Dec 182014

Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar has existed almost since the conquest of the city by the Turks in 1453 AD/CE (831 AH), with the estimate of its construction taking place between 1455 and 1461 AD/CE (833-839 AH). Luckily for me, one of Istanbul’s main tourist attractions was about a fifteen minute walk from my hotel. So, having no excuse, I made my way there as a relatively quick and easy ‘to do’ on my list of touristy stuff.

A map for your frame of reference:

And so, after stretching my legs, in I went:

Grand Bazaar - Istanbul

An entrance to Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar. Abandon All Cash, Ye Who Enter! Ha ha, just kidding. Sorta.

And I found out was every bit the center of hustle and bustle it was made out to be. See for yourselves (and forgive your humble videographer?):

I wandered, happily so. Some may have a set agenda when coming to a place like this, but I was only to happy to get lost and just see what there was to see. There was a bit of everything – glassware, carpets & embroidered cloth, hookahs, t-shirts, suits, you name it! Best of all, the spice stalls inside the Grand Bazaar were interspersed throughout its enclosure rather than being combined into a single section. This had the added bonus of adding ‘oases’ of fragrance to what was an already wonderful atmosphere.

I finally came across a small shop selling futbol (soccer) jerseys. While my 13 year-old nephew plays the American version of the sport, I figured that a nice jersey from a Turkish team would still be a cool gift. (The jury’s still out on this.) I wound up picking a jersey representing Fenerbahçe Sports Club (Fenerbahçe, for short):

Fenerbahçe 2014

Fenerbahçe 2014 – Turkish League Champions

I picked this because I was informed by the young shop manager that they were the Turkish League champions that year. I was also informed that it would better for me to purchase a genuine Nike brand jersey for a more than reasonable cost. My definition of ‘reasonable’ differed from his greatly, of course. So, we haggled. He better than I. Of this I am sure as I walked away paying more than I thought was fair but one learns. I managed to rationalize that I was on vacation and that such things are part of the experience. Besides, I reasoned to myself, it was for my nephew. Still, I gotta tighten up my haggling game. Though, to be fair, I did do ok the day before purchasing a small carpet – but that’s another story.

On the way back, I passed another tourist site, the Burnt Column:

The Burnt Column

It was more impressive when Constantine the Great was on top. But that was a looooong time ago.

It was much more impressive centuries ago when it looked like this:

The Column of Constantine

Before it became “The Burnt Column” it was the site upon which the statue of Constantine the Great stood.

After that, I went and grabbed lunch and walked by to my hotel room, biding my time and wondering what to do next. There are worse ways to spend a morning.

Oct 062014

Today’s Daily Prompt asks: “Train stations, airport terminals, subway stops: soulless spaces full of distracted, stressed zombies, or magical sets for fleeting, interlocking human stories?”

My answer is, it all comes down to context.  For example, the New York City subway system is not a magical place, not by a country mile.  This was something that I had to learn PDQ when I moved to Jersey City and then Astoria.  When I got there in the summer of 1999, it was scorching hot.  This meant that waiting for the subway while job hunting meant sitting inside what was essentially a giant convection oven.  This didn’t help things.  But even as the temperatures started to lower, things didn’t change much.  More than a few people waiting for their train were either commuting from the outer part of the outer boroughs, Long Island, New Jersey, Westchester County, and even Connecticut to Manhattan and  using the subway get to their (often stressful) jobs or going back home the same way with their tired, sweaty, and not infrequently inebriated fellow commuters.  In short, most people were a little wired in the a.m and a little fried in the p.m.  This was not conducive to friendly conversation.  I learned this hard way when I, partially Midwestern person that I am, tried to strike up the odd conversation to pass the time.  I learned quickly that when you tried to do this people thought that you were either 1.) running a scam, 2.) crazy, or 3.) both.  And so, I adapted and just put on my headphones with my portable cd player and stared ahead.  I also started standing a bit towards the back of the platform as the fear of some nutjob pushing my pale hindquarters onto the tracks took hold.  Granted, this was a one in a million chance, but fear trumps actuarial tables.

NYC Subway, Transit, Grim Commute

Hustle and Bustle.

On the other hand, one of my best friends met his wife during a layover in O’Hare airport.  So, again, it all depends on context.



Jun 032014

And day two of Writing 101 presents a much easier challenge for lil’ ol’ me.  Specifically:

We’re all drawn to certain places. If you had the power to get somewhere — anywhere — where would you go right now? For your twist, focus on building a setting description.

So, where would I go right now?  I would go to Istanbul.  And no, I’m not gonna sing the They Might Be Giants cover of that song, tempting though it may be.

Building-wise, the first place I’d want to see is the place to see:  the Hagia Sophia!  Take a look at it – how could you not want to go see a place like this?:

Hmmmm, come to think of it, I need to start thinking about booking a vacation somewhere this fall.  I need a rest.