Saturday, January 22, 2005


The f?rst few days I was here ?n Istanbal ?t was dr?zzl?ng, but the past few days ?t was rather plesant. I am greatful for that because I had really good tour?ng weather.

I saw a lot of the usual tour?st s?tes. I went w?th a small group to the Ayasof?a, the H?ppodrome, the Blue Mosque, the Sul?man Mosque, and the Covered Bazar (Wh?ch ?s just l?ke every other bazzar ?n the m?ddle east complete w?th lots of annoy?ng salespeople whom I am hav?ng d?uff?culty gett?ng used to.). We also got a lecture from the owner of a carpet store all about Turk?sh rugs (wh?ch apparently ?s a major ?ndustry here). He served very plesant apple tea.

We then went to Topkap? palace where I saw, among many other sacred Islam?c rel?cs, Moses' staff, Josephs' turban, the sword of Muhammed, and all of h?s fr?ends' swords, b?ts of h?s beard (?t looked black), one of h?s footpr?nts (the r?ght foot), h?s sandals (the footpr?nt was MUCH larger than the sandal could have accommodated), and some stuff from Dav?d and others. I never knew that these th?ngs were here.

On the tour I met th?s guy "M", from vegas and h?s f?ance "T", from Kyrg?stan and we went to the B?g Mall on Thursday. It reallyt wasn't so b?g. Then on Fr?day "M" and I went to a truk?sh bath. As I ment?ned yesterday ?t was heavenly.

Turkey ?s r?ght now ?n the process of chang?ng ?ts currency. Bas?cally ?t ?s slash?ng s?x zeroes off everyth?ng, so there are far fewer m?ll?ona?res here now. But ?t ?s confus?ng because people use two d?fferent currenc?es at the same t?me. You pay ?n a m?xture of new and old Turk?sh L?ra. So for example ?f someth?ng cost 9 1/2 L?ra, you can pay 5 New L?ra + 4,000,000 Old L?ra, plus some handful of co?ns that you have to trust the store keeper to f?gure out. A L?ra ?s about 80 cents, so you are OK. But ?t ?s all confus?ng.

Today ?s my last full day ?n Turkey, as I leave tomorrow for Israel. I th?nk I w?ll take ?t easy and have lunch ?n Ortakoy, the r?tzy sect?on of town. Maybe I'll take ?n a museum too.

S?nce Thursday there has been a fest?val of the sacr?f?c?ng of (or rather fa?lure to sacr?f?ce) Ishmael by Abraham. Apparently there were many sheep sacr?f?ced. Somehow I d?d not get to see any of them. I really d?d want to sacr?f?ce a sheep. The way the story goes, a th?rd of the sheep goes to one's fam?ly, a th?rd to one's ne?ghbors, and a th?rd to the poor. None to the tour?st. Because of th?s hol?day many th?ngs are closed, so tour?ng ?s a b?t slower, and on the plu s?de, I th?nk that publ?c transportat?on ?s free. So I have not really been pay?ng for ?t. At least I hope ?t ?s free.

More to come.

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