Shon and Hank running around Istanbul
Shon and I met up to tour around Istanbul at our usual breakfast spot. Today was going to be a big tourist day. It was also the first day of Ramadan.
We wanted to see many things, go to many places and get the most out of the day. We had ourselves the usual Turkish breakfast while we figured how to get to the Grand Bazaar, Blue Mosque, and the Spice Bazaar.
And then after that we wanted to go to the Asia side of Istanbul specifically a neighborhood called Kadikoy.
We made our way down the hill to the seaside and jumped on the metro. The locals that we have met, and they were many, all agreed that the government has done very bad things while pushing their conservative agenda, but the one thing they have done very well is public transportation. Now I haven’t had a ton of experience using their public transit, but it was extremely efficient. It took us across the water from Karikoy to the old town side where the majority of things we wanted to see were located. We were both in shorts walking around Istanbul, and had heard that we might not be able to see the blue mosque because of this. I would’ve worn pants but on the real, shit was hot out here. I think I sweat more when I can’t speak the language and am perpetually lost. Hank chooses comfort every time.
We were also warned to be on our best behavior and be respectful at any holy places because it being the first day of Ramadan people may be short tempered because they can’t eat or drink until sundown. Contrary to what we were told everything was perfectly fine.
The metro dropped us off right at the Grand Bazaar. If anyone is unaware of what this place is, it’s a closed air market. It’s been around for hundred of years and a focal point for tourists.
Eh…I wasn’t that impressed. Bunch of people all selling the same bullshit. Then again when I travel I don’t like to shop, so we didn’t spend much time in it, just a quick walk through.
Due to the bombings tourism is way down in Istanbul, so it almost seemed like there were more people selling stuff than tourists looking to buy. The vendors would yell out whatever they had to to get your attention. They would try to guess where you are from and start there. Shon being black and from the States, he was called Wesley Snipes, Jay Z I think, pretty much any black American that was famous while we hung around Istanbul. Me, they just looked like a whale
with money, only problem is my favorite word in every language is NO. So they were shit out of luck. Heading their I was hoping to buy a linen Turkish shirt, but once I walked into the Bazaar I was turned off. So was Shon.
We decided from there the Blue Mosque was so close we could walk along the Metro to get there. Normally from what I understand the grounds around that area are usually swarming with tourists…but terrorism.
Pro tip: If you want to avoid massive crowds of idiot …travel to places that have recently had to deal with terrorist attacks. (This might be the worst thing I’ve ever said. Don’t listen to me)
Blue Mosque Magic Carpet Adventure
The grounds leading to the Mosque are beautifully manicured and the vegetation typically found around Istanbul.
When we had gotten to the Mosque but we couldn’t go into the place of worship because they were currently praying. And because we didn’t have pants on. However we could walk around the courtyard which was massive. In my life, I honestly don’t know if I’ve seen anything so beautiful. The place is over 400 years old. And I imagined what it must’ve looked like coming into port hundreds of years ago with this beautiful piece of architecture, massive, with the Muezzin calling everyone to prayer.
As we headed towards the Mosque though we were stopped by a buy, we tried walking past him, but then he said, “American? I love America, don’t worry I don’t wanna take you on a tour. I want to sell you a rug.”
Okay, so I kind of threw Shon under the bus. Shon was looking at rugs when we were in the Bazaar so I told him, “I’m not, but he is.”
Immediately I regret this. Next thing I know he is leading us down this alley way, I’m walking behind because I didn’t want anyone to be able to jump out and rob us, but honestly the guy just wanted to sell us a rug.
He took us into his families five generation old rug shop that has been popular around Istanbul evidently. They served us Apple Tea…which wow, that shit is great. His brother came out. Sat down with us and began his presentation with the youngest brother being the guy who would lay out the rugs. They were beautiful. Honestly I wanted to buy one for my mother, but that just wasn’t gonna happen. If she wants a Turkish rug she can bring her ass to Turkey herself.
He was asking us all types of questions about the size of our apartments, what type of design we preferred. The whole time Shon was playing it very cool, but I could tell he was wondering how we are going to get out of here without pissing them off. They start talking about America and how one of the brothers wives teach at DePaul in Chicago.
Later, Shon asked how I could just sit there and chat so comfortably with them knowing I wasn’t going to buy anything, and I was just like, “Hey, they closed the door and stacked rugs up in front of the entrance, I figure no need to get anxious if they were going to kidnap up or some ridiculous thing like that, well then it’s gonna happen, but they will have their hands full that’s for sure. Plus the tea was fantastic.”
