Today we had the pleasure of a personal tour guide, a new teacher friend of mine from New Jersey. She has been in Istanbul for a few months now and has just that bit more experience that is so helpful when you're new in a place.
We began our day at the Karikoy ferry port, just about a 10 minute walk from our flat. While we waited to meet Maria, we ate some simit which we purchased from a street vendor. Simit is the Turkish equivalent of a bagel, and it tastes great. We took the ferry over to Kadikoy, which is on the Asian side of Istanbul. I have to say, I can't imagine a nicer start to a day: the freshness of being on the water, seagulls soaring over head diving for bread being thrown to them by ferry passangers, a beautiful view of Topkapi Palace, Aya Sofya and the Blue mosque. It was cool too, to see all the tankers and big ships waiting in the Sea of Marmara just south of the city, waiting to pass through the Bosphorus to the Black Sea.
Then Maria showed us around the many streets of the Kadikoy neighborhood. There were amazing markets and tons of shops with clothes, shoes, all the other essentials of life. The vendors and shops displaying fresh fruits and veggies, fresh fish, olives, butchers and bakers were my favourite. The food just looks like it is dripping with flavour. It was so hard not to just buy everything I could see! Markets are noisy places here, and vendors are always calling to you, inviting you to look closer, saying 'yes please' and 'come on' and lots of things I can't understand because they're in Turkish, but it is really hard not to just go along with them and take whatever they offer!
In Kadikoy we also visited a Greek Orthodox church and caught the tail end of the mass. It was an absolutely beautiful church, and the chanting of the service created a very exotic atmosphere to the mass. It was interesting to see the difference in the Orthodox service, and funny to see some little old women in the pews apparently not paying too close of attention, chatting with each other while the priest said his prayers, etc. But they stood at all the right times, and must have been paying at least a little attention to the central action.
We also stopped by an Armenian Orthodox church and stood just outside to see a few minutes of their service. It was similar but different to the Greek mass we saw. We didn't want to intrude upon anyone, so we only stayed to observe for a minute before quietly slipping out of the courtyard.
(A little Catholic church or possibly monastery or something that we stumbled across. I think it was a church dedicated to Ss Peter and Paul. It was so hidden away, I'm surprised we saw it at all.)
Back on our side of the Bosphorus, Maria introduced us to a nearby market which runs on Sundays. It was quite an overwhelming experience. Since our fridge isn't currently working, and we don't really have all our kitchen odds and ends sorted out, we didn't actually buy anything, but it was good to see what was on offer, so hopefully next weekend it won't all be so intimidating.
There was amazing food to be bought, and all variety of odds and ends! Kitchen towels, underwear an bras, jeans, vegetables, fruits, olives, pickled foods, lovely fresh cheeses, fresh fish of all shapes and sizes, pirated DVDs, T-shirts, head scarves, slippers, little baby chicks (live ones), clothes pins, drying racks, sponges, all sorts of crazy stuff. And again, everyone is bustling, shouting at you to buy their goods, checking out the quality of what's on offer. One vendor gave us lots of samples of his 20 varieties of olives, and fresh made pickled cucumbers and cabbage. We protested because he just kept letting us try things, but he said these things were 'his garden' and he seemed pleased and proud to let us sample the goods. Again, with no fridge to store anything in, I have to wait till next week, but I will definitely go back and buy some of his gorgeous things next week.
Now we're back home, and I have to prepare for my first day meeting students tomorrow. Also, we are currently experiencing a 'typical' Istanbul water shortage. No water at all. This means no shower, but at least the toilet flushes. I hope it starts working soon, or I don't know what I'll do!