The fifth day travelling was the last full day in Istanbul. We didn’t have any big plans except that we we’re meeting one of Mum and Dad’s friends, Özlem, a local! I’d managed to sleep in a bit so when I woke up, a bit later, I had breakfast with Ben. The breakfast had been similar every day, a slice of feta, olives, simit and some other bread, usually with orange slices and some jam. Özlem later told us that the traditional Turkish breakfast often consisted of white cheese and bread. After breakfast, we headed down Galata bridge towards the grand bazaar, before passing through there we walked through the spice bazaar where we picked up some baklava and I bought a scarf, a beautiful multicolour (blue and orange) pashmina.
We then walked through some uncovered streets with shops, until we reached the Grand Bazaar. There was an arch indicating when we had reached, and armed guards blocking the way forcing you through an airport metal detecting arch. This recent increased level of security in tourist spots, according to Özlem has been the product of unrest in the Middle East, attacks on Turkey and again the increased Islamic influence on Turkish governance. Overall, quite a sad transition, especially those who knew the old more cosmopolitan Turkey, so see the descent into militaristic, Islamic culture.
In the Grand Bazaar I got a little bracelet and a pashmina for Maike, since I forgot the presents I got her in London! We then headed back to the hostel to have a little rest before meeting Özlem at her work. On our walk to the university where Özlem works, the uphill roads made for big competition and we got pulled over by police and asked for passports. A nice man did direct us to the right building and Özlem recognised me immediately when she saw me! Özlem greeted us both and took us into the beautiful and big Architecture building, took us upstairs and got us tea and a nice rice pudding dessert. We then went and sat in the square in the middle of the university, that has small byzantine structures, pretty amazing old relics in a new world. She then took us for a traditional Turkish meal at a small joint 5 minutes from the university. The meal was not from a menu, but a routine that dictated the order in which food was brought out.
First, a drink, Raki (pronounced Rah-Ker) that is an aniseed drink that is mixed with water upon serving. The saying now used in mockery of the Islamic government’s crackdown on alcohol is “Are we in a mosque?”.
The food is small plates (6-7) of food ranging from fried eggplant to yoghurt dip, called meyhane. It is brought out with bread that has been cooked so the top and bottom half separate to form a ball, similar to how roti’s are made. This filled me up pretty quickly, but it was only an appetizer!
Next they brought a kabap with flat bread, which was delicious. After the meal fresh fruit was brought to the table, watermelon, cherries, pear, peach. I dug into the cherries, I can’t remember the last time I had had some!
The meal was lovely but the company was great, we talked to Özlem about politics, travel, Istanbul and life. She was very warm and generous and it was so lovely to meet a friend of my parents from so long ago.
We said goodbye to Özlem at the train station and walked through Taksim square, which was a good place to avoid according to Özlem, and the next day, I found out why. But after walking down Tarlabasi Blv to our hostel we got some water and headed back out for a nice walk. Most nights we only went to bed at 11pm and spent the later part of the night walking around and just chilling in the neighbourhood. It was pretty great, no complaints, except our roommate in the hostel always went to bed so early and turned the lights off!