Friday, April 29, 2005

Karyn's Istanbul Trip - Day 4 and Last Day (April 27 & 28)

After breakfast, we met up with our new guide, Esim, and she took us to the Spice Bazaar. Unfortunately, she didn’t give us much time to look around there. The Spice Bazaar was really cool. You could smell the pungent odor of curry everywhere, and the spices were very colorful. But like the Grand Bazaar, pushy merchants were constantly all over you. I wanted to get some apple tea, but I figured it would be ridiculous to buy from there. Once again, it would be overpriced like in the Grand Bazaar. I was tempted to get some spices too, but I already have so many spices that I don’t have room for more. I also looked at getting some dried apricots, but I thought they wanted too much for them. I walked out of there with a cashmere pashmina. Several in our group had already bought them, and I liked them…they are pretty shawls/scarves. I haggled from 35 lira down to 22. I don’t think that was bad…I paid less than my friends did for theirs (I think it helps that I’m blond and they love blondes). As Ruth and I were leaving the bazaar, a guy popped out of the shop and begged to have his picture taken with me. So he wrapped my pashmina around my head in the Muslim style and posed with me. Then he tried to offer me a taste of the honey he was selling. I told him I was allergic to bees, so I couldn’t have honey.

After the Spice Bazaar, we walked to where we needed to meet up with our boat for the Bosphorus cruise. We spent 2 hours on the cruise, first going up the European side, and then going down the Asian side. Our guide pointed out things of interest along the way. When we turned to go down the Asian side, it suddenly got very chilly and windy (good thing I had my pashmina!), so most of us went on the lower deck, which was an enclosed cafeteria. We stopped for about 10-15 minutes, at a small island which houses what is called the Maiden’s Tower. We climbed up to get some views of Istanbul and then came down and hopped back on the boat to finish our cruise.

After the cruise, we had lunch, once again, at Paşazade. By now, we were all sick to death of eating there, but the food was pretty good and it was included, so what could we do? They served us vegetable soup (pureed veggies), a flaky pastry with vegetables, a giant meatball wrapped in eggplant with rice (I normally am not a fan of eggplant, but I thought this was pretty good), and a flan with chocolate sauce for dessert.

After lunch, we had free time. The plan originally was to listen to a concert by the world’s oldest army band, but none of us were really interested in that. Our guide arranged a pottery demonstration for those who wanted to go, but I decided not to, lest it be anything like the Turkish rug demonstration with vultures all over me, trying to sell me stuff. I didn’t sleep well the night before, despite my Turkish bath, so Ruth went off on her own to do some shopping and I watched a little television (you haven’t lived until you’ve seen Looney Tunes in Turkish) and then took a nap. I knew we were going to be out late that night, so I needed to refresh myself, though having my nap interrupted by the 5 pm call the prayer wasn’t very restful. During that stretch of 5 hours, I also wandered down to a shop a few doors down that I had noticed the day we arrived. I wanted to get some Mother’s Day gifts. So I found something I really liked and it was a reasonable price (I didn’t even have to haggle). I got two. And of course, the guy tried to sell me even more stuff and he was offering me good deals all over the place, but I told him I didn’t have the money and asked him for his business card. I promised to send some business his way, and then he seemed satisfied enough to let me take my leave (though he tried to entice me to stay with some apple tea).

When it was getting close to our date with Umut, I showered, put on makeup, and dressed up really nice. I don’t get the chance to dress up very often, so I put on my cute new skirt and my dressy sandals, and tied my pashmina around me like a shawl. Umut met up with us at the hotel at 7:30 with one of his friends (I guess he wanted to better his odds to 2 against 31) and we hopped on the bus and went to Sultana for dinner and the 1001 Nights show (Sultana, by the way, is the mother of the Sultan).

The place reminded me of a Las Vegas casino. It totally catered to westerners. In fact, I think Tuba, Umut, his friend, and Rabia were the only Turkish people in the audience. Dinner was fantastic though. They served meze, which is an appetizer plate with things such as stuffed peppers, a tiny portion of eggplant salad (again, good), some tzatziki for spreading on bread, some feta, a helping of coleslaw, a bean salad, and a few other things. That, honestly, could’ve filled me up. But then they served chicken kabobs with this absolutely gorgeous spicy rice (I think it had green curry in it…it was a tad hot) and salad. Dessert was a plate with tiny tastes of various desserts: there was flan, a chocolate pudding, and some other unidentifiable but reasonably tasty thing. And they served a plate of fruit with it: sliced apples, and two types of Turkish apricots. One kind was sweet with a consistency of a grape. Another was small and hard like an apple and sour tasting, but the waiter told me to eat it with salt and he sprinkled salt on it for me and popped it into my mouth. It was okay. I also tried some Turkish white wine, which wasn’t bad.

