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

Taksim Dream

It is a beautiful Saturday morning here in Istanbul, and I am feeling very lazy.  There are no clouds and the sky is blue and I guess I should be out cruising on the Bosphoros or something instead of just looking at the skyline from my little terrace.  But I know myself.  I am not going to be doing any cruising today.

I have seen so much since I returned to Istanbul on Monday.  It took a day or so for me to get used to the neighborhood – mainly, it took some time for me to get use to the insane number of stairs you have to climb to get around here.  Want to go to the grocery store?  100 steps up.  Come back up from the tram?  100 steps up.  Then there is another 75 steps up to my apartment.  Chez stairmaster.  The stairs in the streets are nuts.  They are of different heights and sometimes there will be a giant chunk of them missing.  It is important to keep your eyes on the road.  There is a special God for children and drunks, but the God for drunks in Istanbul is the most all-powerful.  Otherwise there would be a lot of dead drunks around here.

Up the street is Taksim Square, an insanely busy, totally nutty place.  In addition to the God for drunks there is the God who protects the people who cross the street in front of giant moving object (buses, taxis.) I try to cross at the light, but sometimes it seems like there is no light.  Rome is about as orderly as Portland Oregon compared to Taksim Square.  One night, when it was raining pretty hard and I wanted to go somewhere but not too far, I went to this bar in the hotel Marmara in Taksim Square.  They have these floor to ceiling windows on the second floor which I had spied on one of my first days here.  I totally wanted to go there and have a glass of wine and look out at all the people.  The service was snooty beyond belief and they overcharged me a couple of lira but the chair had a high back and I stared out in total comfort at what seemed to be about 213,725 people crossing the streets, going up and down the stairs of the metro, and so on.  I will never forget that hour I spent in that high backed chair.  Come to think of it, there are many things about Istanbul that I will never forget.  There are many moments that are seared into my memory forever.

Like some of the art I saw at the Istanbul Modern the other day.  It was suppose to be free on Thursday according to my Lonely Planet Guide, but it was not.  It was 7 lira (no biggie) but then to add insult to injury the woman taking my money tried to shortchange me.  I handed her a twenty and she asked if I had two lira.  As I was digging for it she handed me three lira.  I just stared at her.  She stared at me.  Finally she handed me another ten lira.  Lady, I hear they are hiring at the Vaporetto tickets offices in Venice. Maybe the money is better there.

Anyway.  At the Istanbul Modern they are showing an exhibition of women artists.  And let me be the first to say, the women artists in Turkey are… well, a little pissed off I guess.  You wouldn’t call this art beautiful, you’d call it striking.  You’d call it “seared in your memory” art.  One artist took a picture of her own soiled sanitary napkin while she sat on the toilet.  There’s an image I won’t soon forget.  She also made a movie where she sits on top of a TV set and tries to get off (in the masterbatory sense.)  Another artist made a movie where she dresses scantily and hangs out in front of a brothel with a sign “for sale” in front of her.  Lots of dudes check her out.  There was a lot more.

After I left the museum I took the funicular up to Taksim Square to eat some lunch and then walked the length of the main street here, Istiklal Caddessi, down to the Galata Tower.   There is a wine shop and bar down there called Sensus so I stopped in to check it out.  The manager and a couple of the staff were trying to put together a plastic Christmas tree with a glue gun and it was kind of hilarious.  I like the wine bar in my neighborhood, Rouge, a lot better.

I kept walking down the hill, passing through an area where they have many shops selling all manner of musical instruments.  Musical Instrument Land, I call it.  Then down at the very bottom, just to the west of the Galata bridge, I found myself in Hardware Store Land.  I have never seen anything like it.  Dozens of little stores, stores with just power saws, stores with just water pumps, stores with boat hardware, stores with just bolts or just nails.  I think those guys trying to put together that Christmas tree should maybe head down there, as I am sure there is a shop that only sells the proper equipment to put together cheap plastic Christmas trees.  I walked down past some paint shops to the river.  I used to live in a boatyard for awhile when I was a kid.  On a boat.  It reminded me of those days, a little, down by the river just west of the Galata bridge.

The thought of climbing back up the hill was not exactly making me crazy with desire so I took another funicular thing which I thought would take me to Taksim but only took me back to the Galata tower.  That was a total waste of three lira.  I consulted my map and walked in the direction that I thought was home.  I passed the gorgeous Italian embassy and walked through Antique Shop Land. Then I somehow ended up on Istiklal Cadessi again, which was absolutely not my intent.  Getting lost close to home isn’t so bad though.

What else?  I went to the Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar with my new friend Ugur, who lives a couple of doors down from me.  The Grand Bazaar is an amazing structure.  The part I got lost in when I first got here is not the Grand Bazaar – I got lost in the maze of streets that are also a bazaar, but not the Grand one.  I loved the little tea places and cool storefronts in the Grand Bazaar.  It was like stepping into a different century, in some ways.  I am going to go back there to take some pictures, because I did not take any with Ugur.  He also took me to the spice bazaar and to a place for some really good sandwiches.  My sandwich was only four lira!  It makes me realize that I have been spending a lot more on my food than most of the locals do.  Well, at least the locals that hang out in the market.

And yesterday was Topkapi Palace day.  I was fully expecting to be followed/asked questions/harrassed down there, but no one ever bothered me.  Amazing.  There were a lot of people there – many tour groups and even worse, SCHOOL groups.  Ugh.  I enjoyed myself – it is like the Alhambra in Spain on crack – but I can’t even imagine what it must be like in the busy months, when it is REALLY crowded.  I am glad I am here in December and I can visit all the Must-Dos so that someday I can come back in the warmer months and just hang out.

Last night I made dinner for my landlord and his wife and my neighbor Ugur.  My landlord is Italian and used to live close to me in Venice (but we did not know each other there.)  My neighbor Ugur was introduced to me by my friends Harriet and Alan in Santa Barbara.  It just so happens that Ugur lives just down the street from my little apartment here in Cihangir. I put out a little spread of meze, and served my grandmother’s lamb and green beans dish with rice pilaf, and put out some great cookies I bought at a bakery here.  It was a great evening and I always love to cook for people so I am glad I had that opportunity here.

I only have a few more days left.  More later.

4 Responses to “Taksim Dream”

  1. nancyhol Says:

    I am really enjoying your blog posts. Almost like being there with you.

  2. Eden Says:

    I love reading about your adventures and mis-adventures as well. How lucky or fortunate you are to experience all these!

  3. Peter Sibley Says:

    I’ll take that lamb recipe, thanks. 🙂

  4. Marta Says:

    So you made it my ‘hood. We walked up and down musical instrument street so many times. The other times we went through what we called Home Depot streets. Oh yeah… and electric light streets. 🙂 I’ll have to check out Rouge next time. We were over there on the day it rained and didn’t get a chance to stop in. We kept going round and round those streets looking for a Pide place only to find out it was on the other side of Taksim. Yeah… the food around the Spice Bar is pretty cheap. We went to a Pide place which had a fountain of Ayran out front. It was wild. They had a ladder that they climbed above the oven to get supplies. Loved it.

    We’ll have to compare notes someday.

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