It’s the first few days of my seminar tour in Africa with my colleague Paula Tiberius, and we’ve made a pit stop in Istanbul to break up the 20-hour flight. The bridge between Asia and Europe, this fascinating city has a rich history, and passionate people. I’ve been in Turkey before, lecturing to one of the most enthusiastic, raucous crowds I’ve ever witnessed, but this trip is strictly time off.
The first thing we saw on the way to our hotel was a billboard with white and purple hearts, with the phrase ‘Seviyoruz’ on it. That’s how you say ‘I love you’ in Turkish – perfect for a Loveology tour. It also said something about free shipping, but we’re going to be selective in interpreting signs from the universe.
Speaking of signs – how about this one! The Happy Hole! One for the red light district in another city, but here apparently just an innocent late night spot to grab a cocktail.
After waking at the crack of dawn to the sounds of morning prayer being broadcast over the speaker towers, sight-seeing was definitely in order, so we planned our day to take in the nearby Hagia Sophia museum, then head over to the Asian side of the city which is accessed by ferry.
The Hagia Sophia is an enormous domed building with four elegant spires dating back to 537. It has served as a Greek Orthodox church, a mosque and a Roman Catholic cathedral in various eras of rule and is said to have changed architecture with its classic Byzantine style. I personally love this little panel with hearts on it.
I took a souvenir from the Hagia Sophia, a pair of ‘evil eye’ earrings, the ubiquitous ‘protector’ symbol in Turkey that you find on everything from buildings to pencils. Our trip to the Asian side was quite eventful if not very short. The ferry ride was the best part with hot black tea and the best bagels I’ve ever tasted, but when we got to the other side there was a huge political demonstration taking place. We thought we would quickly skirt around the rally and find a spot for lunch, but when we looked across the square, there were thousands more people angrily marching about a new law requiring religious teaching in schools. Then heading the opposite direction we ran smack into a wall of riot police assembling pellet guns and donning shields and masks. We decided to just get back on the ferry. The last thing I wanted was to end up in a Turkish prison.
And as for Turkish pussies – probably not the kind you’re picturing! We had three lovable tame kitties at our hotel snuggling up to guests, and on the streets stray cats were everywhere, eating the garbage from countless restaurants nearby.