roadrunnertwice: Ray pulling his head off. Dialogue: "DO YOU WANT SOME FRITTATA?" (Achewood.Ray - DO YOU WANT SOME FRITTATA)
Let's go ahead and start with the intestines, because I know someone is going to ask me about that. There, it's out of the way. (They tasted fine, but I don't want that texture in my mouth ever again.)

Anyway, I tend to do a mostly vegetarian thing when I'm in the States, but that dog don't really hunt here, so I've just been eating what everyone else eats and figuring I'll balance it out later. Roll the film, please:

  • Dürüm, a meat and vegetable roll-up of sorts made with extremely thin (~1mm) flatbread.
  • Ayran, a salty diluted yogurt served as a beverage.
  • Baked quince in honey with clotted cream.
  • Pide (stuff-baked-on-top version).
  • Pide (bare version, i.e. just flatbread).
  • Helva with Antep pistachios.
  • Quince braised with meatballs (both kinds of quince I had were pretty unbelievable; gonna have to learn how to wrangle that fruit myself, now).
  • Dolma (tasted like dolma!).
  • A ton of meze and salads I didn't even get the names of. (We went to this great restaurant in Istanbul called Çiya. Highly recommended.)
  • Şeker (sugar) oranges, which are these seedless manderins with bright green or yellow rind. They taste exactly like the satsuma oranges we can get in the winter, but the contrast of green to shocking orange looks really alien and cool.
  • Non-Cavendish bananas! Which tasted like... Bananas. OK!
  • Lots of olives, mostly during breakfast. They sell uncured olives in the markets here, too, which are inedible but that's still kind of exciting. I'm at where olives come from! (When I was walking around outer Antep, I saw a group of older women and kids sitting on the sidewalk outside of a park sorting through a little wash-pool full of raw olives, which was yet another thing I'd never seen before. Dunno whether they were prepping them for sale or for curing.)
  • Turkish white cheese and sheep's milk cheese.
  • Pomegranates. Better than the ones we get here.
  • Adana kebap. (I was actually about to just say "A couple kinds of kebap," but then Kate got on my case about it, and I totally should have recorded it so you guys could hear.)
  • A COUPLE KINDS OF KEBAP, which I am now totally allowed to say, because we went to Imam Çaǧdaş after I wrote that last line and ordered the mixed grill, none of which did I have the training to recognize. It was all delicious, though.
  • Also at Çaǧdaş, we had what was possibly, depending on who you ask, the best baklava in the world. (This is apparently part of an ongoing rivalry in Antep, which mostly produces the pistachio type rather than the more common walnut type. I don't know anything about the other contenders, but this was pretty fucking good.)
  • A strange relative of baklava that looks like a shrimp and is composed of like 70% air and which collapses like a fatally-punctured diving bell when you put it in your mouth. (By the way, the waiters at Imam Çaǧdaş are really nice and bring you tons of free stuff you didn't order.)
  • Lahmacun, which is a kind of loosely pizza-like dish except that the crust is really really thin and verging on crackery in texture; like with a New York slice, you eat it folded in half, except that you tear off a chunk first and put parsley and lemon on it. We actually made this the last time Kate was in Portland, and I think we got pretty close, although my crust was definitely too thick compared to the real thing.
  • American-style oatmeal with fried apples and hazelnuts.
  • SO MUCH TEA. The way the Turks make it is actually kind of weird to me: they stew it to undrinkability, then dilute it and add sugar. (No milk.) I was kind of worried that I'd be a mess of tannin stomachaches, but apparently diluting stewed tea magically negates its bad effects? Or maybe sugar helps neutralize tannins the same way milk does, except that doesn't really make sense. Or maybe I've partially outgrown that reaction, which might be an ok tradeoff for the onions thing. Okay, now I'm just rambling. -_-
  • Börek, a flaky pastry roll filled with just about anything, which changes its character quite a bit depending on what it's being used for. There's greasy meat börek, sweet pistachio börek, cheese börek that resembles nothing so much as a macaroni and cheese croissant, and egg-and-yogurt börek that is almost quiche-like. …I ate a hell of a lot of börek, now that I think about it.
  • Walnut cookies! Simple and good.
  • Eggplant, which Turks cook better than I've ever had before.
  • Soupy egg scramble alongside bread with honey and clotted cream.
  • Muska, a dessert made from pistachio paste wrapped in a leathery skin made of dried and floured grape molasses. (Bringing a kilo of this home, if anyone's curious.)
  • A hot yogurt soup with sheep meat and micro-dumplings, garnished with mint oil. I'll have to ask Kate about the name of this one again, because I can't quite remember it.
  • Çi köfte, i.e. raw meatballs in lettuce. Surprisingly great!


…I think that's most of it.
roadrunnertwice: Hagrid on his motorcycle, from Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone. (HarryPotter.Hagrid - Two wheels good)
By the way, in case you couldn't tell, I've been in Gaziantep for the last few days. I am going to keep bouncing back and forth here, because you're not the boss of me.