Anyway, the show came on during dinner. We were treated first to a belly dancer, then to Turkish folk dancers, then to another belly dancer, another Turkish folk dance, and then they had some cheesy skit that recounts how the Sultana would choose a concubine for her son’s harem. They picked some people from the audience to help act that out, and some people from our group were chosen (I was sitting far enough from the stage that they didn’t pick me). Then they had to choose the Sultan, so they started picking guys from the audience, and we were screaming for Umut to get up on stage. They only wanted to pick 4 men, and they had 4 picked out by the time Umut made it up there, but once they heard us screaming for Umut, they sent one of the guys back to his seat. HAHAHA. So the guys had to participate in a strong man contest, which is too difficult to explain, so I won’t. Anyway, Umut won. There would have been mutiny if he hadn’t. So he was crowned the Sultan and they put this silly robe and hat on him. It was absolutely hilarious. I laughed until my sides hurt. The actors took him backstage to teach him this really simple dance, and then he had to come out and do this dance, and then they seated him on this throne and the newly chosen concubine did a belly dance for him. He was thoroughly enjoying himself.

After that, we had some more dance acts, and then the final performance – Miss Vena – the finest belly dancer in all the land. She was really really good…far better than the other dancers we had seen. It was amazing what she could do with her body. We were all laughing at this guy sitting across the room from us who kept staring at her, hardly ever blinking, and practically drooling all over himself. His wife was oblivious to it. It was hysterical.

After that, some cheesy Turkish lounge singer came out and started singing badly rendered tunes that represented each of the nationalities in the audience. He sang “New York New York” for the US and “Waltzing Matilda” for the Australians (there were a lot of Australians in town for the Gallipoli ceremony…I know nothing about it) and countless other things. There was polka, there was French music, there was Spanish and Italian. He sang the Beatles. It was really quite awful, but amusing. He couldn’t come up with a song for Canada though, or a song for the Norwegian girl in our group. He decided to give a belly dance lesson and chose some women in the audience for that. So again, several people from our group went up there. After that whole stupid spectacle, the dance floor was opened up, and we all went out there to boogie the night away. The belly dancers from the show came out (dressed in their regular clothes) and danced with us.

One of our group thought it would be hilarious to dress Umut up in the Sultan’s costume again, and then have all of us pose for a picture with him. So we did that. He sat on the throne and we all sat around him – Sultan Umut and his harem (that’s what we kept calling our group for the entire trip anyway). So several of us got pictures of that…Umut wants copies and left his email address with a couple of people, and also hinted that he might like pictures from the Turkish bath (HAHAHA…like you could even have anything on your person in there, especially a camera).

Anyway, it was so much fun. But we didn’t leave the club until about 1:30.

Umut came for us at 9:30. We were all bleary-eyed and dragging from the night before, but some of us had breakfasted and were ready to go. So we checked out of our hotel, hopped on the bus, and he took us to one last place before going to the airport. We went to another high point in Istanbul in an area that is largely populated by very devout Muslims (he said fundamentalist, but I really don’t think so…I doubt there would be so many western tourists there if there were). We had a pretty view of Istanbul from there, particularly the Golden Horn, and there was a café for anyone that wanted tea or Turkish coffee. We also had view of a school, where we listened to them having marching band practice. And we had a view of the largest Muslim cemetery in Istanbul. Muslim cemeteries are really pretty. I should’ve photographed it.
After a half hour or so stay there, we hopped on the bus to go to the airport. Umut gave his goodbye speech to us, and he said that we were the most fun group he ever had. I actually believe he was sincere about this. And he said that the night before had been one of the best nights of his life. We had collected a tip for him in secret, so we presented him with the tip and told him to use it to buy a plane ticket to Germany, and then we could all fight over who gets to have him stay. He honestly made this trip for us. If you have a bad guide, it can ruin everything, but he was a lot of fun and very open-minded (he says he’s a practicing Muslim, but not very devout) and took all of our teasing in great stride. He was also witty with the comebacks. Anyway, he invited us back to Istanbul to come and see him again, and he told us to be sure to bring a single friend next time…HAHAHA. And he said he wanted to shake our hands at the airport to say goodbye to each of us individually, but he would accept kisses too. So most of us kissed him on the cheek and hugged him and his face was covered with lipstick. I think we were all a little sad. Tuba (our Turkish escort that came with us from Germany) called him when we arrived in Düsseldorf to let him know that we made it back safely, and he told her to tell us all hi. I think he’ll remember us for the rest of his life.

