Leyla Goes to Istanbul....
Wish I had Instagram so I could make an Instagram Photobook
Departed on Turkish Airlines on 9/23 - having arrived at the airport late, I was bumped from my business class seat to a horrible coach class seat. It was quite disappointing as I love business class flights on Turkish Air and the flight usually makes my trip.
Arrive in Istanbul on 9/24 around 5pm, grab my luggage, go through customs and I headed out to find the Havas Shuttle Bus.
9/24 around 9pm, I arrived at my aunt's house on the Asian side of Istanbul -- after taking a plane, a bus and a taxi. No ferry, so I was happy.
9/25 I get my hair done by Serif, my aunt's hairdresser, who turns me into a zebra. I now have blonde and reddish striped highlights in my hair AND it cost me $200. Thanks Serif, now I feel like a giant jerk walking around with "Turkish hair" as I keep referring to it. I knew I should have stopped him when he asked me if I wanted any "yellow" in my hair.
I spend the rest of the day walking around looking for an adaptor so I can use my western electrical items. I have dinner at Mado, alone, and then head back to my aunt's. That first night, I fell asleep at 10pm!
9/26 I am still on the Asian side of Istanbul. I wake up LATE, I am jet lagged, I eat breakfast with my aunt. She proceeds to tell me numerous hysterical stories while she smokes her Marlboro reds at the breakfast table. She asks again if I would like to stay with her instead of check into my apartment/hotel in Beyoglu, I thank her and decline the invitation. My aunt reminds me that I am free to come and go as I please, or, if I meet a man, I can choose not to come back at all. I assure my aunt that I will not be meeting any men on the streets of Istanbul, and that I did not choose to stay in an apartment so I can have loads of sex with strange, Turkish men. I simply want some privacy and freedom to move about the city as I wish. This falls on deaf ears.... but I did think it was cute for her to give me the freedom to not come home should I find myself in a magical moment. To think, I could have done the walk of shame on Bagdat Caddesi - next time!
Still 9/26, it seems this day won't end. I try for a third time to get the SIM card working in my phone. Apparently there is a "system wide outage" for Turkcell. Annoyed, I head to a bookstore and purchase a copy of Time Out Istanbul - the English Version. I am happy for a brief moment, the cell phone frustration is wearing on me, I can't get online and my people need me.
Still 9/26 I head back to my aunt's and we order Kebap and Lahmacun - heavenly, meaty foods. My cousin and my other aunt pick me up and we head to the European side of Istanbul. If you're reading this and you didn't know that Istanbul stretched across two continents, stop reading now and go join Sarah Palin in her backyard looking out at Russia.
The time is now 4pm on 9/26, what may have been the longest day of my life. We head to Istinya Park and have a beer and a coffee at Masa. My cousin keeps pointing out famous people (because this is a really posh mall) and I have no clue who they are and I don't care. We window shop for a few hours.
We continue to walk around Istinya Park for an endless amount of time, have dinner at the fish restaurant Istinya Pazar (market) which was delicious. Around 9:30p, my cousin takes me to my apartment. I check in, and my cousin, her husband and I head out to and have some drinks off Istiklal overlooking the city and the Bosphorus. That was a lovely night.
This is where I am staying - Nuru Ziya Apartments in Beyoglu
Finally!! It is 9/27. I wake up around 9a, get out of bed around 10a and start working. I work until about 4:30pm and then head out for the day. I meet Simon and Ayla in front of Galata Saray High School and we walk over to an Armenian restaurant for delicious food.
9/28 Wednesday I wake up late once again and work all day. I then head down to Ayla and Simon's apartment which was located in the Tophane neighborhood, just below Beyoglu. I bring my good camera as there are many lovely buildings and sites to photograph. See them here on my FLICKR page. I renamed their street "Man Alley" - there were no women on the streets or coffee shops or the park, only men and boys.
This is the best picture I took all day on 9/28. I was taking a photo of the street and she just popped out from around the corner.
I arrive and the men in "Man Alley" insist that I take their photos, so I do just that. This was a request that multiple groups of men and boys asked of me "Take my picture!" they would holler at me. I did not get it at first, but then I thought, by taking their photo, a piece of them travels somewhere - I take them with me to wherever I am going and maybe that brings them some comfort or joy?
Once up in the apartment, Simon gives me a tour of their lovely home (that they both equally dislike for a multitude of reasons, I'm sure living in "Man Alley" has it's disadvantages for Ayla, a woman, and Simon, an Englishman) as Ayla goes to get the baby.
Simon's recording studio
Posters hanging on the wall (P.S. Ayla & Simon met at a Stereolab show, Ayla was a groupie, sort of like a cross between Penny Lane and the high school journalist kid working for Rolling Stone Magazine in the movie Almost Famous - well, not really, but I think that is how I will refer to her from now on)
The view from Ayla and Simon's Balcony
Still 9/28 I am super late to meet my cousin in Taksim Square and my Turkish phone has been blowing up! Like an idiot, I accidentally downloaded some stupid song as my ringtone - the kind of ringtone that callers hear when they call. I don't hear any of these calls, they mostly go straight to voicemail, which of course, is not set up.
I call my cousin back and we've missed our dinner reservations. I hop into a cab and head to Nisantasi to meet Cem, Aylin and Kayra (Aylin's daughter) at a back-up location for dinner. We have dinner and then head back to their apartment in Sisli for coffee. We sit around for a short while and then Cem drives me back to Beyoglu; something NO Istanbul resident ever wants to do unless they have to do it - drive through Beyoglu - an area established in the 1600s. We head through a labyrinth of narrow, one-way streets that serpentine and make no logical sense. We ask for directions from men sitting in front of tiny grocers and the answer is always the same "right, right, right, left." Or, "all right and then left". None of this makes sense so we just follow the line of cars and I assume we'll eventually all get there.... which we do.
9/29 that would be today. Efsun arrives in Istanbul from Ankara (she took it upon herself to join me on my trip) and I have a full day planned. I wake up at my usual late hour of 10a. I try to get some work done this morning but I end up chatting it up with the people in the hotel for about an hour. This was fine, because A) I really like them and B) I'm here to talk to people about Istanbul and learn what the locals do so I can write it up in the guide I am editing.
12:15p I depart the apartment to gather Efsun from Taksim Square -- and thank god I do because she would not have EVER found it on her own! She is terrible with direction and has trouble with many other things too -- again, another blog post is needed to describe the faults of Efsun (Corn Man as I call her).
Corn Man (aka Efsun) and I had a full day. We headed out to lunch at Peymane, just down the road from my apartment in Tomtom, had Cig Kofte and Pirzola (spicy beef tartare and lamb chops) for lunch.
After lunch we went to the Park Hyatt in Macka for a site visit, such a lovely property. The sales manager gave us a tour and described the rich history of the building.
Still 9/28 and I am still with Efsun aka Corn Man. After the Park Hyatt, we head to Nisantasi and have a drink at Biber, a nice bar/restaurant with an outdoor cafe. We then walked down to the Bosphorus road and walked for about 30 minutes along the Bosphorus until we found a taxi.
Off to dinner in Bebek at Chillai...still 9/28. Chillai is a hot and trendy restaurant in the very sexy neighborhood of Bebek. I ordered the sword steak and Efsun had some pasta dish she enjoyed.
Still 9/28.... On the way home, I insisted we stop for dessert. We had the taxi drop us off in Taksim Square and walked down Istiklal. We stopped at Saray Muhallebicisi so I could get some Tavuk Gogsu -- aka Milk Pudding with Chicken Breast, a dessert that comes from Ottoman Times and the best thing you will ever eat in your entire life.