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Saturday, Nov. 24th, 2001
On Saturday I woke up late, but in time to enjoy the free breakfast at my hostel. It is amazing how great coffee tastes when you are
traveling. It is so warm and comfortable...I love it.
I guess I was feeling a little TOO warm and comfortable, because I left without my giant orange coat & was caught out in the freezing rain with only a sweater.
Furthermore, I had snapped off one of the prongs of my electrical adapter, so I had a mission to fulfill. Without electricity I was pretty much dead in the water, but I was sure that out of the 84,353,011 shops in Istanbul, I should be able to find one. Hell, I could probably find one made out of candy.
I visited the Sultan's Graveyard, including the exclusive interior, where you can walk around and touch the actual tombs. This was my first destination where I had to take my shoes off to go inside.
It was only sprinkling at this time, so I walked around inside the covered bazaar with everyone else escaping the rain.
The Pepsi machines near the Metro and the Tram take Visa cards.
The Grand bazaar is pretty big, claiming to be the biggest covered bazaar in the world, but I couldn't find anywhere that stated the area in acres. I assume that it would be dwarfed by the Mall of America or the Pentagon. There were no electronics shops inside, apparently the contents of the shops is determined by custom.
I ventured out and the rain really started to fall, forcing me to camp out in a couple of doorways, one of which luckily belonged to a light-fixture salesman, who happened to have the adapter I needed! He indicated I could have it for nothing, but I wouldn't have that, he had saved my whole trip! I offered him a million for it, but he would only take half of that.
I gave up on the rain subsiding, had a late lunch and caught the tram back toward my hostel.
I typed for a while, then left again, attracted back to the lights and street-action on the hippodrome. There was a bright celebration there for Ramadan, with some exuberant (and sober) celebration.
I went home one more time, then out to the bar to have a beer, but the rain caught my eye; it wasn't coming down straight. I guess I haven't had very much experience in the snow...when it started to come down, I was really excited. Istanbul is pretty much last on the list of places I thought I would run into snow. I had a big smile on my face and was practically skipping back towards the main strip. The big mosques are well lit, and I thought I could get some great photos of the snow around them. I expected everyone else to be excited too, but mostly they just looked cold. It was magical.
An ornate fountain near the Hippodrome
The Sultan's Graveyard
Inside the Covered Bazaar
hiding from the rain near the tram
bag-on-head fashion catches on!
In the electrician's workshop
Wet Rob & Three-pronged victory
Posing with the Solen Egg
Snow! It is snowing! Snow! Blue Mosque.
Sunday, Nov. 25th, 2001
In many parts of Turkey, including parts of Istanbul, there isn't natural gas piped to the houses. The people buy canisters of gas from shops on the street or have it delivered. This is a constant process, I saw gas canister trucks all over the place, although maybe they just stood out because I rarely see them in the USA. They came in several sizes, from one gallon to about 10.
The half-way point of the trip
One of the gas delivery companies is Aygaz. They stand out because their trucks drive through the streets with a little tune that ends with a sing-song "Ay-gas!". It is pretty much the opposite of the ice cream truck, with a better tune.
On Sunday I visited the Topkapi Palace grounds & the National Archaeological Museum. It was drizzling, but the courtyard was packed with people taking photos. Thinking back, it wasn't a particularly large museum, but they had a few really great pieces, including Egyptian and Roman
sarcophagi that you could get right up next to and touch. I found my new favorite artwork in the world, the Lycian Sarcophagus. It had intricate carvings all around the sides. They also had Alexander's
Sarcophagus, which was also incredible.
In another part of the museum they had a bronze standard of measurement, which was kept in the castle & used to double-check all the other standards in the city. It measured in Ayaks and Arsin, which were roughly equal to Yards and Feet. They also had measurements standards for "hands" and "fingers", as in, "Bartender, give me 3 fingers of rum".
They had an interesting display on the transformation of pictograms into cuneiform
writing too, which allowed a lot of text on one little clay tablet, perhaps 6-7 Kbytes per square foot. They had, for example of Hammurabi's Code on a postcard-sized slab.
After the museum I needed to empty my camera, so I went briefly back to my room. When I emerged, I decided I had better get to work finding a new place to sleep because my room at the Mavi was
paralyzingly cold. I quickly scouted two new places, a deserted one at $5 a night and the InterYouth Hostel at $6 a night. I thought I would have a better chance at meeting other people at the Hostel, so I stopped there. I estimate that it was one-third full. It also looked warm.
It was a little damp again, but I set out on a grand walking tour of various market areas until a bit after dark. There were large plastic tarps rigged over most of the tables, requiring constant adjustment by the proprietors. I saw a tall
Asian tourist bargaining for a matchbox-sized Koran. A few stands were selling flour-bag-sized (one kilo) sacks of tobacco for US$6.30.
I ducked into a cafe for about an hour and it started to snow again, at which time I practically ran to get into it. There was enough gathering on cars to
amass a snowball, but it was otherwise light. I came upon at a candy shop that was
irresistibly inviting and ended up getting twice as much pistachio-covered Turkish
delight as I asked for.
Street vendors lit small fires on the street, crouching near them or holding their soles to the flames.
Back at the Mavi, I found all the other guests in the common room and shared my candy-haul. The two Australians (Simone and Paul?) were getting excited about the upcoming soccer match, and they were infecting the Canadians and I with interest. We all 5 went to Chicken
Kebab dinner around the corner, picked up some Efes beer and found the Australians down one goal. It was a great night, surrounded by a very funny crew of experienced
travelers and our Turkish host.
Large Medusa head at Archeology Museum
take pictures of everything
Lycian Sarcophagus, 5th Century B.C.
Lycian Sarcophagus lion attack
Infant gods Erotes Depicted in cock fighting
Double checking the bronze
Byzantine measuring standard
Medusa on gate of Archeology Museum
the bath and body display van
watching Australia/Uruguay soccer at Mavi