The Aegean Journey

May 23, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — A @ 5:08 pm

Okay. Amy’s turn to post from Turkey. Unfortunately, the WiFi is spotty at our hotel in Istanbul (and indeed around the whole city), so I haven’t actually had time to read what Brandon most recently wrote. *blush* So apologies in advance if I’m at all redundant.

It has been so nice to spend, like, five long days here in this amazing city. It has such a rich history, not to mention a fascinating blend of cultures. I think my own misconceptions about Turkey had always been that “Turkish” things were mostly things adopted from other cultures (Greek, Arabian, etc) and given a name with the word “Turkish” in it. I’ve learned, of course, how wrong that is. Sure, the old city was a cosmopolitan hub that attracted loads of different people, who brought their foods, religions, customs, and languages with them, but over the centuries, the unique blend they made here became something distinctly Turkish. (If you go through any of the old palaces, ruins, mosques, or museums, you’ll see the word “Byzantine” a lot. Not to get into the whole political history of the area, but suffice it to say, that basically refers to the uniquely Turkish blend I just mentioned.)

ANYWHO. It’s a cool place.

Maybe, for this post, at least, I’ll focus on the things we did today, since I know Brandon hasn’t written today; that was I can avoid redundance. Yes, good idea, Amy.

We started today – our last day in the city, by the way – with a walking tour suggested by our guide book that explores some very un-touristy parts of the city. We got to see the ruins of the city’s old walls, as well as some historic neighborhoods that are today populated by normal people. Some highlights of that walk included a few synagogues (very rare here), a large street market in the Roma (gypsy) neighborhood, and the “Vatican of the Eastern Orthodox church” (yes, the church and administrative buildings where the patriarch – Orthodox equivalent of the pope – and his staff do their thing). Modern-day Turkey is 99% Muslim, so the current highlights and best-restored parts of the city are mosques and residences of past sultans. It’s so fascinating to step away from that hustle and bustle to catch a glimpse of a different Istanbul. (But don’t worry; I fully intend to write about our encounters with Islam in Turkey later! It’s been a really special part of our trip, actually.)

Another fun activity today was a 2-hour cruise on the Bosphorous. I remember having to learn about that body of water in middle school geography, but not much of that stuck with me. It was cool to be on a boat and have Europe on one side and Asia on the other. And to see how they’re pretty much exactly the same. Fun sidebar here: I am apparently very prone to a condition called mal d’embarqument, which is French for “disembarkment sickness.” For hours or sometimes days after being on a boat, my body still feels a slow rocking sensation. Right now, typing this blog post from our hotel room, I feel pretty sure that we’re on an eleven-story-high ship of some kind. Or I’m in a tiny, desk chair-sized dinghy. Either way, my brain and body have the sensation of being on the water.

After some more strolling and yet another delicious Turkish dinner, Brandon and I had a little time for some nargile, the Turkish version of shisha, hookah, water pipe, etc. It was some of the sweetest, smoothest water pipe-ing I have ever experienced, and we thoroughly enjoyed the cozy little “nargile cafe” we found to partake in. And just to brag on myself a little… my smoke ring game is still pretty solid. ;)

The crowning jewel of our last day in Turkey was a traditional dance performance. It combined a variety of bellydance performances with both group and solo performances of the highly varied folk dances from all around the lands we now know as Turkey. Oh my goodness, dear readers, they were wonderful! Of course, all the bellydances were sensuous and sultry and simply beautiful; but the folk dances ranged from graceful and birdlike to fiery and frenetic. I loved all of them so much!! I think the solo male bellydance performance was possibly my favorite, but I also a solo dance of Azerbaijani origins. Of course, the energetic group dances were breathtaking, too…. Yeah, I’m gonna have to get back to you on my favorite.

Well, I think that’s enough to give you a sense of the Turkish flavors we sampled today. I will certainly offer one more post in the near future about being in Istanbul during the first days of Ramadan (in Turkish, “Ramazan”), and I’m hoping to write about our time in Meteora, as well. Hopefully, Brandon will have a thing or two to add before this trip wraps up, too. :)

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