Shannon’s Super Sexy Blog. Music. Travel. Randomness. And a Lot of Wine.

Blind, and In The Dark

Oh this crazy life.  2 hours on a bus from Santa Barbara to LAX, 6 hours at LAX, 12 hours on a plane to Istanbul, 1 hour getting out of there, a wacky drive into Istanbul, and then, basically, the last five and a half hours IN Istanbul.  It is 11:30 PM.  I am exhausted beyond belief.  Yet, somehow not exhausted.  No, really, I am exhausted.  Anyway please excuse me if I make some spelling errors.  It is the exhaustion/not exhaustion.

For many years now I have wanted to visit Istanbul.  But when I finally made the plan to go, I didn’t really follow up with my normal obsessive/compulsive reading and planning.  Mostly because I was doing so much traveling I didn’t really have my normal year-plus to obsess.  I know something of Turkish history mostly because I know so much about Venetian history and they are very intertwined.  I know about Doner Kebabs.  But I don’t know how to say thank you.  Well I didn’t, anyway, until about an hour ago.

I actually did know to get a visa before going through passport control because of the fine folks who told me about this in advance.  Passport control was funny. Don’t mess around in the Non-Turkish line – let your eyes stray for one second from that official when he calls you and you will have all manner of nationalities yelling at you MADAM! LADY! GO! (This did not happen to me, but it did to several other jet lagged ladies.) It was pretty mellow getting out until I emerged from baggage and customs into the most insane waiting area I have ever experienced.  My hotel sent a guy in a car, who was to hold up a sign with my name on it.  Well you know when you get into a waiting area and there are usually five dudes with signs?  In Istanbul, there were hundreds of people cramming together to wait, and at least a hundred signs.  A hundred!  Somehow, I spotted my sign but as I started to wave (scream) the guy turned around and started walking away.  I caught up with him, and then he led me out, me pushing my cart through an insane obstacle course of people, carts, playing children, wheelchairs – and of course he was like eight feet tall, walking like a city person with no jet lag.  Whew.  That was a little nuts.  My driver took over the cart pushing when we got outside – he probably was sick of me lagging.

So then we were off and I watched the scenery instead of the traffic – boy, there sure are a lot of restaurants here!

Checking in, the manager of the Hotel Sarnic brought me a much needed glass of Turkish white wine (absolutely delicious!) and a plate of really good cheese cubes.  I kind of unpacked and then immediately went out for a walk.

This is where things got kind of haywire for awhile.  I seriously do not know what I was thinking when I set out on this journey.  I thought, well, I need to walk for an hour and check some stuff out, then go eat then get a good nights sleep yada yada yada.  I left the hotel and next door is a restaurant and a young man was smoking outside.  He said come in and eat, listen to some music.  I thought they were part of the hotel, so I said no I have to walk, maybe later.

And walk I did.  In boots with heels (you know how many times I have worn these on the first night on a trip and totally regretted it?  So many it is kind of hilarious) for many hours, on rough streets, the same streets, some dark, some lit, some with sketchy looking characters, some with cafes where the people inside were surely laughing because I had already walked by 45 times in the last two hours.

In a nutshell, I got insanely, horribly lost.

The cool thing is, tomorrow I will be like, oh, I know this place, and it is daylight!  But tonight it was very dark and the only map I had was the one the hotel gave me (stupid, stupid, STUPID girl for even thinking this was going to work).  I walked along a very cool street with many trams and shops and cafes but then somehow veered off into the Grand Bazaar.  Well, I am sure this behemoth of retail (4000 storefronts!) is all nice and cozy in the day, but tonight?  Me and about 200 dudes wrapping up the days work, also about 400 cats and a lot of garbage.  I did not see one woman there.  99% of the shops were closed for the day. And it is a MAZE.  I could not get out.  I was not worried about the dudes or the cats, I was just worried about actually finding my way OUT.  Eventually I did though, to the Hagia Sofia, which is this massive building.  OK cool.  Except for the next hour, I kept going in circles around it.  Kind of like the Colosseum in Rome.  It was always there.  Over and over.  I was getting worried. And, to be kind of honest, wishing there was a wine bar on every corner like there is in Venice or Paris. Have a glass of wine, use the empty glass to magnify the small print on the map, etc. That kind of thing generally saves the day for me.

I knew I needed to get to the Blue Mosque because the hotel was around there and I finally did but I must have made 70 concentric circles around that freeking thing (and it is BIG) trying to figure out where the hell I was.  Now you might wonder, why not hop into one of the 8000 cabs that passed by me in the night?  Excellent question.  I should have, except I was scared to.  Not only scared of getting overcharged but scared that the hotel would be 30 feet away.

I did ask a few people.  A policeman gave me the wrong directions.  A dude with a big cart full of fruits told me to walk to the tram and then take a left.  I did, but he must have meant for me to continue to ask directions.  The good thing was the tram stops had good maps.  I was scrutinizing one when a guy came up and asked me where I was going, if I lived here, etc.  I was nice but kind of said I can figure it out.  I saw him down the street and he followed me and offered to walk me, but I said no that is OK.  I think I would rather be lost.  He was from “the Black Sea” and he had a black eye.  He asked if I wanted a tea. But I kept going.

Thankfully the bus map was pretty good and I got almost to the hotel except for one wrong turn, and there was a guy in front of a carpet shop that asked if he could help.  I was very close and he was very nice – of course, I guess he was trying to sell me a carpet. He invited me in for tea and I said no I have to eat and this other, older guy said WE WILL BUY YOU DINNER. Sigh.  I really just want to get home.

I went around the corner and saw the young smoking guy that I had seen when I first ventured out at 6:30 this evening.  I was so happy to see him.  I swear, I have never been so happy to see a stranger in my life.  I may as well have had rockets on my heels I went into that restaurant so fast.  It was 9:30 – I had been searching for home for about 2 hours at that point. I was the only one in there, except for some of his family.  He brought me another glass of delicious white wine, and a little plate of different spreads for bread – yogurt with chunks of pickle, hummus, some tomato stuff.  Then I had lamb on eggplant puree.  He sat at the next table and talked with me the whole time.  I asked if it was bad manners to talk with one’s mouth full in Turkey, but he said no.  He is quite an amiable guy.  Really nice.  He comes from a town in the east where they have a lot of Hittite excavations.  He showed me some pictures on his computer – he is very proud of his town, and of his heritage.  His family business is also tours, and I think I will take one of the boat tours they do.  He invited me to go see Turkish folk music tomorrow.  I am not really sure I am ready to take on something like that – not on the second night.  Though, it could be totally awesome.  I just need to get my bearings a little better first.

In the daylight.

4 Responses to “Blind, and In The Dark”

  1. Chris Says:

    Oh my, Shannon! This story had me holding my breath — glad you found your way home.

  2. Colleen Says:

    Phew! Adventures in Jet Lag.
    Glad you’re blogging!

  3. sandrac Says:

    Well done, Shannon — I love your willingness to have adventures! Men in Istanbul are something else. I never felt threatened but certainly, scrutinized!

  4. nancyhol Says:

    Wow! What a first night! Thank goodness you found your way “home”.

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