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Carpet Seller of Istanbul!

by libralady (6/10/2008)

Carpet Seller of Istanbul

Standing on the corner with the Blue Mosque to our left and Hagia Sophia to our right and the Basilica Cisterns across the tramway, we were pondering on where to visit next. We had been walking for three or fours hours, from our hotel The Grand Őztanik in Taksim, along Refik Sağlam Cad to Yolcuzade Iskender and over the Ataturk Bridge.  Although it was a cool day, we had walked at a pace that made us hot!!  We stopped to take the view over to the Golden Horn.  We were amazed at how run down the buildings were and the mass of satellite dishes adorning all the roofs.  Numerous stray cats milled about below us. As we crossed the Ataturk Bridge we again stopped and admired the view, firstly towards the Galata Bridge then up towards the highway bridge (does it have a name?) to Eyup and beyond.  At that point the day was fine but the views were a little dull, but we stood for a while to soak up the atmosphere, and the fumes from the traffic! After a few minutes we walked on, and as we were on the wrong side of the bridge we encountered the challenge of crossing the bridge.  We wanted to walk towards the Galata Bridge and find our way into the Grand Bazaar.  My husband is much braver than me at crossing the road, yellow taxis flying everywhere, not knowing which way they are coming and I was left stranded whilst he was somewhere across the road.  Although still not where we wanted to be.  So taking my life in my hands, I made a dash for it and ended up stranded again, in the middle of the road. No one makes any allowances for you; they are all in a hurry.  In a hurry to reach the end of the traffic jam. Fortunately traffic slowed and I was able to get across to where we wanted to walk. The view to the Yeni Cami Mosque required a photo stop.  Amidst the crowd, I took a couple of photo’s.  I always wonder about taking pictures in a street; you are taking pictures of people, without their permission.  But no-one seems to mind or take any notice.  We stopped again at the Galata Bridge and watched the ferries crossing and the fishing boats bobbing around amongst them.  There were numerous jellyfish, appearing as blobs of ectoplasm looking much like the plastic bags drifting around in the sea.  Why is there such a proliferation of these invertebrates, is it because of the breakdown in the ecosystem of the Bosphorus, a sign of increased pollution?  I turned to view the many fishermen, seemingly all dressed the same, a sort of Istanbul uniform, dull and dreary, dark trousers, dark shirt, black shoes and as Orham Pamuk would say “appearing rather melancholy”.  There is something quite serious about the fishermen, they concentrate on the task in hand, rarely turning to glance at anyone, and it seems, rarely catching any fish.  A small bucket by their feet, some bait and that is about all they have.  In the bucket, maybe some small fish.  The scene matched the day as it began to become duller and with threatening rain.  Crossing the road towards the Mosque was a much simpler affair, just a case of dodging the taxis and we headed towards a few small cafes, with the waiters calling.  We chose one just as it started to rain.  There could only have been about 10 seats in the café, and of course smoking too!  We asked for coffee, and we got Nescafe – not as we know it.  And we had the attention of about 3 waiters, did we want Baklava – no I can’t stand the stuff, so my husband ate my piece.    We passed the time of day with a French couple sitting with their coffee. We strung out the coffee stop until it stopped raining before carrying on with our walk.  Map in hand, we came across an opening into the spice market.   Wow the smell – I love spices and especially aniseed.  I wish we had places like this in England.  This is where I inadvertently insulted a Kurd!  How do I know what a Kurd looks like?  But he forgave me and we went on our way. We walked a few more streets and found ourselves in the gold entrance to the Grand Bazaar.  As we were going to a wedding I considered buying something for the Bride, but thought better of it as I had no idea what I was buying or how much it should cost.  So ignoring the calls we carried on our feet burning and in need of another break.  We sat out side one the entrances on a bench, it was like a little garden next to another Mosque.  I would have to guess where it was.  We had completely lost our bearings in the bazaar so we sat and worked out where we were.  The sun was now shining and we nearly fell asleep on the bench, you know, you shut your eyes for a few minutes and before you know it, you have embarrassed yourself!! We somehow found our way out and walked around past Topkapi Palace and decided to walk in the grounds.  It was empty, hardly a sole.  We walked up to the end and admired the views across the Marmara Sea and the Bosphorus to the Asian side of Istanbul!  