Monday, August 2: This morning I get up early to take the day-long cruise on the public ferry, known as the Nostalgic Bosphorus Cruise. After eating breakfast on the terrace of the Emma Saray, I take off for the Bosphorus ferry port: Boğaz İskelesi in the Old Town’s Eminönü district, near the mouth of the Golden Horn. On board at 10:30 a.m., I happen to sit across from an Australian girl named Sarah (my own daughter’s name) who works in London. She has been in Istanbul for 3 days now and her luggage, which the airline lost, has still not been found. She’s been living on the few things she brought in her carry-on bag, and she’s had to buy new clothes & other necessities while waiting these 3 long days. Surprisingly, she doesn’t seem upset today though she admits she’s had her meltdown moments.
Today is the first overcast day since I’ve been in Turkey. The sun has been bursting with yellow gold every day for nearly two weeks. But every cloud has a silver lining; it is pleasantly coolish today, even a little chilly on the water. A breath of fresh cool air that I relish….
In Rick Steves’ Istanbul, he recommends sitting on the left side of the ferry, in order to get the best views of the European side of Istanbul on the way north, and then the Asian side on the way south. Since I’m one of the first people on the ferry, I am able to do this. As we pull off, we see the panorama of the old town peninsula, including Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace. Further away, as we leave the Golden Horn and go out into the Bosphorus, we can see the minarets of the Blue Mosque. With the hazy sky today, it looks almost mystical.
We pass by the 19th century Dolmabahce Palace of the Ottoman sultan. First we see the Dolmabahce Mosque and then the palace itself. The waterfront view of this is quite impressive.
Right before the Bosphorus Bridge, we pass the 19th century Ortakoy Mosque; beside that is the 19th century mansion, Esma Sultan Yalisi, which once belonged to a sultan’s daughter. We pass under the Bosphorus Bridge immediately after.
Along the cruise, we see hills dotted with colorful houses, summer palaces of sultans, nightclubs, a private sports club. We see the Rumeli Fortress, built in 80 days by Sultan Mehmet II a year before the conquest of Constantinople in 1453. Continuing on the European side, we see a high-end district with fancy houses and a 19th century mansion that has been the summer mansion for Turkey’s president since 1985.
As the boat turns toward Asia for its last stop at Anadolu Kavagi, we can see a great view of the Bosphorus opening into the Black Sea. Anadolu Kavagi is on the Asian side of Istanbul; it’s a small fishing village that, because of its location, is a strategic checkpoint for vessels going through the Bosphorus. At the top of the hill above the village sits the Byzantine Yoros Castle. When we stop at Anadolu Kavagi, we have nearly 3 hours to explore. Most of us on board walk through the village and climb the long hill up to the castle, for a view of the Bosphorus and the Black Sea and the quaint village below.
It’s funny because when the ferry first pulls up to Anadolu Kavagi, waiters are waving numerous national flags, French, British, American, from their waterfront restaurants. The passengers on board the ferry get a hoot out of this. Obviously they count on the business from the ferry passengers.
Apparently Anadolu comes from a Greek word meaning “the land to the East” while kavak means “controlled pass.”
I immediately follow most of the ferry passengers to hike up to the hilltop above town to see Yoros Castle. The hike is a convoluted one through a bunch of casual eateries perched on the hillside. At the top finally, the castle itself is pretty much a faded version of a former more glorious self; it’s pretty run-down and not maintained well. Despite that, it is at the top of the hill, and I can never resist climbing a tall hill or mountain to see a great view. Standing on the hilltop, I can see the Bosphorus to the south and the Black Sea to the north. The hike is not too strenuous, but even with the overcast day, it’s quite hot and of course, I am covered in sweat in no time.
When I get to the top, there doesn’t seem to be any open entrance to the castle, but people are stepping over a barbed wire fence to go through the only opening in the stone wall. I follow everyone else across the barbed wire. On the other side, there is nothing but a wide grassy area where lots of people are milling around, sitting on the grass. There are even some policemen and soldiers standing about, unconcerned about all the people who have just crossed the barbed wire fence. I wonder, why is barbed wire across the entrance if no one really cares if people cross over? It doesn’t make sense.
