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

Tales from Another Planet

It is 6:13 PM, and outside the call to prayer has just started.  It is loud.  I guess that instead of church bells, this is how the locals keep track of the time.  No bell, only this beautiful voice wafting through the air via who knows how many giant speakers.

No church bells here.  Only a voice.  Now that is something I never thought about before.

Anyway.  After my Orson Wellesian evening last night, I got out with the full-on intent of Getting My Bearings.  Before I left I also had a humorous encounter with the lady that cleans the rooms.  In the hall I told her I didn’t need her to worry about my room. She was very jolly, and not just because of the no-cleaning thing, I don’t think.  She asked where I was from (everybody seems to do that here) and then she told me she was from Sofia, Bulgaria and went on about how beautiful Sofia, and the Varna are and did lots of abbondanza finger kisses as she talked.  When I said goodbye she said “Goodbye! I love you!” OK lady, if you were looking for an end of stay tip, you just succeeded, and brilliantly.

I left my hotel which is very close to the southern waters edge and decided to walk around the bottom tip of the peninsula and then head back in to go to the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque.  While walking I passed a place with a bunch of tourist buses, and some guy started talking to me.  It was not a tourist attraction, but a place that sells leather jackets.  The questions… where are you from? Where is your boyfriend?  How long are you in town for?  Do you want to look at some jackets?  Can I give you my card?  You will come back, promise? Oh, by the way, there is a shortcut to the Hagia Sophia through my shop!

Finally I extracted myself and made my way to the Hagia Sophia, but I never actually made it into the main part. I visited the Sultan Tombs off to the side of the massive main structure – five small buildings with vibrantly colored ceramic tiles inside, and simple sarcophagus on the floor – sometimes a lot of them, sometimes very small. Like baby small. They are all what look like simple green tents with a little sultans hat sticking out.  All the ornamentation is on the walls.

Walking to the main entrance of Hagia Sophia I saw the hop-on hop off bus that takes you around and you can get on and off to see different places.  I was interested so I went over there.  Got the sales pitch from the guy in charge, but when he said it was 20 euros I said that is too much.  Which it is, really, since the buses are running on a winter schedule, and there are hardly any of them.  So he said OK 15 euros.  And I said yeah but it is 12:00 and there are only buses until 4:30.  OK I will make a special deal for you! He said.  2 days for 15 euros.  How much is that in lire?  I asked.  Cause I can only figure out what the dollar/lire ratio is, at this point in time. 40 Turkish lire, he said.  OK! I said.  I hope that was low enough, my trying-to-teach-me-to haggle friends.

I learned many things on the bus one of which was, last night I was not circling the Hagia Sophia for hours last night – I was circling a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT MOSQUE. LIKE A MILE AWAY.  No wonder everything was so whackadoodle.  Note to self, and others – a lit up extremely tall pointy thing is not a good landmark in Istanbul.  They are everywhere, and will mess you up.  On the bus, looking at the map, I saw in great detail where it all went wrong.  I went out of the bazaar to the north, not the south, and thought I was in my general neighborhood.  NOT.  I could have totally taken a cab and not been 30 feet away, as was my fear.  Oh well, more mind-expanding travel trials and tribulations to round out my resume.  It was beautiful outside and also, freezing as hell on top of that bus.  I got off at Taksim Square to eat something and get back to a normal body temperature in a trendy place with a small movie screen (showing a hot blonde news reporter on the Turkish MSNBC) obscuring the pizza oven.  I would rather see the pizza oven.  Wouldn’t everybody?  Anyway I didn’t hang too much in the Taksim area after that because I will be there for eight days next week.

Coming back on the bus, I saw many burned out buildings, old ladies smoking cigarettes and (I think) playing cards on the street, several hundred near-traffic-accidents, the old city walls (which are incredible – ancient, yet sort of just there – because they were there, and continue to be there. No fuss at all) and just outside the walls lots of cemeteries.  Oh and you fans of swarthy dudes – Istanbul, I think, may be the capital of the Swarthy Man.  More than Sicily even, and that is saying something.

Leaving the bus I got hit up by yet another guy asking where I am from then trying to sell me carpets, a tour, etc.  I have to learn to ignore these guys, but it is hard.  I was thinking I could just say, when they ask where I am from, that I can’t say because it is “classified” or “THEY won’t let me” or something Orson Wellesian (any ideas?) But now I have decided, I can just wear my headphones! As soon as I hear the telltale “hello! Where are you from!” I will just keep walking and bop my head around like I am listening to Daft Punk or something.  It is extreme I know but I am not going to buy any carpets, hence, it is only these salesmen that I am looking after, in the long run.  Of course, me being me, I allowed some sincere cafe owner wearing one of those old fashioned shriner/Turkish hats to corral me into his place to have a glass of wine (mostly because I wanted some wine.) He sat down and we talked for some time – he has lived in Malaga, and Sweden, and Finland, and some French people came in and he busted out in some perfect French and sold them wine, tea, and some giant iron kebab skewers to take home.  I was very impressed.  Try to get an American guy to stand on the street with a hat like that and try to talk to people about how fresh your food is.  Also, though I told him my name, he kept calling me Kelly, which is what I always tell people my name is when I really don’t want them to know.  Hmm.

I did not get too lost today.  But I think, in the future, I will put in this blog about Turkey, a la Bridget Jones:

Times I got asked where I am from by a guy who really did not give a shit: 5

Wrong turns: 15

Trying not to look too closely at Swarthy Guy: 20

Trying not to look to closely at all the other guys: 642

Looking at my phrasebook to see how to say “white wine” then chickening out: 3 (I will get over this, eventually)

And so on.

9 Responses to “Tales from Another Planet”

  1. Colleen Says:

    I have a fake name, too! But I mostly just use it at Starbucks. 😀

    As usual, I’m loving your descriptions. I’m happy to hear you’re getting your bearings – and won’t be coming home with a Turkish rug. [I’ll believe it when I see it. 😉 ]

  2. Adrian McManus Says:

    Pizza again, huh?
    Alejandro Luna has just ‘surfaced’, profusely apologising…

    Pasatelo bien con los turcos!

    p.s Love the word swarthy. 😉

  3. jan Says:

    Cool, cool. cool!

  4. tom Says:


  5. Sue Says:

    Yay! SO psyched to read your blog! Love your adventures already.

  6. nancyhol Says:

    I want to hear more about the swarthy guys. Photos please.

  7. Tiffany Says:

    So glad you can find wine, I was wondering about that….. keep writing, love your adventures! And please, take some pictures of the swarth!

  8. Lesfaye Says:

    Love the blog Shannon…was freaked out when you got lost, this has happened to me in Mexico…kinda scary! Your a brave girl! Have a blast, sure you are….lesfaye

  9. Peter Sibley Says:

    Ditto on the Galata Bridge warning. Skip the lower level. The fishermen up top are friendly, though!

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