So now I’m back in rainy, dreary Germany. My allergies are back. I was spoiled in Istanbul by the gorgeous weather. I’ll never forget this trip for as long as I live.

Pictures here

Karyn's Istanbul Trip - Day 3 (April 26)

After breakfast, we hopped on a really swanky bus and were driven to the Asian side of Istanbul. Our first stop was an Egyptian ambassador’s mansion, which is now a fancy restaurant where a lot of weddings are held. I’m not sure what the point was in going there. There were some lovely views from there, but the upstairs of the mansion was closed and we were only given access to the downstairs, which consisted of some really fancy dining rooms, but nothing particularly special. Again, there were a lot of feral cats on the premises, and I was disturbed to see one adult cat suckling another. Only in Turkey, I guess.

After our visit there, we went to the highest point in Istanbul, which had a nice café where you could sit and order something to drink and take in the view. Ruth and I found it crowded, and we saw a little ice cream stand by the parking lot when we got off the bus, so we walked downhill a piece to get some ice cream. I decided that I also needed a Cola Light, so we went to another little snack stand nearby and I ordered one. He brought out a Pepsi Light, and I explained that I did not like Pepsi, only Coca-Cola, so he actually ran to another snack stand down the way and brought me a Coke! And then he begged me to stay for ice cream, but I told him that I already had some. But he kept ringing his bell and yelling, “ice cream for the pretty lady!” It was funny.

After spending several minutes there, we drove to Beylerbeyi Palace, an Italian and French inspired baroque palace that was once the summer palace of the sultans. It is right on the Bosphorus, where the cool breezes come in. Umut informed us that it would cost 6 lira to bring in our cameras, and that we wouldn’t be allowed to use flash. I debated, but I’m glad I ultimately decided to pay the fee. And I took a ton of pictures (which you will notice, if you look at my photo albums). I was one of the few who paid, so Kate gave me a lira toward the cost as long as I send her the pictures. They came out pretty well. The palace was so beautiful. I have never seen anything like it. We even had to wear blue booties over our shoes to protect the very expensive Turkish carpets that are all over the floor.

Around 2 or so, we headed to some seafood place for lunch. We all figured it would actually be on the waterfront, but it was high in the hills, where if you squinted hard enough, you could see water. It was a lovely restaurant though, and we ate outside. First they served us a Turkish delicacy – warm pickled green beans. They were so incredibly good. Then they served us dolmas – cabbage leaves stuffed with ground lamb meat. We had a lovely salad, and then they brought out our sea bass – scales, fins, and face still intact. I’m a bit grossed out by that, but I tried to look past it and the fish was delicious. Some other not so brave souls had a choice of chicken or meatballs. For dessert – BAKLAVA! One of my most favorite things on earth. I was in absolute heaven. It was an amazing lunch. I was so happy.

One thing I thought was interesting as we were driving around was the extreme opulence and extreme poverty, all located in short distances of one another. We saw houses that were barely standing and really huge fancy mansions, all on the same street. We saw mosques that were crumbling, and huge ones adorned with gold.

After lunch, we went back to the European side and visited the Haghia Sophia. It’s a former mosque that is now a museum and a tribute to Christ, and it has mosaics of Jesus and the Virgin Mary in addition to things you would find in a typical mosque. Such an interesting juxtaposition of Christianity and Islam. It was really beautiful, although a good portion of it is being redone on the inside, so there was scaffolding everywhere.

After Haghia Sophia, Umut took us to a leather showroom, where we were treated to a fashion show. We even made Umut get on the catwalk and model. He looked like a natural up there and he enjoyed our catcalls and whistles. The other male model was embarrassed though because we cheered and whistled every time he came out on stage. He was bright red. It was hilarious. I figured the salespeople would descend on us like vultures again, but they didn’t. They served us some apple tea and let us look around at our leisure, without any pressure to buy. Of course, I wasn’t in the market for anything leather, so I just walked back to our bus and waited for everyone else to join us.

After we were all back on the bus, Umut dropped us off at our hotel and announced that he would not be with us the next day, much to our consternation. Although he said he would be with us at night for the dinner and show at Sultana. He did say, however, that he could be bribed to be with us for a few kisses (he had tickets to a soccer game). But nobody took him up on that. And he made jokes about wanting to join us for the Turkish bath, which we were doing that night with Rabia, our guide from day one.