After coming back down from the hike, I am hungry so I stop at the waterfront restaurant where the waiters were earlier waving the flags. The specialty here is midye tava, or deep-fried mussels. I order a cold beer and the mussels for a pretty light weight meal, along with a lot of bread that I gobble down.
After eating, we get back on the ferry and head south, back to the Golden Horn. Again, I sit on the left side of the ferry, this time to get the view of the Asian side of Istanbul. Sarah sits beside me once again and across from us, I meet some Americans, one of whom graduated from The College of William & Mary, where I also graduated. We take a picture together and she asks me to send it to the Alumni newsletter, but I have yet to do it! (I will, I will!)
Along the Asian shore, we see the 19th century Art Nouveau-style Hidiv Pavilion, built for the Ottoman governor of Egypt. We see the circa 1700 terra-cotta mansion of Huseyin Pasa, the newer (1988) Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge, built by a Turkish-Japanese company. We see impressive mansions with “garages” for private boats, a Western-looking 19th century hunting pavilion of the sultans and the Anatolian Fortress, built by the Ottoman Sultan Beyazit at the end of the 14th century. We see a military high school and too many impressive private waterfront mansions to count. These mansions are called yali, many made of wood. We see the Cape of Kandillia (“with candles”), named for the lamps lit to warn ships of strong currents.
After I finish with the Bosphorus Cruise at 5:00, I head back to the Emma Saray. I intend to take a shower and go to dinner at the Han Restaurant, which I had seen the previous week in Istanbul. But in the hotel lobby, I get on the only computer to check my Facebook and emails. An older man, about my age, comes and sits beside me and asks about my day. He has long gray hair, kind of hippie-ish looking, that’s combed back from his face, and his hair is thinning at the top. He’s gaunt and his teeth have a few problems, but he’s still somewhat handsome in a hip older-man sort of way. He introduces himself as Mehmet and he works at the hotel. He asks me about my life, wants to know why I’m traveling alone and why I don’t have a boyfriend or husband, and whether I have children. He tells me he thinks I’m very attractive and as I’m looking at Facebook, he sees some of my pictures and says he likes them very much. He wants to see more, so I show him some of my millions of photo albums on Facebook. He ooos and ahhhs over them, even the really bad ones!
After we sit there for quite some time, he asks if I would like to have dinner with him tonight at 8:00. I say sure, why not. I know I am supposed to meet Genghis at 9:00, but at this point, after mulling over this during the day, I have decided things are too complicated with Genghis, all mixed up as they are over money issues, the carpet purchase, and other strangeness. Besides I really don’t think at this point that Genghis will even show up. I really think I want to see Sebahattin again, but I know he will be working until late, so, as Mehmet seems like a nice man who seems quite taken by me, I agree to dinner.
I go to my room and take a short nap and shower and get dressed in the same Moroccan print knit dress I wore to the Dimrit in Cappadocia. When I meet Mehmet in the lobby, he has dressed up nicely in a crisp light blue button-up shirt, except it’s not buttoned up. It’s unbuttoned midway down his chest and he has on a gold chain. His gray hair is all slicked back with some kind of hair gel or something. Though he looks all cleaned up and shiny, I am turned off by the unbuttoned shirt and the gold chain. Funny how little things about a person can immediately be a turn-off! Sometimes I know, I am so shallow. 🙂 But what can be done about this? Can I ignore something that gets under my skin; can I ignore my immediate repulsions about a person and try to get past them, in the hopes that they can be fixed in the future? I have found that this never works.
He takes me to dinner at a place where the locals go, the Doy Doy. When we go in, we are led up four flights of stairs to the very top terrace, where we can see a great view of Sultanahmet. Over dinner of doner kebabs, I ask Mehmet if he’s the owner of the Emma Saray, but he says, no, he just works there. I ask where he lives and he says he lives in the hotel! Though in a younger man I could find this response forgivable, in a man my age, I find it’s NOT. He tells me he’s been divorced for many years and lives alone and likes just having a very simple life, just enjoying life. I find this a total turn-off. We continue to chat about many things, but by this time I have lost interest and I happen to look at my watch and see it’s 9:00. I wonder if Genghis is at the Egyptian Obelisk waiting for me, but I determine in my mind that he probably isn’t. Still. I think I am going to need to get out of this, and soon.
