The Home Stretch - Turkish Thanksgiving Day 5 (Part 1)

November 25, 2012

We're dragging a bit more today. Part of it has to be because of the pace we've been keeping over the last few days. Part of it could be because we know it's the last day. The other part could be that I stayed up late watching Doctor Who. But we won't quibble about the why.

We needed to start moving or we would have slothed out all day long. When we're only in a city this far away from home for three whole days, we can't afford to sloth at all. So showers were had and breakfast was found.

Next to the tram station, we pass by a breakfast joint. Simit Sarayi. The simit is a circular bread covered in sesame seeds. Kind of like a bagel, but lighter. Simit Sarayi is one of the first Turkish fast food restaurants. The restaurant has locations spread around the world. The Internet calls it the Turkish McDonalds. I think it seems more like the Turkish Panera. It was nice. The counter ladies may not have liked us too much because we didn't know exactly the procedure (first time with a simit, thank you very much), but I didn't really care. The last bit of anything I'd had was more than 12 hours ago. I was hungry.

Adele was feeling a little lethargic this morning, so we had to check ourselves to make sure we were up for hitting the Spice Market first. We were, so we did. Apparently, going to the market early (ish...it was not that early) was good. The crowds were far less than the night before. That's cause they were all waiting in line at the Hagia Sophia (that line was immense as we trammed by it). There wasn't as much pushing and shoving as yesterday. Though we did meet up with the carpet dude from the day before. Adele and I tried to blend in with the crowd, but I heard "Chicago!! Chicago!!" I couldn't completely ignore him as he was following us as we walked through the street. So I turned and gave the best, "Hello!!" I could muster (I totally turned on the charm). I told him we were just starting out, but we would be by at the end of our time at the market. We wouldn't.

The Spice Market is when I did kind of get a beat down by an old Turkish woman. I'm not sure what she was saying, but she pounded on my arm as I walked by. I'm either catnip to Turkish women now too or I've just been cursed and my arm is going to fall off. I'm desperately hoping I'm catnip...

We found spices and scarves and other such nonsense and then we made our way out and towards the Suleymaniye Camii. This mosque is where many of our new Turkish (boy)friends told us to go. We got there right as one of the prayers were starting, so we had some time to kill before we could go inside. We can't go inside while prayers are happening, so we wandered the grounds. Which were very nice. There were many spires that came up from the sides of the building. These spires were blue and white and were connected by thick cords. It had a very "Cinderella Castle" feel to it. Especially since the cords could probably hold a "flying" Tinkerbell...

When it was time to go into the mosque, we removed our shoes, covered our heads and made our way inside. This mosque was similar enough to the Blue Mosque from the other day. But this one was very quiet. Maybe it was just less visited by tourists. It was just nice and calm. Sure, there was a guy vacuuming, but that was just white noise.

As we left the mosque, people came up and handed us a dish. Being the cynical women we are, we kept asking how much?? I looked over and they were handing this dish to everyone that came from inside the mosque. And another red headed woman (of not-Turkish origin) shook her head as a "go ahead" gesture. This was the same time Adele was getting the "free" comment from the guys handing out the food. Ok then, if a redhead tells me it's ok. We sat on the cold marble ledge, eating a mystery concoction from the mosque people. The verdict...excellent!! It was something rice pudding-ish. With cinnamon and many fruits and nuts (hazelnut, pomegranate, apple, maybe some figs). There were ladies and men ladling the food into many dishes and everyone walking out of the mosque either from prayer or from visiting we handed the food. It was really nice to see. Adele said some of the mosques in Chicago do the same thing. It was kind of like a Muslim Pot-Luck. And we were able to partake. Adele remarked that it was good we weren't allergic to any foods. Cause we'd be in trouble here...

That's the thing with this trip in general. We've let the experiences happen. I don't think we would have stopped to have a bite from a stranger in any other country. But here, it just feels right. While the restaurants and street vendors and shopkeepers hustle to bring you in ("Give me your money" yeah, that doesn't quite work, sir), the hospitality is something I had heard about, but quite honestly, didn't expect to receive. It has been very nice to witness. Very nice.

We found a place to eat lunch right outside of the mosque. The food was plentiful and we ate next to a film crew that we saw at the mosque. It felt like they were a travel show, but who are we to know??

The original plan was to go back to the apartment for a little nap before our evening excursion. We had been running at eleven for the last five days and our flight out tomorrow is insanely early. This was our chance to take it easy a bit. But we had a few unexpected stops up our sleeves...

We actually spent enough time in the touristy area of Istanbul that we knew where things were. As we came up to a tram spot, I double checked my surroundings and said we had to go to the Starbucks a few blocks away. I know Adele wasn't thrilled about the walk (she was struggling much more with the fatigue than I was), but I had to pick up a mug for Michelle. So she sucked it up and started walking. The good part about the walk was we were just another block away from the main stop, Sultanahmet. Adele said, "as long as we're here, lets see the obelisk." Whew. I didn't drag her around just for my own benefit. (Little did I know we would be passing another two Starbucks locations as we walked to the Kebob Crawl later in the afternoon.)

Adele loves all of the Egypt Stuff, so the fact that there is an Egyptian Obelisk in Istanbul, but that we didn't see it up close was surprising. We just missed it when we were in the area last time. I mentioned it a few times yesterday that we could go back there, but Adele said she was fine. Ok then. But since we were so close today...

The Obelisk is located in the Hippodrome. The Hippodrome was an actual stadium back in the day (203 AD), but has long since been gone. The arena area was repaved in 2011 and has the Obelisk, a Serpentine Column and the Column of Constantine just hanging around out there. It's a nice area to just walk or sit and stare at the history. The best part was when we were at the Obelisk, I had just seen a bird on top of the Obelisk and had taken its picture. Adele went on a little story about how she had seen an Obelisk in Egypt and how cool it is to see them elsewhere. My comment, "There's a bird on it." Yep, I'm either simple or just quoting Portlandia. It's really up to you to decide.

After some Obelisk-hunting, we did make it back to the apartment for a bit of a break. The break wasn't as long as we had expected (that's what happens when you detour for Starbucks and Obelisks), but it was enough to get off of our feet for a while. Our final stop on our Istanbul visit was a Kebob Crawl. And that's where I'm going to end this post. Why?? Cause the Crawl is enough to warrant its own post. With pictures. Lots of pictures. And I can't do the picture thing easily until I get home. So...there we go.

We fly out at 555a tomorrow morning. Which means we wake up...just so amazingly early. This is going to be interesting. Very interesting...

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