We were on our own for dinner, but most of us were still stuffed from lunch. I just went to the hotel bar and ordered a salad, which was way too expensive and not very good. Others grabbed a döner kebap from next door (shaved chicken meat in a flatbread) for a mere two lira. I wish I had done that instead, but I was not really even hungry. I just knew that if I didn’t eat something, I would be famished after our Turkish bath.

At 7:30, Rabia met up with us at the hotel lobby. Some people opted out of the Turkish bath, but most of us decided to go. We took the tram up to the bath. It was a weird experience, I must say. Without getting into too much intimate detail, you go into this room that is very hot and humid and lay down on this heated marble stone until you start to sweat (by the way, you are not alone in the room…several other women are in there with you, some laying on the stone waiting to be bathed, and some being bathed). Then you are doused with water, and you are scrubbed with a loofah mitt – HARD - in front, then you turn over and are scrubbed from the back. Then you sit up and have your arms scrubbed. Yes, there is a strange old woman (or if you’re male, a man) who is naked and scrubbing you within an inch of your life. Anyway, after the loofah, you lay on your back again and are doused with water again. Then you are covered with suds and massaged. Then you flip over onto your stomach and are massaged in back – she worked out the kinks in my shoulders and the foot rub felt really good. Then she slaps you between the shoulder blades several times – REALLY HARD – and then she whacks you on the butt, which indicates that you need to sit up so she can suds your arms. Then she rinses you off, and if you want a shampoo, you go into a separate room with her and she shampoos your hair and washes your face. Then you’re done and you do whatever you like…I wrapped myself up in a dry towel and sat in an armchair for awhile. Most people go back into the bathing room and lay down on the marble slab again.

I don’t think I’ll do the Turkish bath again (if an opportunity would ever present itself). There were a few other people that felt the same way, but most of our group loved it. I felt more relaxed afterwards though. And maybe a little less self-conscious.

While we were waiting for everyone else to finish, I sat with a couple of other people at a café a few doors down and enjoyed some fresh squeezed orange juice while the lights came up in Istanbul. Then the call to prayer came on, and we were between 3 mosques, so we could hear it echoing all around us, which didn’t exactly leave me with a peaceful feeling.

After everyone was done and Rabia was getting her bath, we decided that we wanted to walk back to the hotel. It was a beautiful night and it wasn’t that long of a walk. So we left a message with her that we were getting ourselves back to the hotel and we split off into small groups and started meandering. We were startled by the sight of the Blue Mosque lit up at night. It truly is a breathtaking thing. There were a lot of people out – merchants and tourists – and we stopped to browse in interesting shops or watch people making their handicrafts. Some of the men were calling to us, because our hair was still wet, “Ooooh…just came from the baths…nice, clean, pretty ladies!” There was a man on the street making copper etchings…we watched him do it for awhile. I decided to buy a hair barrette from him. His work was beautiful and he wasn’t pushy like everyone else. We had a very enjoyable stroll. And then it was back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep…or something.

Pictures here

Karyn's Istanbul Trip - Days 1 & 2 (April 24-25, 2005)

Istanbul - the most multinational city, the quintessential crossroads of east and west, violent, poetic, melancholy, raucous, fleshy, austere, rapacious, sublime - this seems to me the most fascinating city on earth. - Frances Mayes, from A Year in the World
(Dear Ms. Mayes, I could not agree more).


Well, our trip got off to a strange start. We deplaned and got on a bus to go to the International Arrivals terminal. Some guy got on the bus right before the doors closed and started screaming at the top of his lungs in Turkish. In turn, other people started yelling at him. We were afraid of things getting violent, but fortunately, it seemed the man was just drunk and did us no harm. After we went through passport control and picked up our luggage, one of the men on the bus with us came up to our group and apologized for the drunk man’s behavior. He said that he hoped it didn’t give us a bad impression of Turkey, and the he hopes we enjoy our holiday. He was very nice.

After we found our tour guide, we got on a very nice bus and were taken to our hotel. Dusk was just setting in, and the views of Istanbul were breathtaking. I wish I could’ve gotten pictures, but the sun was setting and they wouldn’t have come out well through the bus windows. Our drive, which lasted about half an hour, took us along the Bosphorus waterfront, past the ancient Roman city wall, Haghia Sophia, and the Blue Mosque. We were completely awestricken – audible gasps and “Oh my God” were heard all around the bus.

