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apple tea and carpets

the Orient Express station

Ottoman architecture

Springtime crowds

ISTANBUL .........After dumping my things at the hotel, in the shadow of the Blue Mosque and Aya Sofya, I headed out into the light rain to explore a bit of Istanbul. However, I knew my destination.I was headed to the Grand Bazaar. I knew what I wanted - four pillow cases. And I knew what I didn't want - a Turkish rug. That didn't stop me from getting pulled into several rug shops I didn't want to go into. I didn't find the pillowcases I wanted, but three hours after my arrival, I found a carpet.

I wanted to eat authentic Turkish meals while in Istanbul. One restaurant barker convinced me to try a yogurt kebab at his restaurant. It was a good recommendation. But, my waiter was an unexpected surprise. He wanted to practice his English, and since it wasn't a busy evening, we had time to talk. He recommended some places he liked to see in Istanbul. Of course, I had no idea where they were. Then, I asked about Turkish baths. They're famous all over the world but to Turks really go to them? He said some yes, some no, him never. But, if I wanted to go to one, he'd take me. That was a Turkish experience I decided I didn't want to miss.

We went a couple days later. I wouldn't have gone to a Turkish bath alone because I had no idea what to do. I'm not sure this guy was any more of an expert than me. He'd never been to one before - but at least he knew the language and could get directions. Nobody seemed to speak English. But, with my personal guide, all was in order. And, it was a great old building built in 1584. How can anything be that old? Everything centered on a room with an elevated marble slab floor and a beautiful domed ceiling. The marble floor was heated and you were to lie down on it and sweat. I asked how hot it was and was told it was as hot as hell. Good answer. Around the slab were sinks for getting bath water. If you wanted scrubbed and massaged by a professional that also took place on the slab. I knew better than to have that done after going to a Moroccan hamam.

There were a lot of things to squeeze into a week in Istanbul. I kept busy every day. That included trips through the Blue Mosque, carpet shops, Bosphorus boat trips, carpet shops, Aya Sofya, carpet shops, Topkapi Palace, carpet shops, whirling dervishes, carpet shops, the Spice Market, and the underground Basilica Cisterns dating back to 532 AD. Not all of the carpet shops were my choice. It's hard to say no, at least, the merchants don't easily accept it. But, I was really glad I wnt to see the cisterns. What ambience! Carefully placed flood lights, classical music, and dripping water.

My first trip to Istanbul was in December. It's always beautiful but it was cold. The next trip was at Easter. Again beautiful, especially with tulips in bloom, but it was the beginning of tourist season. There were ten times the number of tourists. So, be warned and have your hotel reservation made in advance. But, no matter what the weather, my first stop is always to see my favorite carpet dealers.

Copyright 2007 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.