7/04/2006

Not synagogue, fish restaurant

Day one in Turkey was a serious adventure. Istanbul is our playground for the next two days. Shoshi and I spent the morning viewing the main tourist sites of the land. Two big, I mean big, mosques. One called Aya Sophia was getting renovated and we counted 26 floors of scaffolding in the middle of it. Kinda made us dizzy. There was also this lucky hole in one of the pillars where if one places their finger inside and it comes out moist, you are supposed to be granted good luck. Oddly enough putting fingers in moist holes was a common theme among the sites here.



The other mosque was more exciting at night because it was all lit up and for some reason birds just circled and circled around it, illuminated by the lights. This is what we say when we first arrived. Pretty.
Continued...

Next we went to an underground cistern. This place was a personal injury lawyer's wet dream. Getting in and out required a death-defying trip down the slipperiest wettest stairs I have ever been on. The walk way on the bottom was also way too smooth and slippery. People working there were squeegying away, but obviously had none of the skills as an Israeli would. They just pushed the water with one motion and moved it around. Also down here was another good luck moist hole.

Our stomachs were grumbling after this so we took to the streets for lunch. Not quite as bad as Jordan, but the people selling things do some harassing. This was no different with the restaurant owners, each trying to "help us find our way" (I'm sure we were looking super lost all the time) but really trying to get us to eat at their place. Annoying. We dashed into a little stand in an alley way where we found this shwarmah like dish wrapped in lafah like bread. The Turkish burrito! We were saved! And it turned out to be half the price as those other places and we got two.

A museum and a half later we were sightseeinged out and thought it would be a good time to try and locate the Istanbul synagogue. This is where our adventure truly began. Seriously only two blocks out of touristville things started to look very very different. In the area of our hostel and surrounding streets things looked cute. The streets were cobblestones, the people more genuinely friendly, men and women walking everywhere, wearing whatever. And everyone spoke English.

Now, two blocks away this all changes. We reached the edge of a huge river and saw quite a sight. Anywhere a person would fit on the side of the water they were fishing. People were bustling all over. Ships where coming and going dropping and picking up hundreds and hundreds of commuters.


Street food in the country has been just awesome. I am loving the variety and lack of falafel. We've had salted sliced cucumbers, fresh corn, that shwarmah burrito. I've seen mangos and coconuts, and also muscles, but in the hot sun, we stayed away from those.

Here at the waters edge was no exception. They were selling these fish sandwiches that smelled amazing. Too bad we had just eaten. But just seeing the scene was something else. Men frying these fish were in the middle of a mass of people, wearing red fez hats, everyone screaming, selling, and buying something. I really wanted a picture of all this, so I got out my camera and I was trying all these angles to really capture the scene, really really looking like a tourist. Then I felt something behind me. First I thought it was someone trying to cut open my bag so I reached for that, but instead I felt this fat pinch on my ass! EwWWWW!! I kinda freaked out because there were people everywhere and I had no idea who did it.

I started walking to get out fast and it happened again! This time I saw the guy and smacked him hard on the back. Maybe not the smartest thing because then he starts to circle back and follow us. We wanted to get rid of him and so we flipped him off at the same time. Also not so successful because he took his middle finger and licked it!!! Probably one of the most revolting things I've ever seen. Then he kept following us. We started to cross a long bridge and he was still on our tail!

Really, we had no idea what to do and it was getting really scary. I kept hoping a police officer would show up. I've never wanted to see a cop so bad in my life.

Thankfully that's just what happened. Right on the bridge we saw some sort of street cop and ran to him. We explained everything in complete detail. Then realized the cop spoke no English. No matter, because once the ass grabber saw him, he took off in the other direction.

Across the bridge was really a completely different environment. No English spoken anywhere, few women, and nobody knew where a synagogue might be. We had a general idea of the area and wandered in that direction. Things were looking deserted. We asked a cab driver in sign language to take us there. He was trying to hard to be helpful, but ended up just bringing us to a hotel where they spoke English. They didn't speak English at the hotel. That was a productive use of our Lira!

Meandering along we stumbled upon this shopping area. It turned out to be the trendy, popular walking/ hanging out area of the locales. After a refueling with ice cream we continued.

When we were once again sure we were headed in the right direction, we turned a corner and found ourselves again on a deserted street. Thinking we were still in the correct direction we pressed on. Some guys found us and started talking to us in Turkish. This was followed by chasing behind us down the road. Ahhhh. This place could be so freaky. We lost them a street down and asked directions. Luck of all luck we had asked a fluent English speaker who ended up walking us there. Some of the people in the country are so wonderful and some so creepy.

We get to the synagogue and it was the weirdest thing. The man walking us kept saying it was closed, but we thought he just meant it was closed for the day. Not the case. Actually there was a wedding going on, but for the last two years the whole thing had been shut down because it was bombed twice. For the wedding there was special permission with special security. Two cars blocked off both ends of the street and there was a man on watch outside.

Of course thinking I'm still in Israel, I figure we could just talk him into letting us take a peek inside, maybe even get an invite to the wedding, being such exotic world travelers and all. Well the security guard was not having it. We talked and talked and he pretty much threatened to arrest us when someone from the synagogue came out to talk to us. He said the only way we were getting in was if the head rabbi gave us special permission and that would take a week or so. Imagine being so fearful of terrorism that your entire synagogue was shut down and couldn't be entered with out massive security and top permission. It was really sad.

The man then told us of another synagogue and we were off on the search once again.

Of course again we ended up hopelessly lost on a man street with no English speakers. Attempts at more directions were futile and I was beginning to wonder how safe it was to be announcing to every Muslim on the street that we were Jewish.

We stopped in a fish restaurant and asked where the synagogue might be and the guy goes - "Not synagogue, fish restaurant, fish restaurant here!" - the language barrier is getting annoying.

We backtracked for a bit, found a nice cafe, which sometimes means English and - tada - we got really good directions... and information that it was closed until 9am the next day!




Ten minutes later we found ourselves locked outside a small building, recognizable only by a tiny little Jewish star on the top. Well at least we had ourselves an adventure.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very true.. Some people can be very creepy here. I liked to read about your observations. lol.

Optimus Prime

7:02 PM  

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