We got to our hotel, which was located on a very busy street right along a tram route. We gathered in the bar and were given a welcome drink – only fruit juice, but it was very good and refreshing after our travels. Our tour guide briefly went over our itinerary with us and then we were assigned to our rooms. My room, which I shared with Ruth, was on the 7th floor (actually considered to be the 6th floor, as the 1st floor starts one floor above the lobby) and it was at the back of the hotel, thankfully away from the street noises. However, we could hear the boat horns on the Bosphorus, as our room (if you stood on tiptoes and could see above the cement wall right outside our window) had a view of the water. Our room was very cramped and the two twin beds were pushed together, so we basically shared a king sized bed. Otherwise, it was decorated nicely and served us well over our 4 nights there, except for the beds being hard and the pillows practically non-existent.

Dinner was not covered in the expenses the first night, so a small group of us got together and decided to go in search of eats. The hotel recommended this restaurant a block away call Paşazade, which, if we had known we’d be eating 3 more meals there over the course of the next few days, we would’ve avoided. But the food was good and the ambience was nice. There was a woman there playing some kind of string instrument and singing. I ordered the Turkish cheese plate, which was very good. It came with dried apricots and pecans. It was for two people though, so I shared it with Tina, who just ordered some soup. None of us were very hungry, so we stuck with light meals.

Afterwards, we walked up and down that street and peeked at some of the souvenir shops. I was amazed that the places are open so late. In Germany, most places are closed by 8 pm, usually sooner, but here, souvenir shops are open until about midnight or so. I noticed a lot of feral cats running around…over the course of our trip, I will have seen more stray cats and dogs than I’ve ever seen in any one place in my life. It’s really sad. Most of them seem to get food though…they don’t look starved, just mangy and dirty and scabby.

We had a wake-up call at 7 and showered before going down to the Ottoman Restaurant in the hotel for the complimentary breakfast. The breakfast was unlike anything I’ve ever seen: dried fruits, plain yogurt with condiments (honey and cherry sauce), Turkish cheese, meats, orange and peach juices, Turkish delight (a candy), halva (a dessert that they served for breakfast for some odd reason), eggs, cereals, assorted olives, tomato, cucumber, assorted breads, coffee and tea. Some of that stuff may seem really weird for breakfast, but it was actually really fantastic. I’m starting to really like dried apricots. They’re delicious here.

After breakfast, we met up with our tour guide, Umut, who was a different tour guide than the one we had the night before. That’s okay though. Umut (actually a feminine name that means “hope”) is a 25 year old single Turkish guy who was completely undaunted by taking on 31 women. We were his first group of all women, so he looked forward to it. We found him to be absolutely hilarious and insanely cute, with an infectious laugh and a million watt smile.

The first place he took us was the Sultanahmet (Blue) Mosque, one of the most famous mosques in the entire world. It’s known for having 6 minarets, more than any other mosque. The purpose of the minaret, by the way, was for the Muslim clerics to climb up them in the ancient times to call people to prayer. Now they have loudspeakers and don’t need to climb the minarets anymore, but the minarets are great for leading people to the mosques. They are very tall and can be seen for miles.

Anyway, we went to the courtyard of the mosque first, where Umut explained some Muslim customs to us. There were people trying to sell things in the courtyard, and they were all over us the minute we walked in, trying to sell us pashminas (scarves) or other assorted things. This would be just the beginning…people approached us everywhere we went, trying to sell us a variety of junk. It got to be pretty irritating. But soon, Umut led us inside the mosque. We had to take off our shoes first and he said that we should cover our heads if we wanted to, as a mark of respect (most of us did). We sat inside and Umut explained how Muslims pray and he pointed out the areas of the mosque where the women go to pray. And he explained why men and women have to pray separately.

The mosque was absolutely beautiful. The inside was covered with vibrantly painted tiles in a variety of patterns. We saw this type of decoration everywhere in Istanbul. I am now in love with Turkish tile. It’s a beautiful art form.

After the mosque, we walked a short distance to Topkapi Palace, home of former sultans and their harems. On the way there, a man in a fancy costume with a big teapot strapped to his shoulder blocked our way and insisted on pouring us tea. His costume was so fantastic and his way of pouring the tea so interesting, that many of us stopped to take his picture and accept the offered tea. It was cold apple tea, very delicious. And then, of course, he asked us for money. I gave him one euro (I hadn’t had a chance to get lira at that point, but they accept euros and American money), which was satisfactory for him. Others didn’t have euro coins and gave him 10 euro bills, to which he gave back liras, and they only found out later that they were ripped off (some of them paid as much as 6 lira – about $4 or so – for a small cup of tea).