That is where the wedding would be held in a couple of day’s time. We didn’t go inside the palace and I wish we had done, but walked up towards the Blue Mosque.  We wandered around a few side streets and came across a restaurant, Konak Pub and Restaurant and stopped for lunch.  The attention we received makes you feel very humble and this is unheard of in the UK.  We ate lunch, had a couple of beers and then really wanted to sleep!  Black tea roused us and off we go, towards the Blue Mosque.  We debated shall we go in?  Can we go in?  We are not religious so I felt a little hypocritical visiting a religious site.  Despite our reservations we decided to enter anyway.  And I don’t think we look German, but the man handing out the plastic bags for our shoes, thought we were.  In we went, feeling a little nervous; it was totally different to what I expected.  I felt intrusive as there were some people praying (even though prayers had finished), and really I was only interested in the architecture. While we were inside, a beautiful woman dressed in white, scarf, dress etc appeared with an entourage of cameramen filming her, and she entered the reserved area.  After 10 or so minutes we left and walked around the side where the woman had entered.  There were hoards of police – we never did find out what was going on.  From there we walked to the Basilica Cisterns and went inside.  It was beautiful inside and awe inspiring when you consider the history.  The pillars that seem to be supporting the ceiling, coming from the water.  The walkways lead you around the cistern with a few little dead ends.  I tried to take photos but the light was not good enough and the Medusa’s head did not look quite the same in my photo. We spent some time in there and in the little gift shop before stepping back in to daylight. We walked across the road and carried on past the Blue Mosque again and trying to walk to the sea, but not able to find our way, wandered through some streets, under the railway line and came to a dead end.  It was a shame that many of the houses are in poor repair and even have trees growing from the roofs. Walking back through a small bazaar, along Kabasakal Cad., we came past the Mosque to shouts of “Hey you walk like a Scotsman”.  No we are not Scots thanks, ignoring him but laughing to ourselves.  We are now back to the corner of the street where I first started admiring the Hagia Sophia and debating what to do next and consulting the map – huge mistake!!   Time was getting on and we had to get back to the hotel.  A voice, “Hello I am Hassan, I will be your guide, where are you from?”  (You mean to say you don’t know?)  “Hi, We are from England, chirps my over friendly husband”.  “Yes, but where from in England, I have been to England” Again Mr friendly says “Norfolk” and tried to explain exactly where we live.  And guess what, “I have a friend who lives in Norwich”, says Hassan.   Now he is either telling the truth or he has a very good knowledge of England!!!!!  The conversation carried on, whilst I stood feeling rather uneasy – money will be mentioned soon I am sure.   “I will take you to the Mosque” – been there, “Ok, I will take you too the Cistern” – been there too!  I butt in,  “We are thinking of going back to our hotel, as we are here for a wedding and we are meeting some other guests at 4:00pm”.  “Let me give you my card, we have a carpet shop down the road, would you like to see?  It won’t take long”.  Now I become the fool.  Uhmmm I think, “Yes why not, it won’t take long and I would like to see some carpets”.  So off we go, following the carpet seller / guide.  We enter the shop and instead of looking at what was there, we were taken upstairs – bad feeling comes back suddenly!  What have I let us in for! Out comes someone else and Hassan disappears.  “Tea?” “Yes please”.  “I am (don’t remember his name) and my friend will give you a presentation on the rugs”.   

Oh no!! how long will this take, I wonder.  So I reiterated that we didn’t have much time because of the wedding.  I was assured that it would not take long.   So to cut a long story short, out comes rug after rug after rug and with each one an explanation on how it was made and by whom.  I was looking at my watch, and my husband was getting agitated.  Suddenly prices were mentioned. 

“WHAT?? HOW MUCH”??“ You can pay by credit card”.   Now Mrs Assertive steps in before Mr Friendly becomes Mr Angry!   “Look”, I said, “thank you so much for your hospitality, but we have not come to Istanbul to buy a rug, we have come for a wedding.  We have to meet with guests at 4:00; it is nearly that now.  We really must go”.  It was a case of what part of “no” don’t you understand, and after about 10 minutes of persuasion, we finally left with a definite chill behind us. We headed for the nearest Taxi and duly got ripped off.   He took us the scenic route and dropped us off somewhere we didn't know, we checked the map and we ended up walking more than half the way back and collapsed, exhausted.  Remind me, next time we come to Istanbul lets take the tram!!

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