So, to backtrack a little, I had an amazing weekend. My lovely friend Megan and her travelling buddy Erin stayed with me and Richie for a few days as part of there European tour. I hadn't seen Megan in over four years, so it was a very exciting occasion.
It was a nice way to make our new home feel more homey, entertaining and all that. We had some lovely meals together, sampling the good stuff available in Istanbul. At a local cafe we had a Saturday night of tea, beer, kebaps, nargile smoking, and backgammon. None of us knew how to play when we arrived at the place, but we were determined to learn. A couple were sitting next to us, playing away, and we watched them out of the corner of our eyes for a bit, to see if we could piece together the rules. We couldn't. So, eventually, when his partner went to use the toilet, we asked him if he could explain it to us. He was very helpful and taught us most of the basics. We knew we were doing some things wrong, but we got a feel for the game and played lots of rounds. Myself and Richie had been to this place before, and there is a lovely friendly waiter there. Every time we walk by the place, he says hello to us, like we're old friends now. We finally had a formal introduction that night though. His name is Mehmet.
The next day, Megan, Erin and I went over to the Tarlabasi market, which seems to go all day every Sunday, in a nearby neighborhood. We had a great time attempting some Turkish and buying some lovely fruits, vegetables, spices, homemade olive oil, rice and chickpeas. We made friends with Ahmet the olive seller, and I ended up being convinced by him to buy one of his melons. He also threw in a few free pickled things, and taught me a few things, like how to ask for a half kilo, which I remember how to say, and a quarter kilo, which was too complicated for me to remember without writing it down. We also talked to a few people here and there, and made friends with some boys who enjoyed posing for the camera. It was very rainy that morning and we were decked out in rain coats. All the stalls were covered with huge tarps and awnings, and when the rain started pouring down, we had to dodge the deluge by standing underneath these. However, we quickly found out that we weren't really safe from the water there either. Every now and then, a tarp would be so full of water, it would suddenly dump all its contents on whatever unfortunate person was standing there. We nearly got drenched a couple of times. It added a bit of suspense to the whole shopping experience. Then we went home and made a tasty fruit salad and ate yogurt with honey. Yum.
Megan and Erin then went off to Aya Sofya, but I had to stay behind to do some planning for upcoming week of teaching. However, I did go to meet them just over the Galata Bridge at around sunset for the delicious balik ekmek, the famous freshly grilled fish sandwiches. After that quick dinner, we headed up through Sultanahmet to go to a Turkish bath for the first time! It was Cemberlitas Hamami. The building dates back to 1584 and is reputed to be one of the most beautiful in the city. It was commissioned by Nurbanu Sultan, wife of Sultan Selim II and mother of Murat III, and was designed by the great architect Sinan. This was so lovely and wonderful and fantastic that I'm giving it its own post because it deserves it. Read on!