The Doy Doy doesn’t serve alcoholic beverages; earlier in the hotel lobby, I had told Mehmet that I love to enjoy a glass of red wine with dinner. So he tells me that he’s gotten a bottle of red wine and he hopes after dinner I will come back to the Emma Saray and sit on the terrace and share the wine with him. Hmmm…. I’m not thrilled about this notion. But he is a very nice man and I don’t want to be mean or hurtful when he’s gone to so much trouble to get all spiffed up and even secured a bottle of wine. I say, Okay, sure. So, we go up to the terrace of the Emma Saray and he pours us each a glass of wine. He is staring intently into my eyes and he tells me he really likes me so much. There are several other parties on the terrace, kids included, but that doesn’t stop him from leaning over and grabbing me and kissing me passionately! I pull back instinctively. I say I feel uncomfortable doing this with all these people. Truth be told, I feel uncomfortable with him. He starts talking about how he would love to be with me in my room. Ohhh…. NO! This is not good.
I take a deep breath. I say, Mehmet, you’re really a nice man, but I don’t have those kinds of feelings for you. He says, you haven’t even given us a chance. At least you should give us a chance. I say, I just don’t have those kinds of feelings. He is very passionate in his entreaties. I’m feeling pressured and I don’t do well under these circumstances. I say, very firmly, I think I’m going to go for a walk. He says, What? Right now? I say, yes, I need some time to think. I’m going to be gone about an hour, I think. He pleads with me not to leave, offers to accompany me. I say, No, I really just want to go alone. I need some time to think. So, I’ll go now and I’ll be back in about an hour. I get up and he follows me down to the lobby. I walk out the door. I don’t look back.
I head directly to Sebahattin’s restaurant. He is happy to see me and I sit at the same table where I sat last night and he brings me a glass of wine. He says, I thought you might come back last night. I say, 1:30 was just too late for me! I was tired and went back to the hotel to sleep. He says, well, I’m glad you’re here tonight. Since it is a Monday night, the streets are more deserted and so is the restaurant. He is able to sit with me for longer periods because there isn’t much business. An hour goes by, then two. I’m drinking wine, chatting with Sebahattin, feeling totally relaxed and enjoying every minute. I say, are you closing at 1:30 again tonight? He says, no, since it’s slower we will probably close earlier. I sit longer. I tell him I admire him because he’s such a hard worker. He’s really very diligent; even with just the few customers they have, he is always making sure they are perfectly happy and have everything they need. When the few people walk past the restaurant he hops up to try to convince them to come in. He tells me that he never went to school, that he has been working since he was 10 years old. I’m shocked. I say, doing what? He says he’s worked at carpet shops, ceramic shops, restaurants, everywhere, doing everything. This makes me so sad to hear this.
Around 11:30 or 12, suddenly there is yelling and hollering at the rear of the restaurant. Two big guys are suddenly swinging and pounding on each other and everyone from the street, the nearby restaurants and from inside the restaurant goes running to break up the fight. There is all kind of commotion and I’m kind of excited really that I’m here in the midst of all this! What is wrong with me that I like this kind of thing?? Sometimes I really think I’m going off the deep end. Finally, numerous other men who have entered the fray pull the two men apart and drag one of them out to the street. More yelling ensues. I’m just sitting there watching. My heart is pounding. Finally, they encourage the guy in the street to leave the area and things calm down again. Sebahattin tells me they will close the restaurant and wants me to come out with him to a place he knows where we can smoke shisha.
We go to this place and it’s quite a beautiful place really, all terra-cotta walls, big fluffy couches with cushions galore, individual open-air rooms where small parties can gather. It really is quite lovely and we smoke some apple-flavored tobacco. I already had a couple of glasses of wine at the restaurant so I feel relaxed. Some beautiful music is playing and Sebahattin and I are enjoying being together in this romantic spot. More is to follow, but sorry… in a protected post 🙂