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

The Art of Not Being Invisible (and other stories)

Sometimes I get overcharged

That’s when you see sparks.

Radiohead – “The Tourist”

I’ve used this Radiohead line many times in my life, but nowhere did it ever suit me better than my first few days in Istanbul.  Now that I am sitting in a tiny cave room in Goreme, with the sound of a howling puppy in the distance and the occasional car, I’ll cover my last day in Sultanahmet.

After my last blog post I went to dinner at this place called “Sofa” which is a sort of comfortable bar/café with food. On my way I only made one wrong turn and some guy helped me and asked if I wanted tea but with my “no thanks”  he was totally chill.  Quite refreshing.  Once I found Sofa I sat at a table sort of hidden from the assortment of guys at the bar and ordered up a red wine and a plate of lamb with a sort of yogurt sauce.  It was simple, and really good.  Not blow your mind good but GOOD.  The sauce was kind of like beef stroganoff or chicken paprikash sauce.  I want to try this one at home.

While I was there four middle aged French women came in for happy hour cocktails.  They had one and then ordered another but they tried to haggle.  They first said “two for one?” to which the bar guy said “no.” Then they asked for a lira off, and he said no.  But I think he upgraded them to a drink that wasn’t a happy hour drink for the same as a happy hour one.  That is, if I understood it correctly.  I know they definitely did not get two for one.  They should visit Tijuana next time.

My days in Istanbul I had a lot of trouble sleeping.  Usually I am ok after the first night but not this time.  The result was that on this day I slept until 11 AM and had to force myself out of bed.  By the time I got out of my room and had a cappuccino down the street it was nearing noon.  I went to the Blue Mosque but there was a prayer time starting, so I could not enter.  On my way in I got hit up by an innocuous salesman who once lived in Seattle and has a daughter who is a brain surgeon or similar in Atlanta, Georgia.  He got quickly to the point – he has a shop with carpets, jackets, ceramics and something else which I am forgetting now.  It was the Grand Slam of Turkish products.  I extracted myself as gracefully as I could and started walking to the Hagia Sophia, but then I saw the hop-on hop-off bus so I hopped on because a) I thought it might wake me up and b) I wanted to get my reduced two-day ticket’s full value.  I didn’t get off, I just rode it around for an hour and a half and boy did it wake me up.  Nothing like 40 degrees with a wind chill of 2 degrees riding on the open second story of a bus… ah, refreshing.  I sat on the opposite of the bus to get a different perspective.  One thing I did notice was, at the edge of the old city walls in one part, there are a number of vegetable gardens.  I don’t know if they are community gardens or businesses or what, but it is so cool that they are there, right next to these ancient city walls.

I got off the bus and I was awake as all get-out.  I tried once again to go to the Blue Mosque, but once again, closing for a prayer time. I was getting hungry anyway so I went back to Sofa because I knew exactly where it was (only made two wrong turns) and ate some Cacik, which is a soupy dip (or maybe it is a soup, but I just thought it was a dip) of yogurt and cucumber with several pieces of bread. That was enough to hold me for awhile so I went on to the Hagia Sophia.

The Hagia Sophia (which has as many spellings as “cichetti” – I’ll stick with this spelling) is a church built by the emperor  Justinian in the early sixth century.  I love the history of Justinian and I have a sort of unnatural obsession with his wife, Theodora.  But more about her at a later date.  I was completely blown away by the vast space that is the interior of this place.  It is huge – like St. Peters Basilica huge.  There are simple chandeliers over your head, and giant disks with Arab writing on them above (you can see them from the back on the second floor.) What amazed me was the emptiness.  There are no statues, so pews, no stone tomb carvings to accidentally step on, no place in which to put a euro or light a candle.  There are mosaics scattered here and there, some on the second floor, which you get to not by stairs but by a stone switchback path. I bet Theodora once walked on those paths.

I was lucky – there were not too many people though I did have an encounter with a Chinese tour group and one of the tourists accidentally clocked me on the head with his huge tripod.  I kept it in perspective with a non-tour group Chinese couple I had asked, on the way in, what time it was.

Her: “you mean the local time?”

Him: “No, she means the time in China.”

All of us: (Giggle)

I was enthralled with the Hagia Sophia and I do believe it was in there that I finally started, since I got to Istanbul, to breathe.  I walked fast, to the Blue Mosque to see if I could go in before they closed.  Of course, some dude starts trying to talk to me.  Now, I was walking, not engaging him, and basically said at least five times  “I am going to the Blue Mosque, it is right there, I want to go before they close.”  He kept saying I will show you where it is (like it is hard to miss),  I will get you to the entrance (like I hadn’t already been there twice today,) then can we talk?  NO.  Honestly, I wanted to throw darts at this guy.  Back off.

I was able to get there, and get my shoes off, before they closed and there was hardly anyone else in there, which was awesome.  It was quite dark inside, because of the waning light outside, just lit up by more of those chandelier things. The feeling inside is ethereal, the air seemed almost smoky because of all the blue tile and the electric light.  It must be amazing when there are prayer services in there.

Next to the Blue Mosque is the Hippodrome, which was a huge rectangular area where the Byzantines and later the Ottomans had chariot races and other events.  Of course I wanted to visit.  While in Sofa, however, I was reading my guidebook and found out that I had already walked right through it several times.  Doh! I guess I just figured there would be a charge.  But no, it is all out there in the open for everyone to see.   It is a pleasant open space, with some obelisks and a cool atrium with some mosaics in it.

Since I had only had my yogurt/cucumber soup/dip and bread lunch I decided to eat dinner early and then head back to the hotel because I had some work to do .  I had seen, on the busy street Divan Yolu just outside the Hippodrome a restaurant called Faros, which is a local chain.   I ate at one near Taksim Square the day before and I liked it, so decided to check it out.  I sat inside next to a picture window and while the food was just so-so the people watching more than made up for it. It is not a wide street but trams travel on it, and at this hour (about 5 PM) they were packed.  I watched all manner of people walk by – tourists (some of them being followed with guys talking, glad it is not just me), families with cute little kids (and some with giant strollers), old men arm-in-arm, and so on.  I saw a lady in a full on burka, and I thought, I’d like to wear one of those sometimes.  How cool it would be to be invisible.  I used to think I was invisible.  In fact I pride myself that I can wander around and be invisible.  But here, I am definitely not invisible.  Then again, neither is the lady with the burka.

Enough for today.  Cappadocia tomorrow.

2 Responses to “The Art of Not Being Invisible (and other stories)”

  1. Marta Says:

    Hey… you visited Faros. We didn’t eat there but we did stay at the hotel the last night. We did not eat there but did enjoy the hotel.

    I think you are going to like it so much better when you get to the apartment. You don’t get hit up as much in the Beyoglu area. If you are looking for a hip place – try the House Cafe on ?stiklal Cad. It might be pricey so check first but it definitely had a crowd and very hip looking. There is a second one also back in the off streets behind Tunel. Right across from it is a great little lokanta – Helvetia. We had our cheapest lunch there – 25TL for two. They don’t speak Turkish much but you can point. I don’t think they have wine.

  2. sandrac Says:

    Wow, this is bringing back lots of memories of my time in Istabul — lots of beauty, fascinating history, way too aggressive guys with multiple agendas! And always with the carpets and tea.

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