Wednesday, February 25, 2009 everyone a cheat, thief, liar, or stealer?

Hi folks!

Greetings from cold, rainy Istanbul. Wow, such an amazing place!!

We've had quite a good time of it, so far, but more is coming between now and when we finally wipe the mud of this place from our sandals and head off to our respective homes....

Yesterday, 02/23, we had lunch in a small cafe that happened to be showing soccer highlights on the flat-screen TV in the corner above the booth where we sat. The waiters and the owner were impressed by the fact that Americans actually watch/understand soccer.


We got to talking and found out that Galatasaray is playing Bordeaux on Thursday, here in Istanbul. Got the info for where to buy tickets. Also made a deal to swap a DC United jersey for a Turkish national team jersey. (Of course, I am not giving my real Adidas DC United jerseys....rather Barra Brava (fan club) jersey.)

So we get the cab to go buy tickets. The guy drives us 45 minutes out of town toward the stadium, where the tickets are supposed to be on sale. There is also a ticket kiosk in the shopping mall just adjacent to the stadium....only one problem, the guy tells us as we pull up, $100 poorer for the ride out there....the tickets are sold out. He knew it all along...just took us for a $200 joy ride.

We got back to town, and escorted into a nice cafe, where we met a wonderful man, Hakan, who helped us actually get tickets (you don't want to know the price). He also showed us to a very nice dealer of ceramics and glassware, and we got some coffee and smoked an apple-flavoured hookah--there is nothing narcotic in it...just tabac and fruit. Hakan carried our packages almost all the way back to the hotel.

Today, we bought the jerseys for Galatasaray. Thursday, we will be all set.

Now, about today's adventures:

We bought a packaged tour for the whole day, through Hakan, last night. We got a 5 euro discount on the tour, because he knows the owner of the tour company. The idea is that you get on a boat early in the AM, then cruise the Bosphorus/Golden Horn, then have lunch, then tour some of the old things that you see on the boat ride out toward the open sea. So, 0830 we board the bus, collect a few more passengers from other hotels, and then head down to the wharf.

We did the whole ride attached....had some tea on the boat, took a bus ride up to the top of one of the 7 hills of Istanbul, cable-car down, then promptly lost the group. One of our number was busy haggling over the price of a faux-silk scarf, and as we waited for him to finish, we lost sight of the group.

So here we are, four of us, somewhere in Istanbul....a place we would never have chosen ourselves, but into which we'd been dumped. Luckily, one of our crew was able to get us a table and order some lunch at a local-type establishment. I won't even begin to tell you how much organ meat I ate this afternoon for lunch. I don't know which organs they were, but it certainly was not filet mignon.

There, nice lunch, some tea, and off we go....where the heck is the tour group?

We gave up on that idea and the four of us just found our way down to the docks, hired a skiff for about $15, and set sail for the part of the city where our hotels are located.

Man, it was so cool....riding in a little boat, about 15 ft. long, and singing sailors' shanties and making jokes in English that the boatman couldn't understand. We also got to see some really interesting perspectives on the city, that you wouldn't get from a cab on the motorway. One guy in our group actually piloted the boat through the narrow pontoon thingies underneath a huge bridge. I was too afraid to take pictures...too busy watching the gunwales as we skimmed through there.

There were more adventures today, but I am too tired to write them down right now. Just think of things that are commonly thought of as Turkish....(hint: delight, clove cigarettes, dervishes, delight, ribald-speaking hamsters, flying carpets, coffee with too much sugar, delight--no, there were no shoes with the toes all curled up, and no, Bobby, there was no Turkish Bath, nor Turkish Prison!). I will give details tomorrow, though I would not get your hopes up too much. It's my vacation after all!

In other news:

We are getting toward the Easter season. We should be fasting and looking for the light at the end of the tunnel. Jesus risen from the dead and ascended into heaven. That's what our faith teaches us, at any rate.

As for me, I haven't given up anything for Lent, nor have I set any goals for myself for this Lent. I just try to keep on being the same good person that I think I am and not get waylaid by earthly temptations. That's penance enough, as far as I can tell.

I will add more on this idea tomorrow. Right now, I need to contact my bank and then get some sleep.

Love and Peace to all!

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