Istanbul – Day 2 – Grand Bazaar and Kumkapi

2015_11_21_Grand Bazaar- entry Gate 1Wowza… yes, it’s some ridiculous time in the morning of Day 3 (Day 2 is way over, Day 3 has officially started)…

What a day.  I enjoyed breakfast at my hotel, went to the Grand Bazaar, then had dinner with a local.  Each of these experiences was like a lifetime in a good way… I am going to write an entry about what to pack/wear at some point (please don’t hold your breath), but this entry is just about my experience on Saturday Nov. 20th.

First, I went to the Grand Bazaar. It’s like an US Outlet Mall on super steroids. Halls and halls of the same thing – jewelry, bags, shoes, carpets, etc.. Don’t forget to look up, the ceiling in the Bazaar is incredible.  Before you go, practice saying “no” a thousand times. The shop owners are not shy, they really really really want to show you their goods. Often times the store front in the Grand Bazaar is very small and to see more items they will take you to a spot that has a lot more of what you are looking for. I went to the Bazaar looking for a few silver bowls. I walked out with a Channel purse.

Channel has never been my style, but when I saw this bag I fell in love.  The kind of love that makes the heart skip a beat, or stop beating all together… the kind of love I’ve not felt in a very long time.  Yes, I know, it is a thing (vs. a person or experience), but now it is in my possession.  I have a small, super special bag for all those formal events I never go to.  🙂

 

2015_11_21_musicians - google translateSecond, experiencing Istanbul with a local is very different from experiencing the city as a tourist.  Tonight I had dinner with a local at a place that isn’t touristy at all.  We went to Kumkapi – the locals call it the “fish market”.  It is an area with lots of restaurants, musicians, and singing and dancing.  My local, let’s call him Carpet Man, is very well-known in the community – people just love him.  He owns a carpet store (who doesn’t right?!?).  Here is a picture of the his friends, a few musicians, hanging out at our table. None of them had a sheet of music – they would pick a song and they would all start playing.. they looked at each other and felt the music.. Yes, the men here play instruments, sing, AND they DANCE. No, they are not gay. The are super manly men who cherish the important things in life –like friends, fun, and music.  I’m even more convinced that confidence is super sexy.  While I was there having a great time, it made me sad that music is no longer a part of the American education system.  It is not just about learning to play an instrument, it is also about sharing a passion with others, learning to listen and feel the music.. Never to late to learn right?!!?

So the way I’m getting around and communicating with locals is via pen and paper and Google Translate.  You can see in the picture above the gentleman is writing down the name of the instrument that he plays – It is called the Kanun. To see how it is played and hear some lively street music go here.  Simply amazing.

O.k… so that is it for my second day in Istanbul – first full day.  Hard to believe that I have only been in Istanbul for 24 hours.. I feel like I am at home.  And one more shout to the wonderful folks at Hotel Sari Konak.  I LOVE these people .. so helpful, so kind.. My room is awesome.  But it is the people who make this hotel so special.  They get great reviews – Trip Advisor Hotel Sari Konak… You cannot go wrong staying here.

Lesson for today:

1 – Go ‘Old School‘ and carry paper and pen.  It is the best way to communicate – the Turkish Language is complicated and doesn’t translate one for one into English.. I found that writing the words down helped when I couldn’t understand what was being said… and was very useful to spell the word correctly when using Google Translate.

 

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Istanbul – Day 1 – Arrived Safe And Sound.

2015-11-Turkey_Smokers Die YoungerI just arrived in Istanbul earlier today.  My plane landed at 4:30… I picked up a bottle of wine at duty free.  Above is a sign taped to wall that leads to the cigarette display. See how simple the message is when the Tobacco industry and government isn’t involved?  The only improvement would be a picture of a 50 year old smoker who looks 80.

I arrived at my hotel around 6:30pm. I took a quick nap then went out to eat.  I flew United because I wanted the points so that I could gain my Premier status back (and get points to purchase a ticket to Utah)..  I would never fly them otherwise – they truly do not care about the customer experience. Planes are old, seats are old, wireless doesn’t work, the flight attendants are rude (and must be union because they act so entitled).   I will do a blog on United Airlines experience.. and it won’t be good for them.  So many small things they could do to improve their service that would GREATLY improve the customer experience.  In simplest terms, they should just follow Virgin America’s lead. O.k. enough of that. On with the good stuff.

The city is so much quieter now than when I was here in September.   I’m staying in the heart of the Old City – at a very small hotel named Sari Konak. I found it on TripAdvisor… a great little boutique hotel, off the busy roads yet centrally located.  The room is nice sized (I’m in room 201), bathroom is nice, and the folks are super friendly and helpful.  I will not spend my entire trip here as I want to get out of the tourist hustle and bustle, but this is a GREAT little spot to stay while exploring the Old City.  The only bad thing I can say about the hotel right now is that the wireless is either spotty or very poor.  There aren’t many tourists around so I’m surprised that the wireless internet isn’t blazing fast.

2015-11-20-Dinner with cat

Above is a picture of me at dinner…  Here I am with wine and cat…  as Jon Kabat-Zinn would say, “Wherever You Go, There You Are“. Yes, I am half-way around the world but I’m doing what I love – enjoying great food, good wine, and the companionship of a furry friend.  This is why I LOVE Turkey – I feel so at home here.  It is safe, people are ‘old school’ in the sense that they care for one another and for other living creatures (vs. tech, money, what school you go to, etc).  Example – at dinner I was going to have my meal packaged up so I could feed the strays but there was no need to do this. The restaurant puts all leftovers out for the strays…  There are no homeless (that I have seen) and the strays are well taken care of – they are spayed/neutered and well fed by restaurant and shop keepers.  It is in their culture to take care of all beings.

My plan is to organize my days in Istanbul and go to the Grand Bazaar tomorrow and just browse… I hear you feel the history just by being there.  I am looking for a few items –  a couple of small silver bowls to store jewels and such…  and a nice necklace for my friend Jewels who is going through tremendous heartache right now.  I don’t have much money but I hear the Turkish merchants love to negotiate so there may be many winners tomorrow.  🙂

O.k. I’d better go to bed.. otherwise I may not get up and enjoy my free breakfast and a full day at the Grand Bazaar!

If you have been to Istanbul and have tips for me please share them!  I have 8 days and would love to see/do things that aren’t currently on my radar.