Fortune in a cup.
A wonderful day and night in Istanbul, Turkey.
On my second full day in Istanbul I spent the morning wandering the Grand Bazaar, where I dodged carpet sellers and lamp sellers and scarf sellers and trinket sellers all spouting out “Where you from?” “You speak English?” “You want to be my friend?” and some other favorites like “good morning…(after I ignored them)…bad morning” and “you German?” and “hola” and “bonjour” and “want to see my carpets?” which just sounds like a dirty pick up line. And then there was the person who tried to convince me he was trustworthy by showing me text messages from Brits and Americans he had shown around the town that were so formal that they were obviously not written by anyone who spoke English as a first language.
And after a morning of hearing that in the market, at every restaurant and shop that I passed, while sitting on a bench, while waiting for a street light, I wasn’t sure how much longer I would be able to endure Istanbul.
But then, that night, I met up with Gulender, a woman I had “met” months before on Twitter. She knew I had been planning on coming to Istanbul so for weeks she sent me suggestions on places to go both there and throughout Turkey.
I met with her and her friend Murat and we went to dinner, eating meatballs that kind of reminded me of American breakfast sausage and salad with beans, drinking a sour yogurt drink that would probably take me a bit of time to get used to, sharing two traditional desserts.
And then we went for Turkish coffee, watched a whirling dervish, made wishes and read our grounds.
An then we went to the Bosphorus, watched the bridge light up, drank tea from glasses that burned my fingers, walked around, screamed in fright at pranksters, explored an old palace turned hotel.
It was a wonderful night with two wonderful locals: people who had no intention of selling me anything and who just wanted to make sure I had a great time in Istanbul. If we hadn’t met up that night I may have tried to find a new place, fast. So I’m happy that I was able to peel away that first layer of noise that might have made me hate this city to find some amazing treasures here in Istanbul.