“I have 60 camels. You have two very beautiful daughters. Would you like to exchange?” asked a man addressing my father. While my sister wanted to use the choicest of words for this Turk we came across at 8 am in Sultanahmet, I couldn’t take my eyes off his ear, which seemed surgically restored with grafted skin. One of his camels must have bitten it off!
It was our last day in Turkey and we’d planned to run through as much of Istanbul as we could – eight hours before we had to rush to the airport to fly out to India. Hopping over from Sultanahmet, our first stop was across to the European side, the wooden Galatta Kalesi, which offers a 360 degree view of the city. But more than that the walk up the stairs to the tower is so pretty, sprinkled with painted walls, cafes, memoir shops, and paintings of city scenes being sold by the road. I’d planned to walk down from the Tower to Taksim Square, via Cukur Cuma Cadesi, the street famed for selling antiques but the roads of Istanbul did it for me. I’d not taken into account the inclines of the streets, considering the city is built on hills. Each step required so much effort and what made it worse was the ease with which even the elderly seemed to walking down streets with an incline of more than 40 degrees! Chucking Cukur Cuma Cadesi, we got off the last stop of the metro, Taksim, took in the view of the Dolmabahce Palace from a couple of hundred metres away and started the ‘trek’ towards the Square. In the pictures below, you’ll see women’s shoes lined up on a wall – an art installation funded by Kahve Dunyasi, the CCD equivalent in Turkey, highlighting the deaths due to domestic violence.
Luckily for us, after a thirty minute walk to the Square, meeting and greeting as many people as cats, we found that Cukur Cuma street dealers had set up an exhibition at the Square! Among the trinkets, family heirlooms, old keys, musical instruments, metal statues were postcards, many of them featuring Ataturk and private messages between loved ones (some of which are in my collection now – shout out to anyone who reads French!). I snapped my DDLJ/Trafalgar Square moment among pigeons at Taksim and I couldn’t be happier chewing on simit (way too dry for my taste though) and roasted chestnuts. Another week in Istanbul wouldn’t have been enough for me, there’s so much to see in the city. But everything has to come to an end, even the best of vacations.
As the plane took off for New Delhi, I was leaving behind a piece of my heart in this beautiful country and carrying back a lot of memories, the nazar boncuk (evil eye) talisman, Turkish delights, Pamukkale cotton socks, Turkish kahve and most importantly, body pain!
Gule gule Turkey. Tesekkur Ederim!