month of Ramazan began. The bridge was almost deserted. No fishermen or bait boxes (fish must love Ramazan), no peddlers, no tourists, no people at all. The sky was a beautiful crumpled blanket of velvet clouds and it gave the whole town a silvery gleam. The air seemed cleaner somehow and softer too. It felt like it was just me and my laydees:  Istanbul and The Bosphorus.

And the peace. O, the peace!!

Fortunately a mosque had special lights that came alive when the fasting had finished telling people they could eat. I couldn't read the message properly ( and my photo is even worse) but it said Oruc something or other. Oruc means fasting so I guess it said something like' Fasting finished! Now bring me some Ramazan pide.)  Sadly I didn't find any pide  for myself Hyesterday but I still have a glorious month to go.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

The smell of summer, naphthalene, rose water, lemon soap, nuts, dried fruits and ground coffee

Sometimes I feel like all my life consists of is part-less cats, conjunctions and a constant need to beg my employer for money which they owe.
But then I go walking and it is like a beautiful painted canvas drops down behind me and I am in another world again.

Yesterday was one of those days.

All I did was go to the Grand Bazaar but there is something about the smell of summer, naphthalene, rose water, lemon soap, nuts, dried fruits and cardamon that seems to settle my soul immediately. If I am honest, the smell actually takes me back to Damascus ( of old) rather than Istanbul. But even here it gives me that wonderful sense of being truly alive and I will miss my glorious, wretched city when I leave her.

I went to have lunch with a woman I know from the American Embassy and a carpet seller called Omer. He was a sleek, grey fox with immaculate clothes and a nose to be admired. She also took me to a jewellery shop where she knows the owner and said he could offer me a really good price on rubies and emeralds. Ah, the only precious jewels I can afford in my life are furry and claw-y but it was nice to think she thought I might be able to afford them. Better than always being regarded upon as a peasant which is the way most English teachers are ( rightfully) seen. After I left her I took my usual stroll down the backstreets towards the water's edge. I crossed the Galata Bridge, wincing as the fishermen wielded their hooks around like lassos, and then took the  meandering shop-ridden hill back up to Istiklal.  There were lots of tourists about and I envied their fresh-faced gawping and excitement when they see a Turkish ice-cream seller ring his bell.  But I also liked my own feeling of being more settled. Of knowing my way about and where to go and still be able to flip a beat when I gaze at the magnificent Bosporus or Suleiman's Mosque.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Election day

Tomorrow is election day in Turkey and this one is important.  Of course, I cannot vote and there is a ban on buying alcohol tomorrow so I  have stocked up today so I can watch it all unfold with a gin &tonic ( in my AK parti mug). Understandably my Turkish colleagues are worried and I really do understand their fears. Some of them have even volunteered to be monitors because they are so worried that the results will be skewered by faulty voting / lost ballots or rogue cats that bring down electrical substations as happened last year.
Either way I honestly cannot see a  result that will give Turkey  the stability she deserves, at least not immediately so.
One of my colleagues is even standing for election. She is a member of the HDP and I admire her courage. Actually she isn't my colleague anymore because her contract wasn't renewed. (Truth : my school is CHP and I think they were worried about their clients learning that one of their teachers was standing for HDP. Sad but true. Just a theory, you understand.)

You know I took this picture of the Pirate today and I actually wouldn't put it past her to tamper with an electrical substation! She is one scary beast!

Monday, 1 June 2015

Street spam

Summer has returned to Istanbul. Sort of. The last few days have been breezy and cool. More like September. I like it this way.
Tonight I got accosted by an AK Parti member (the ruling party in Turkey right now) in my own street . He handed me tote bag with an AK Parti mug, balloon, pen ( for my vote???) and a rather fetching tin (with a picture of the Maiden's Tower on it) filled with Turkish coffee.
'Iyi kandiller, ' he said ( Happy Candle Day.)
'Iyi kandiller,' I replied.  'But you know I can't vote. ' He looked perplexed and then smiled like I had promised him Erdogan's final vote. There was another woman walking nearby who was similarly accosted. She started laughing like a maniac and twisting her finger by her head. My assimilation, I feel, is now complete.

You know I think I am going to keep the bag though. Some memorabilia of beautiful times when I  swallowed gas while lying in my own bed. I might even pour myself a G&T to go in the cup and laugh uproariously in a manner of which I suspect they may not approve.