Istanbul -- “To the city”
“These are historic waters we are sailing through,” said Greg as he gazed from the balcony, onto the Aegean Sea. He was waiting for Wyona to get her shoes on so that they could go to their dancing lessons – today is the rumba. Wyona had bubble bathed all morning. “Whenever am I going to have a bubble bath in a balcony suite on a boat, again,” she said to us as Greg and I hurried off to the destination lecture entitled Istanbul, not Constantinople. I met the lecturer while standing in the specialty omelette line-up for breakfast. “I enjoyed your lecture two days ago. My brother-in-law and I were saying how we had wished your lecture had been longer when you talked about Corfu.”
“It is difficult”, he said, “since I am only allowed 35 minutes of presentation time. I submitted two lectures and the people on board choose the second one, so I have plenty of material. But the problem on board is just that there are not enough rooms to run all of the programs people want.”
The people who gathered around the lecturer post-presentation had questions to ask and answers to share. Most agreed that the best source of information for a traveller is Rick Steven’s Guide to Istanbul, one man there having read 100 pages of it in another Rick Stevens book. Greg and he went on to chat about good books to read about the history of the Golden Horn. The lecture had covered the etymology of the name Istanbul, the best reading on it being that in Turkish it sounds a bit like “to the big city”, which would make sense given the rural roots of the people who finally ended up living in the city.
That was the historic destination lecture. Later in the morning and better attended was the shopping lecture, highlighting the way to purchase Turkish leather coats (lightweight for their cold winters of 70 degrees Fahrenheit), rugs, coffee (better at waking people up than Red Bull), apple tea, Turkish delight candy (created for a Sultan with a sweet tooth but no way to eat hard candy) and tourist paraphernalia, all decorated with the sign of the evil eye. I am going to a market with 4009 shops and 16 entrances and exits, hoping I can buy at least one pashmina, a wool scarf that is so fine it will pass through the circle of a wedding ring.
I took my early morning walk. The sun rose from behind the distant horizon and lifted its face over the right over the water in the time it took me to only walk one length of the boat. I will be that sun rose in less than to minutes.
We had been promised a stormy sea with high winds today. I wanted to beat the turbulence and the water on the deck by getting up early. The wind had already beat me to the deck. I had to lean forward to stand upright. A few chairs slipped across the deck in front of me. Some of the backs on the deck chairs banged forward. I casually wondered if I shouldn’t have brought a whistle with me, in case I was blown overboard. Soon I was thinking of wearing a life jacket in case no one noticed I was gone for a few days.
Wyona and I came back from the Turkish Grand Market without buying anything ... a sad comment on the shopping energy Wyona and I had. Oh, that is not to say that we didn’t find a beautiful red silk scarf, wider than the usual scarves, but when we went back to get it, we couldn’t find that shop again. That is what is wrong with shopping in a place where there are 4009 shops. Not that there are that many kinds of shops – there was leather (coats, purses, shoes), gold, diamonds, silver, ceramics and the usual tourist paraphernalia (the evil eye on key chains, ash trays).
We sat down to eat. What are the chances that someone you had eaten breakfast with would be at the table with you – but there they were, Frank and Joan on the side of me, and on the side of Greg, a couple that he calls his chicks. They were fabulous – older women on their first crew and full of lots of interesting chatter. The dinner companions are always interesting because they have had as many adventures in the market as we have had.