Needless to say, we didn’t buy anything and all their efforts just made the guy more and more mad. They brought us more tea. We drank it. Talked about their shipping system to the US. And then after all that we got up and walked out of the place. I’ll be honest I’m glad I’ll never see them again. Brothers just kept coming out of the woodwork. Behind curtains, cousins crept out from underneath tables, another brother came from the back. Another brought us tea. They had Shon take off his shoes and socks so that he could walk on the rugs to really feel how soft the rugs he had no intention of buying were.
Shon was pissed lol. He was like what the fuck? Did you do that just to bust my balls? I had to admit I dropped the ball with that one. Because when we were in there drinking tea I expressed again that I have not interest in rugs and that he was the one looking for a good rug lol. In my defense he behaved like he did in the Grand Bazaar with some other rug salesman he had chatted with and exchanged business cards with…Shon’s so polite, I guess I figure he’s always interested. But these guys were talking a grand for a rug…get the fuck outta here!
After the rug incident and the blue Mosque we walked to the Spice Bazaar. Again a let down while tooling around Istanbul (admittedly this day was strange but looking back wonderful). There were jewelry stores and clothing shops and every two or three storefronts was a spice shop with large piles of cumin and paprika and all other herbs piled high with silver shovels sticking out.
All and all these places were definitely worth the visit and I recommend if you are visiting to see these spots, particularly the Mosque, but it wasn’t for us.
We had lunch at a kabab stand outside the spice market. Man the donor was good. Shon got chicken wings which he said were great as well. The waiter was our age and spoke a little English. He talked about how he is saving for a trip to Las Vegas. All the while old men walked around Istanbul and the Spice Bazaar with a handful of prayer beads trying to get money and the boss of the restaurants would shoo them off.
So after spending several hours in the old town district, we took the metro back the way we came so that we could hop a ferry to the Asia side of Istanbul.
The Asian side of Istanbul
The trip across the water was magnificent. I could’ve sat on that ferry all day just hopping back and forth between both sides. At this point we were pretty exhausted and the breeze was cool and wonderful. We kicked our feet up and enjoyed the twenty minute boat ride. We bought a glass of orange juice. Any fresher and they would’ve gave us and orange and told us to juice it ourselves.
But I gotta tell the truth, I had heard a lot of Americans prefer the Asia side. Don’t be a sucker. The Europe side is much better. The Asia side is all new, Starbucks, Burger King, brand new hip looking buildings. Might as well been in Berlin. The second we got off the ferry Shon goes, “I’m over it.”
There wasn’t as much character to me on the Asian side around Istanbul. It seemed too influenced by the outside world. We found a cafe with wifi (ironic) and sat and complained about the area for a bit. Then I found a juice shop for my vaporizer, because of course the more modern side with have that. I’m sure if we would’ve spent more time on the Asia side we would enjoy it, but it just didn’t seem as authentic. It looked like a place built for people named Mackenzie and Tyler, or Brock and Tiffany’s to be comfortable.
Ps. The next day I woke up to about sixteen texts from friends in Berlin making sure I was okay. There had been a terrorist bombing right where we had been the day earlier around Istanbul. Fortunately I was tucked in bed sleeping when it happened, but the bombing went down where we had just been. They had targeted the police from what I heard.
Ya know, it makes you think. How much can these people really believe in God? On a holiday such as Ramadan, you choose to bring havoc to people’s lives. It’s funny I ironically said to Shon that being around these holy places, they are probably the last places a terrorist of the Islamic faith would attack and doubly so because of such a holiday. Shon simply said, “They don’t care.”
He was right.
The difference is Slim
I mentioned on Facebook how sad I am for the people who live in this great city. And how I realized that their anger towards these extremists far rivals ours. A friend commented saying that now if all the good Muslims would stand up and turn in these extremists we would finish this…I agree, but, and this is a huge but, do we do that in our country? Do we make sure that justice is met? I’m not so sure.
Matter of fact I’m positive. We don’t roust the KKK out of their homes and toss them in prison. We let a kid rape a girl in an alley and decide that cuz he was a good swimmer he shouldn’t have to do too much time in a cell. Cops choke out a man on video tape and get off free. The rich pillage and take everything for themselves and what do we do? Not a damn thing. Our leaders order our military to kill women and children with drone strikes and we still get peace medals.
We create our own demons and anyone who points that out is anti American. You know what is anti American? Saying an American is anti American. Our prisons are owned by companies so they have slave labor to make their products cheap. And we put poor black kids in prison for bullshit drug laws so free labor is never in short supply. So yeah sure if they turned them all in, sure it would be over, but how about we don’t have expectations of others that we ourselves can’t live up to?
Istanbul was lovely.