Glad I came when there was snow on the ground. As part of my prep I watched some Turkish cinema, especially the work of Nuri Bilge Ceylan. One of his, Uzak, is shot in Istanbul in the snow. I basically walked through the landscape and set of that film this afternoon. Ceylan is a great photographer — my favorite of his stills is this street scene:
The Gideon’s did not place a Bible in my desk, but someone did affix a compass rose with the heading towards Mecca.
Just when I discovered the compass rose the muezzins in the neighborhood began their prayer calls. Amazing sound, beautiful to behold.
Dinner — walked down the street, found a little cafe and sat down with the Kindle. I caught a chill so a bowl of yellow lentil soup felt in order, followed by a grilled halloumi cheese and mesclun salad, and a brace of spicy Adana kebabs — meat on a stick, with rice, roasted pepper and tomato, and bread. Perfect. Now for a Restoril chaser and nine hours of sleep to make up for the insomniac-over-the-Atlantic move.
It sank in that I am in Byzantium today when I sat on a wooden stool under an fish sandwich vendor’s tent at the foot of the Galata Bridge, my back to the Golden Horn, and looked up at the Blue Mosque, obscured by the flurries and hundreds of wheeling seagulls but wearing a little white cap of snow. I took a bite of the sandwich — spit out the head, and keep on going through the bread, onions, fennel, argula and oily white fish – and wiped my greasy chin with my fingerless gloves. I earned it, having walked five miles from my hotel to the east.
There is an inch or more of snow on the ground and the sidewalks are a bit slushy, but I was determined to walk along the Bosporous, take some pictures and find some street food. The driver was kind and took me into the city from the airport along the straits, pointing out the Theodosian Wall, the dome of Justinian’s Hagia Sofia, and then across the Golden Horn over the Galata Bridge and on to my hotel. I simply retraced the route on foot, walking down to the ferry building and then along the sidewalks taking pictures and having a grand time by myself.
The scene at the bridge was awesome. Ferries were constantly arriving and departing. A crowd of fishermen worked the railing with long poles that would have been at home on the shore of the Cape Cod Canal.
Minarets were everywhere. Look down one alley and there’s an old church. Look down another and it’s an old levantine motor skiff. The age of stuff is humbling. I haven’t had the privilege of visiting many cities that are nearly two millenia old and were home to the longest continuous empire in history.
The sandwich was awesome. These little lit up boats were tied to the quay and rocking in the ferry wakes so badly that as I walked up to them I was more interested in what kind of fenders they used to keep the hull from grinding into toothpicks. Then I saw about fifty people squatting on stools wolfing down fish on bread.
I had to get some of that.
Four Turkish lira = $3. I bought mine from the middle boat below. They cook it on the boat, you eat it on the dock.
I’m here through Sunday — so six more days. Today’s stroll and photo expedition was just a warm up.