Monday, June 18, 2012

A Levantine finds his way home to the Levant

I awoke yesterday late with jet lag. Mel and I packed up our stuff and left the hotel.  The hotel was kind enough to make my shuttle from the airport complimentary.  I decided that rather than stay in the tourist and tout filled Sultanahmet district, where i had previously stayed, I would opt to stay in Beyoğlu across the Golden Horn.

For breakfast, we grabbed some round rolls covered with sesame seeds with a quarter of lavache querie-esque cheese that was far tastier.  We hopped the tram over to the end of the line at Karbataş, then rode the fancy funicular up to Taksim Square.  We meandered down through the wide boulevard and grabbed some fresh-squeezed grape fruit juice.  The pedestrian street was filled with glitterati enjoying the sunday morn stroll and shop.

We ducked into a lovely coffee shop called Çiçek Pasaji, which had a huge open air ceiling and lovely florid walls.  We had some strong sweet black Turkish coffee, and then continued our walk down.  We passed a number of old embassies of Russia, Sweden and Holland.  We meandered down towards Galata and the streets turned cobbled.  I spied the World House Hostel which I had considered staying in.  It was cool enough, so I dropped my stuff and continued on with Mel.

We continued on, across the Galata Bridge and I picked up a cheap pair of sunglasses on the way.  At this point, it was mid-afternoon and we were famished.  We passed the fish boats and found a kebab restaurant with a terrace.  We kept climbing layer by layer until we reached the top of the restaurant.  The restaurant had the most immaculate view from the terrace.  It opened up with a view across the shimmering straits of the Golden Horn and the Galata Tower raised high above just across the waterway.  In the distance, tankers crossed the sea and Asia shimmered afar.  To the right sat a giant domed mosque. We sat high above as the wind whipped the smell of sea salt and frying fish, and with the bustle below.  I had the most mouth-watering lamb and tomato kebabs, with onions and parsley and bulgur, which I wrapped in fluffy Turkish bread.  I wrapped the grilled tomatoes and the succulent lamb in the bread and spilled a little salt on the juice kebab.  Wow, I guess I did kinda miss meat.  So goes my vacation from being a veg.  We washed it down with sour cherry juice, and admired the vista and cool salty breeze.

Afterwards, we wandered into the market so I could buy some boxers and socks.  I have not been so excited in a while for socks and boxers, but having worn the same smallclothes for nearly 3 days, I was in dire need.  We made our way back through the spice market, nibbling on Turkish delight as Mel bought some Turkish craisins.  

We hopped the tram back towards Taksim.  We bade goodbye as she caught the funicular to catch her bus back to Ankara.  I meandered along the banks of quay as fishermen cast rods and the seas lapped against the stone walls.  I sat for a cup of sweet black Turkish coffee and spied Asia in the distance as I read Game of Thrones.  

I wandered back through the maze of alleys and back through the bustle of Beyoğlu.  I stopped in my hostel and called the airline to see about my luggage.  Mahshallah, it had arrived and was being delivered that night. I made my way down to Galata Tower and sat in the bustling park as the day's dying light caught the stone Byzantine tower.  I sipped an Efes dark, and read.  I listened to the bubbly Turkish babble bounce off the stone walls and walkways.  People sat out and chatted, while a group sang folk songs over a violin. The air was filled with the smell of old-fashioned pop corn as a man popped pop corn over an open flame.  I closed my eyes and dreamed of Ottoman days.  

I have to say that I love people watching here.  The Turks are absolutely gorgeous.  Oriental swarth, wrapped in florid veils. Sharp features and doe eyes of bosphurus blue, emerald green and mahogany brown.

I made my way to a cafe to have a kumpir potato, a baked potato slathered in butter and cheese, and filled with all sorts of mezze.  Delicious.  I spent the evening sitting on the stoop of the hostel, chatting with a fellow from Lebanon and a girl from Portugal.  I love hostels.  The jetlag got the better of me, and I turned in early.  

I awoke with the dawn and wandered through the empty streets of Beyoğlu with nary a sound save for the gulls calls bouncing off the stone walls of the narrow alleys as the city slept.  I stopped in a small bakery and got a flaky potato borek (boureka) that was still hot from the oven.  I ate my borek and sipped coffee as I wandered through Sinan's mosque masterpieces.  I meandered over the Galata Bridge to watch the fishermen make their early morning catches as the morning sun lit the sky as I admired the mosque vista.  I returned to the hostel for a proper Turkish breakfast of soft (feta) cheese, hardboiled eggs, cucumbers, tomatoes and olives with fluffy baguette pieces.  A proper Levantine breakfast.  Now off to the hamam for a proper scrub and beating.

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