Before we got to the palace, we were also distracted by the sight of a young man balancing a big slab of “Turkish pretzels” on his head, so we had to stop and take pictures of that too.

Anyway, we finally got to the palace, and Umut had to get into a long line to buy our tickets, so we waited in a nice little park out in the sunshine and enjoyed the weather. We finally got into the palace, but no pictures were allowed to be taken inside. So I got a few on the palace grounds. The palace is so massive that we couldn’t see it all. So I chose to see the mosque (with reliquaries of Muhammed, such as his foot print and some of the hairs from his beard), and I took a look at the sultans’ jewels and costumes – some of them hundreds of years old.

It was while we were there that I heard the call to prayer for the first time, and it completely freaked me out. At 5:30 am, 1 pm, 5 pm, 8 pm, and 10 pm, the cleric at each mosque gets on the loudspeaker and starts this long, mournful wail in Arabic (I think) that lasts for several minutes. And since there are 2,853 mosques in Istanbul, you hear this EVERYWHERE. It was completely creepy and unnerving, and now that I’m back in Germany, I don’t miss hearing it one bit. It sounded like someone being slowly tortured. Some people in my group found it haunting and beautiful though.

After our visit to the palace, we returned to Paşazade for lunch (the restaurant is owned by the hotel where we stayed, so it’s no wonder we ate there so much). We all had the same menu: some kind of soup, a flaky pastry with cheese, a chicken stew with rice and French fries, and halva for dessert. I thought it was very good, but nothing about it (except the pastry and halva) struck me as being particularly Turkish.

After lunch, we walked up this giant hill (Istanbul is very hilly) to a Turkish rug showroom, where we were given a demonstration on how Turkish rugs are made, the varieties of rugs, and the meanings behind some of the designs. The rugs were beautiful, especially the silk ones, and we were allowed to feel them and walk all over them. The showroom people also treated us to some more delicious apple tea (hot this time). The silk rugs are really cool because you can throw them up in the air and spin them around, and they instantly change color – from light blue to dark blue, from yellow to cream, etc. It was fascinating. Anyway, after the demonstration, the salespeople descended on us like vultures, trying to sell us the rugs. After I managed to get one of the salesmen to leave me alone (he was trying desperately hard to get a sale), I snuck out of there as quickly as I could. Umut pointed out where we could get lira, and he pointed us to the Grand Bazaar just down the street, and told us to meet him back at the hotel at 8:30.

The Grand Bazaar was both cool and very frightening for me. It’s contained inside an old mosque and there are over 4,000 shops, most of which sell similar items. The merchants stand outside their shops and try to tempt you to come in. Many of them do this by flirting, “Hey lady, you are so beautiful. Come and see what I have.” One of the shopkeepers actually proposed marriage! I told him I was already married, and he said he didn’t care. I learned that I have to pretend not to hear them when they’re speaking to me. I couldn’t point at anything in the shops that I thought was pretty, nor could I linger long enough to look at something, or the merchant would be all over me. I couldn’t make eye contact with them either (they think western women are easy and if you look them in the eye, they think it’s an invitation for sex). I wanted to get a peasant blouse and I saw several that I liked, but I was turned off by the salesmen because they kept trying to touch me and provoke me to look at them. They were just too pushy and it made me uncomfortable. Ultimately, I walked out of there with a wedding gift for Marcus and Emily, but even though I haggled over the price, I still think I probably paid too much. And I got a cute woven sunglasses case that looks like a Turkish rug…at least that was cheap. I learned too late that the best prices are outside of the Grand Bazaar. But at least I got better at haggling as I did more shopping.

We met up with Umut at 8:30 to go once again to Paşazade for dinner. He informed us that there was some misunderstanding and that only the last night’s dinner was covered in our expenses (in addition to all the breakfasts and lunches). So some of us were pretty angry about that, myself included. It was not Umut’s fault though, as he didn’t organize our trip. He was just the tour guide, doing what he was told. Some people decided to eat elsewhere, but those who stayed were evidently treated to music and belly dancing. Even the restaurant patrons got up and belly danced. I was actually worn out and feeling a little nauseous when we got to the restaurant, so I left and went back to the hotel for the rest of the night, to rest a little and to read. I think I just had sensory overload.

Pictures here