On the first AM in Turkey, Wednesday, the 8th, woke up to mezzein calling the faithful to prayer– which sounds a lot more romantic than it is. And Hell, I’m not even one of the faithful even when I’m home, being pretty active in the free-thought communities in both Seattle and Portland.

But it’s now approaching 7 AM and we’re heading out to check out the city. Overcast, so some pictures will be better than if actual direct sunlight, but others won’t be as good. So it goes.

After riding to Galatasaray Univ with the owner of the home where we are staying, Chetin, the guy I arranged the car with, we walked to a funicular and rode up to Taksim Square, one of the major gathering places, being at one end of a Kilometer-long pedestrian-only street linked with shops and cafes.

Then we walked down to the western end of street and rode another funicular down to the east end of Galata Bridge. This is extra interesting, as far as bridges go, as each end, except for the place in the center where the boats go under, is full of shops and (mostly) restaurants under the road bed.

Walked across bridge, stopping to look at the many people (mostly old men) fishing from the bridge and went through spice market a couple of times.

There was a young woman handing out what I thought were marketing notices or announcements about a disco or a club, but which were actually photo post cards of Ataturk.

We went to a large grocery store later in the evening, which had security people and an airport-type screening gate you walked through.

Later, down at the port, there was a line of balloons in the water maybe 4 meters from the shore, and guys would rent an air rifle from some street vendor, and pay to shoot at the balloons.

On Thursday AM, went to the cisterns in From Russia with Love.

We’d been in a park and shot some before the cisterns opened.

I know, I know: these close-ups of flowers could have been taken anywhere. But it’s a lot of what I shoot, and some of what I sell.

One of the day’s highlights was Aya Sophia, built in the sixth century. Notre Dame could fit inside it. . . . . There’s been a scaffold inside, under the dome, for over twenty years, for workers, and it’s over 20 stories high.

They expect it will be there another decade at best. That’s one reason it costs 20 YTL (New Turkish Lira) ($12.50 or so).

After a little nap in the park sitting on a bench (Kim was on the lawn behind me also resting), we went to the Blue Mosque.

On the way out, saw several score Muslim women is the most brightly colored scarves and tried to capture the riot of color they represented.

On the way out, saw several score Muslim women is the most brightly colored scarves and tried to capture the riot of color they represented.

Muscle Cars

Later, I went with Chetin to a rough collection of almost Albania mechanics’ stalls, some of which contained normal local cars and some of which contained some incredible American muscle cars in the last stages of restoration/customizing.

Chetin has several of these great classic cars: a 1962 Pontiac Ventura, a 1960 GMC truck, a 1957 Chev I haven’t seen yet—it’s in a garage near by, and a 1955 Chev Bel Aire. And I finally get to at least look smart, as he told me how to tell 1955 from 1956 Chevvies.

His pals, of course, also have little stables of these huge American cars—mostly with even more improbably huge engines, most of which are gorgeously restored. . . .

I’m not sure how many of the cruise-ship tourists have been in the back alleys and dusty hovel/garages where these big, gleaming monsters reside, not unlike sleeping giants in dusty caverns awaiting the call to combat.

And any excuse to take them out for a little spin—- we had to go from a high-performance parts shop yesterday back to where the new car (as non-descript as you can imagine) was waiting, so four of us piled into this Oldsmobile Cutlass and headed down these little back streets and any time the driver had more than 50 feet clear in front of him, he hit the Hurst shifter, hit the gas, and it was the Winternationals, right there in Istanbul.

There should be pictures of them soon, I hope.

I spent today (it’s now Friday) trying to get a Cashier’s Check accepted (the last of more than 7 places said Yes and charged 200 YTL ($120) for the transaction.

I was going to borrow Chetin’s 2007 Yaris, but we have a little too much luggage for the space in the car, and the seat only goes back far enough for my daughter (Heather’s about 5’6″. . . . ).

So a friend of his has a 92 Hyundai for sale, and I’ll be buying it rather than renting his Yaris. Chetin will be the owner on paper, and I’ll bring it back to him about June 9th or so, then head on to Crete.

He’ll give me my cost of the car less $500 or so, so 9 weeks of car rental works out to about $8.00 per day. But there is lots of paperwork (and some fees) wrapped around the purchase, although the car is much more suited to our travel than the Yaris.

To cap off the day, when we came back form the car adventures and bank adventures, we hit the freeway—- clogged and stopped by that time of day.

Three lanes of traffic with four lanes of cars, if that helps give a picture, and with (of course) motor scooters and motorcycles going between the car lanes.

The capper, though, was the people selling stuff (bouquets of flowers they’d just picked from the side of the road, inflatable plastic 747s, bottles of water, etc. etc.) in the roadway and approaching anyone who was stuck and could not move.

Originally written for Two Minutes in Turkey

posts by Robert