That night Jim and I planned to actually finally “go out” in Beyoğlu , which we’d tried to do twice before but once it was a Sunday and everything was closed, and the other time, Jim was sick.
We went back to the Apricot for the third and final time. After we arrived, I went to the front desk to check in and there was a man bringing in lots of potted flowers and putting them all over the reception area. We struck up a conversation about poinsettias. I thought this guy was a delivery person at first but it turned out that it was Hakan, the owner of the hotel who had returned from his vacation! It was immediately clear that Hakan was like Mehmet – friendly, helpful, and spirited with those twinkly eyes. Apparently he had spent the last few weeks leading a group of Irish ladies biking through Gallipoli. He seemed like a very interesting character and I only wish I could have talked to him longer.
Jim and I settled in and immediately set out for the Grand Bazaar in the pouring rain and cold – it was either now or never for shopping. We had literally bought NOTHING the entire trip. (Well, I bought a pair of shoes and some small souvenirs in Amsterdam, but that’s it. Nothing in Turkey.) As my mom or sister could tell you, I am horrible at buying gifts during my travels. I always have such high hopes to buy awesome gifts for my friends and family and I always end up with absolutely nothing. I just suck at it. So I was determined.
We arrived at the bazaar and Jim’s biggest goal was to buy fez hats for everyone and a nargile, a hookah pipe like the ones we smoked in Göreme with the yummy apple flavor smoke. I convinced him to do the bargaining in Spanish as an experiment to see if the seller would treat him any differently. Soon, Jim was off and running, bargaining, joking with the guy, starting to walk away, and coming back. I just stood there silently, except for when I told him I liked the azure one better than the verde one. Finally we walked away with our new pipe, which is really stinking big. By the way, the guy treated him the same as if he had done it in English. And it still tickles me that the shopowners are so good at so many languages. But like Jim says, it’s their job, they have to learn other languages in order to sell.
We wandered some more and I just didn’t see anything I liked. A lot of it was the cheap typical souvenirs you find in every country. The jewelry was either really ornate and fancy (like diamond studded rings) or very cheap looking. I didn’t want any rugs, any belly dancing outfits, glass lamps, inlaid boxes, pillowcases, tea sets, or boxed Turkish delight. So I gave up. On one hand, I really think living in New York affects me because I know I can find a lot of the same stuff there. In fact, some of the things looked like they were from Pier One, you know what I mean? I was bummed and resigned to the fact that I would once again get NOTHING. I also had a goal to go to a supermarket because 1) I loooove looking through foreign supermarkets and 2) it is a good place to get cheap souvenirs like tea, hazelnuts, olive oil, candies and stuff like that that you don’t want to buy at a tourist shop. But as we were in Sultanahmet, there were no real supermarkets around. So I struck out again. Bummer! My only final hope was to hit Duty Free in the airport where I could at LEAST get some Ritter Sports. They have like 20 stinkin’ varieties!!!
After shopping we came back and ate at a place called Turquoise near our hotel. Jim finally got Iskender kebab and it was decent. I got some sausage thing with rice and it was also decent. We had not found one food in Turkey that knocked our socks off. Turns out Jim’s saying still holds true for every country we have ever visited, (except maybe Singapore)… he claims that all the food we have in New York City is better than anywhere in the world – even NYC Turkish food is better than real Turkish food, he claims. I hate to repeat it because it sounds so pompous but it is true so far. We also agree, however, that it might just be that the food here is more to American tastes. There is a restaurant called Turkish Meze just down the street from us at home and the food is awesome. I think the best meals we had in Turkey were the breakfasts at The Apricot — the cheese and olives and bread were really good. And Jim raved about the tomatoes all over Turkey, extolling their blood red color and deliciousness.
After that we returned to the hotel to pack for tomorrow and get ready to go out. I showered and Jim took a nap. I went out to the lobby to buy a bottle of water and there was a group of people hanging out there, all staring at me as I walked in – weird. Then I realized they had set up a camera and were taking a picture of themselves and I happened to be right by the camera. Ha ha. Hakan was there and told me to join them as they had a group there from Estonia and were about to have some champagne. I stayed but then felt a little awkward so I started to leave but he pulled me back and gave me a glass. Some Belgian ladies joined us as well as a French couple. Everyone talked for a while and it was nice. These are the types of things I really enjoy – hanging out with people from all over the world, just chatting and whatnot. After a while I went and fetched Jim and it seemed we weren’t going out tonight after all! We drank some wine and then they brought out another bottle of liquor. At one point, the whole group went quiet, and someone joked that its usually louder when they have a bunch of Americans there. We also talked about movies and what is popular in Turkey. Mehmet was trying to remember the name of a movie he really liked, and he couldn’t remember it, but he said it was so good and it was about a war…. finally he remembered, “Pearl Harbor!” and we laughed because that movie was crap. Someone brought up Midnight Express and he said that movie was “shit” and completely untrue. I’ve never seen it, but now I want to….
I tried to talk a little to the French guy there who didn’t speak any English, and someone asked me if I spoke French. I said, “I know a few words. Come on, I’m American, of course I only speak English. Duh.” Everyone laughed a little too much at that….
After a while, some of the people left and Hakan announced that he was going out to get some soup, a fatty soup made from sheep’s head, leg, or guts (tripe) that is traditionally eaten after drinking and did we want to come along? I jumped up, Of course, let me get my shoes!! How exciting! I am glad we didn’t go out partying after all. This is what it’s all about — hanging out with locals. As we were walking out the door, Mehmet told us to get the lentil soup instead, and it sounded like he thought the whole thing was gross.
We got into Hakan’s car with two Turkish guys who didn’t speak any English and drove to the simple little restaurant which happened to be in the red light district. (Hakan: “We are in the red light district!” me: “No we aren’t! Really?” [looks outside and sees red lights] “Oh, wow. I didn’t know there WAS a red light district.” Hakan: “We will leave you here! Ha ha!”)
It turned out they were out of the leg soup, and only had tripe and head soup left. Jim said, what the hell, let’s get the head soup. The soup smelled garlicky and the meat was like very dark, dark chicken meat. I dipped bread in the broth and ate that while everyone else finished their bowls, including Jim, who eats anything. I felt bad that I wasn’t touching it, but I was stuffed from dinner AND thinking about the fact it was from sheep head kinda got to me. Hakan gave me a hard time and reached over, grabbed my spoon, dipped it in the soup and put it in my mouth, and I shoved in some bread. I swear it took me 5 minutes to finish chewing and I tried hard not to make a “yucky” face.
Right then, a guy came out of the kitchen with a huge platter of piled up steaming sheep heads. Surprisingly, it sounds grosser than it was. They were skulls with a bit of meat left on, and they really didn’t look that horrible. I think it’s because they kinda didn’t even look like what they were. Hakan asked me to get out my camera, and I was like, Oh man I forgot it!!! He pulled out his cell phone with a camera and I went over and posed next to the platter ‘o’ heads. I’m sure the other Turkish guys in there were thoroughly annoyed at the stupid tourist. The restaurant guy held the jaw of one of the heads open while the steam from the heads wafted into my face. Hakan took the pics and promised to email them to me later (he never did). What a great way to end our trip………a pretty memorable experience.
We came back to the hotel and went to sleep, to leave tomorrow AM.