Journal 12 -- May 26, 2006
Marvelous long walk and bits and pieces

By Bob Corbett

We are taking a restful day today, Sally came down with a very sensitive stomach this morning so she rested while I took a long walk, down a back way to the harbor and really enjoyed that three mile trip -- two miles to get there along a fascinating seawall and only one mile home via our normal route.

Then when I got back Sally was feeling a bit better and wanting out a bit so we walked just the three blocks up to Hagia Sophia and in what we call the water garden we found a shady bench. We sat there for an hour and half enjoying fascinating people watching, glorious breeze and lovely day.

It is 77 today with significant breezes. First time I've known the degree of temperature since we left home. I finally purchased a International Herald Tribune today and am catching up on what's going on in the rest of the world, weather included.

After we leave here it will be close to 3 PM so we will go up to our favorite restaurant. We want a nice breezy outside place to sit, so we've decided to order one dish at a time, sharing, then another and so on until we are full, then head home for a balcony evening with this one awesome wine we purchased yesterday, this will be our second time to this special treat.

Yesterday was another great highlight day. We got out the guide book to see about the 6 walks our author had for us to do in Istanbul and we just roared with laughter when we discovered we had already done 5 of them. So, we set off on the 6th, far off across the bridge in another section of Istanbul.

The book said it was a long street (turned out to be a 3 mile walk from the bus station to the famous Galata Bridge -- that included several forays into side streets) which was once a very exclusive area of Istanbul of palaces and such and fell on bad times and became a slum. Then it was resurrected a number of years ago and is now filled with lovely shopping places and outdoor cafes galore. We just had a ball and first stopped in a little side alley where Sally had ice cream with fruit and Turkish tea and I had a Turkish beer.

We just took a couple hours walking, gaping, investigating and finally arrived at the famous Galata Tower. We took the elevator the to top and walked this circle lookout tower for a truly breath-taking view of the whole of Istanbul, 360 degrees!!!

Next we walked to the under deck of the Galata Bridge which is just one fish restaurant after the next, but the left side (as we were walking toward our own neighborhood) were all fashionable places with whole fish and tuxedoed waiters. We ducked over to the other side and there were sandwich places. For just 5 lira each we had a very tasty fish sandwich and a glass of beer. Sally was full, but I repeated the process and so for under 20 lira with tip we had a nice meal.

We had walked almost 6 miles and yesterday was the hottest day we've had so we were bushed and it was about 4 PM or later, so we went home and did our balcony evening, carrying in a chicken sandwich for later on. We sat on the balcony very late (even after dark!!!! -- night owls) and just felt it was one of our most fun days.

A few random notes on things I've noted about town.

  1. More public toilets than any city I've ever been in my whole life. In the U.S. one can often duck into a fast food place and use the restroom, and many parks have them, but there aren't many otherwise. In Europe and Central America there are few. But here -- everywhere you go are public restrooms.
  2. Street urchins by our hotel. Our balcony overlooks a street with some very poor folks. The entire city lives an outdoor existence, but there on that dusty street it is in spades. Yet the run-down buildings do have small balconies. The kids all play in the street and the parents sit on the balcony, and it really reminds me of the Dogtown I grew up in during the 1940s and 50s, except these folks are a bit poorer than we were. But the kids just have a ball and they go from morning until night with enormous energy. We watch them at their games from our balcony and have so many laughs at and with them.

    The little girls play a game that at first looked like jump rope, but they have no rope. Rather it is a high jump game with two girls kneeling and holding wrists and then another girl has to jump over their outstretched arms. They do this by the hour, exchanging the role of who hold hands to make the bar. We can discern no rules, but they love it.

    The boys play soccer with one old beaten up deflated soccer and another decent ball. And tag, and hide and go seek and other games we don't know. So fun.
  3. Shoe shine men all over town.
  4. GENTLEMEN are alive and well all over Istanbul. The busses and trams and metro are crowded, lots of people. Every single time we get on a crowded one, which is often, immediately a young man jumps up to give Sally a seat. And with all the other no so very young women as well. The first time it happened Sally just sort of stood there and later told me she understood, but was looking around for who the older woman was the man was giving his seat to!!! Sly woman, this Sally.
  5. Fishermen on the Galata Bridge. After our meal we walked back to the far end of the bridge and then walked the main top deck to our side of the Sea of Marmara. This is a famous walk across that bridge and we wanted to do it right. I was unprepared for the fishermen. I counted at least 100 and probably quite a few more. Now, this bridge is at least 50 foot above the water, but they line the bridge with large ocean-level fishing gear and fish right off the bridge. Many are doing this commercially and they have their buckets on display with dozens of fish in them and people come along and buy them right out of the bucket. A really neat scene. I'd be down there often buying fish to grill in my back yard!
  6. Istanbul is a city of countless mosques. Several times a day they begin to call prayer. They do this from the tower of the mosque and since we are surrounded by them, and they use something equivalent to a very powerful megaphone, they are competing like crazy. The city is alive with the sounds of the prayer-calling cantors and they often go on for 10-15 minutes. I simply LOVE it and it so reminds me of the church bells at St. James Church when I was a kid. We didn't have air-conditioning so the windows were open much of the year and we always heard the bells, especially at 6 AM, noon and 6 PM. The mosque cantors bring back found memories of my own childhood.
  7. The OFFICIAL population, by the way is 9 million. But, this is not even close. The difficulty is, we have been told, that like in the New Testament, people here have to return to their ancestral homes to register for the census, and thus at census time Istanbul is a ghost town of only 9 million. But, the REAL estimate, but always unofficial, is about 20 million folks.

    It looks and feels like it.

Folks, I just can't rave enough about this marvelous city. We've only been here five nights and into our 6th day. I could easily see us wanting to come back and spend an entire MONTH just in this one city, even mainly in this one district of this massive city.

Off to feast, we will order one dish at a time until we can't go on. We'll begin with just tea, then we think we'll do chicken wings next, oh me they are phenomenal, then some meat dish with rice and salad -- splitting as we go. Me drinking beer, but today Sally plans either water, mineral water or something lighter.

I'm really ready for it all!!!!

Bob Corbett



Bob Corbett