Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Istanbul was Constantistruggle

Well it took me approximately 9 hours (most of that waiting in one airport or another), but I made my way out of Istanbul and onto my next location. But before I delve into the trials and tribulations of Amsterdam, of which I can just bet there are going to be MANY, I mean, given what we know about the Dutch, I feel that I would be remiss if I didn't discuss the crazy and cool that is the city of Istanbul just one last time.

From the Blue Mosque to the Hagia Sofia, from the Bosphorus to the lesser traveled Asian side of the city, my family and I struggled through the majority of the major sights and sites in Istanbul. We took a river tour, we waded through the Basilica Cistern (a must, by the way, if you ever get to travel to Turkey, it's an amazing leftover from the Holy Roman Empire), we saw the Dervishs whirl, and let me tell you something, we got completely ripped off at every turn. Don't get me wrong, Istanbul is a wild and wonderful city, and I have to say, the Turkish people as a nation are unbelievably friendly. They are so friendly, in fact, that they smile with delight and warmth as they take as much money from you as possible. They laugh with joy and excitement as they welcome you to their fine city, as they pour you glass after glass of raki and give you plate after plate of food, food which you didn't ask for and couldn't possibly- well, maybe just a bite. You yourself are pleased as punch about all the lovely things you bought that day, and what good deals you got on all of them. Thrilled with your immense bargaining skills, you get yourself another plate of baklava and compliment the city. They beam with pride as you tell them how much you love Istanbul, how glorious it is, how colorful, how loud (all nice ways for saying Ethnic, you'll notice). And then the bill comes. Tired, full to the point of bursting, your head spinning with the horrible liquorish scented liquor, you fumble for your wallet and lay down bill after bill of Turkish Lira. After all, it basically looks like monopoly money went on a trip to the middle east, it can't be worth much, can it? You stumble off to bed, sleepy and grinning. Why can't the people where you are from be so nice, you wonder, it's such a shame, really.

Then you wake up. And you realize you just spent the entire contents of your wallet (and possibly your bank account) on four scarves, a leather jacket, two plates (which will inevitably break in transport), a carpet, and dinner for three. What's more, you have the sinking feeling that people who are actually from Turkey pay approximately one tenth of what you paid for the same exact items, plus a free lamp. Because the reality is, as charming and delightful as Turky and it's people may be, the thing they seemed to be most delighted by is the interior of the tourist's pocket.

On our last day together in Istanbul before Strugglemano headed off to LaLa land and mis padres returned to their own daily grind, we decided to visit a Turkish bath. So famous and praised are the baths of Turkey that we felt we couldn't leave the country without sampling their charms, at least once. Excited, and, given our inabilities to speak any Turkish, a little freaked out, we each headed to our respective parts of the bath, and my mother and disrobed and were lead into a larged steamy room lined with sinks. Through a great deal of observation (and people yelling at us in Turkish) we were able to figure out that you douse your body with water and then lie on a large marble slab that is the heat source for the room, so rather then the dry heat of a sauna you are indulging in a wet humid heat that opens your pores just as well. Because we had paid for the basic package, we found ourselves kicked off of the slab and forced to "relax" on the sidelines as we watched other women being scrubbed down and massaged by the baths surly elderly female attendents. A kind Turkish woman asked us why we weren't being scrubbed, and we answered her honestly that we had just gotten admission to the bath. She told us that the scrub and massage were just 5 lira (about 3 dollars) more, and started to explain before she was quickly interupted by a bath attendent. A rapid exchange in Turkish followed, and the woman turned back to us, her face red. "I'm sorry, it's 25 lira for you, to get the other things." My mother and I nodded sagely, wrapped up in our towels, un-scrubbed, un-massaged, unsuprised. 500% mark-up for foreigners? Yeah, that seems about right.

Of course, now that I've hit Northern Europe and am gazing at the price tags here, I long to be ripped off by the Turks again. Even if I was paying more then any Turk for evil eyes and eggplant appitizers, at least I was paying in Lira, right?

More on the Dutch and their most laid back and hash-heavy city soon. Right now, I'm just recovering from the flight, the sleep loss, and the currency exchange. Come on, dollar, you're killing me here. It's almost like there is something wrong with the economy...


  1. Leah:
    It seems there was a mistake ... you said you were coming to New York soon, but it seems what you done instead is travel halfway across the globe. Another example of good intentions but poor execution. Don't eat too many of those space cakes.

  2. Oh, dear, did I end up in Old Amsterdam instead of New Amsterdam? Silly me...