Day 3: Instanbul to Ankara

I am writing this after two swigs of the Turkish Uzo that they call Raki and I am also onboard an overnight train to Ankara the capital city of Turkey. Raki is a licorice-flavored liquor that has begun to affect my ability to see clearly. If this is anything like its Greek counterpart, I suspect that I have about thirty minutes of lucidity and a long sleep in my future. My memory of Uzo is based on an experience about five years ago when an evening of Uzo “turns good friends into girl friends.??? Man this stuff is potent.

From memory today was about eight miles of walking and it was stuffed to the hilt with passionate experiences. In no specific order I went to the Ottoman Topkapi Palace, Egyptian Spice Market, a boat ride on the Bosphorus straits and a train ride to Ankara.

The Topkapi Palace tour was nice. Yes you heard me ‘nice’. It was not spectacular nor amazing, it sort of felt like touring the Imperial Palace in Beijing but only not as nice. No, I don’t consider myself jaded, but really how many empty rooms can you look at and try to imagine what life would have been like. There was however one exception to my under whelming enthusiasm trek through the palace, this was the tour of the Haram and the sleeping quarters of the over two hundred concubines that made up the permitted temptation of the Sultan.

He had four official wives and a few hundred other women to keep his attention. Crazy, I could not even keep one wife happy, how did he manage with four and all those mistresses? And this is before the little blue pill. I really don’t have much to say about the experience other than it is worth it; maybe it was just the heat.

Speaking of heat, I was watching CNN International and it seems that Istanbul was 41.5 degrees Centigrade today, which made it the hottest day on record for the past thirty years. Damn you Global Warming!

Skip forward a few hours and I had lunch in the new district of Istanbul that is over the river. The new district is a lively pedestrian only area that reminds me of a much newer and much longer oh so European area in Florence or Rome. I walked the Taksim Square and found lunch at the top for the street by the statue of Ataturk. I had stuffed eggplant and minced meat and for a paltry seven lira it was a pleasure to spend the money on good quality food. I wasn’t really prepped for this side trip so I have no idea what I may have missed, but I will tell you that what I saw was a real blend of cultures.

I had not really seen the two cultural dichotomies of Turkey in such proximity to each other before. Yes, I have seen woman in full head and body covering but I had never seen them walking along side Turkish woman in sleeveless outfits or by girls with flaming red hair. There did not seem to be any tension nor any judgment, they were just looking at the same stores and interacting as if these two extremes did not make a world of difference. Incidentally they were at a lingerie store that was more like Fredrick’s of Hollywood than a Victoria Secret. I guess this can be my little secret.

Dinner was fish in the Fish Market district, I chose to have it grilled and just asked for the special. It was served head on, skin on and presented in the most simple and elegant way. I also had the calamari which rates with one of the best I have ever had. It was almost as good as the unforgettable squid steak in Greece a few years ago with my brother.

I know that I should write more, but the train is moving and the rocking and the Raki is making me sleepy. Its time to call it a night.

UPDATE, I was going to the bathroom and to my surprise what do I discover? A Turkish toilet. For those of you who have ever been to Italy or France you know what I am talking about…you try and keep yourself steady over a hole in the floor that is open to the train tracks below. Oh well, I survived. As always.