Like most places outside the U.S., Turkey scandalizes with what it's willing to call a two-way street, but that's only scratching the surface of the transportation situation here: what actually surprised me most were the motorbikes. Well, probably something like 60% scooters by volume, but you get the idea. Little 125 CC buggers, mostly with underinflated knobby tires and usually laden with some ridiculous amount of cargo. Need to move five nineteen-liter water tanks (full) across the neighborhood? Leave the car at home and scoot that shit. You can carry two in your lap, right?

Also, these short-haul freighters have some uncanny slowriding skills. Which comes in handy when they ride on the sidewalks or through one of the semi-covered bazaars. I am not exaggerating for comic effect. All comic effect in this post is supplied by unvarnished reality. I have never ever seen the flesh pylon slalom played the way they play it here.

Adding to the surreality of it all is that, here in Antep at least, they like to coast. Well, okay, it's a medieval fortress city built on a bunch of enormous hills, so use what you got, but it's still weird to have a two-stroke scooter in shitty repair cruise past you in utter silence.




Buses are worth a mention, too. I never figured out the system in Istanbul, and we mostly took foot or tram, but here in Antep, they have these little mini-buses that flow as thick as red blood cells. There is no real system, as far as I can tell: the buses have incomplete lists of where they're going posted in their windows, but mostly you just ask the drivers when you're getting on and you can board or jump out basically anywhere. It kind of blows my mind how convenient it is; no one seems to wait more than a minute and a half for a bus to show up. In short, total chaos that works better than it seems like it should. Turkey!

There aren't many bicycles.
roadrunnertwice: Ryoga from Ranma 1/2. Image text: "*Now* where the hell am I?" (Ranma.Ryoga - Ryoga is lost)
Right, so anyway. Let's start from the beginning. I deplaned in Istanbul, paid my $20 US for my 90 day visa, meandered through passport control, collected my bag (20% coffee and microbrews by weight), walked out of the terminal, and was met by a shout of "Nick!" and a hug that I'd been craving for, well, a while now, let's just say that.

Modulo some minor directional confusion (nothing above par for my course, except that I happened to be really hungry and towing a bag and may have pouted at [personal profile] katealaurel a bit), we arrived at our hotel without incident. We'd ended up at an apartment-style place with one suite per floor, in a tall narrow building in a quiet and peaceful neighborhood (well, comparatively speaking) more or less inside Beoǧlu.1 We were later told that the area half a block downhill from us wasn't safe to go into, but I wouldn't have guessed it.

Istanbul is full of grand, abandoned old wrecks, beautiful stone or concrete or brick buildings whose age I can't even guess at that have been left to fade and go to seed. Some of them are cored-out and broken-walled and barren, like the one just out our window, and others seem mostly intact but have boarded-up doors and windows stuffed with broken lamps or mannequins. At home they'd be called blight, but they're everywhere, here, even on the busiest and glitziest thoroughfares and shopping rows.

There's also a species of wood-slat buildings that look like sculptures left by some long-departed people, of which barely any are still usable or even salvagible. Kate tells me they're a traditional Istanbul style, but are fiendishly expensive and difficult to restore, and it's more lucrative to let them rot until they can be condemned and then build something modern.

Not that I have the eye to tell the somethings modern from the somethings old, yet, and they're all crammed in shoulder to shoulder, making oddly dark canyons of the streets. (In Istanbul, you go five stories high or you go home.) The ground floors are crowded with commercial bustle, and it invades the upper floors too, sometimes as storage space, sometimes for extra seating, sometimes fitting whole other shops in there. Then there are the rooftop cafés, which I hadn't really guessed the number of until we got up on the Galata tower and looked down on them.

This town is Built Up, is what I'm getting at, and it is BIG, stretching practically from horizon to horizon. It's big and it's tall and it's older than hell, and while I wouldn't call any real city truly knowable, Istanbul has the bad grace to rub your face in it. I kind of love it for that.




1: For some reason, the iPad doesn't seem to have any good way to get Turkish characters, so an earlier version of this post had a bunch of em-dashes and apostrophes dangling around.
roadrunnertwice: Protagonist of Buttercup Festival sitting at a campfire. (BF - Vast and solemn spaces)
I'm going to skip ahead a bit so that this part doesn't contaminate the rest of some other post.

Late on Halloween morning, Kate and I were sitting on a bench under the Galata Tower when we heard a very nasty-sounding crash. The kind that makes everyone in the neighborhood go quiet for a moment, we're talking. "Probably construction," Kate said, shaking off the hush. "Huh; ok," I said. But no: it turned out to be a guy blowing himself up at the police station in Taksim Square.

So yeah, baby's first suicide bombing. Reports were still hazy the last time we checked, and neither of us have kept up on the news about it; some analyst said it was definitely PKK, a PKK spokesman said he hadn't heard about it until they called him to ask about it, and there were somwhere between 22 and 32 injured, of which 10 or 12 were police; no one killed on the scene aside from the bomber.

For the rest of the trip, we saw a lot of riot police. And more than a few demonstrations and marches, too—some of which seemed kind of obscure (the tekel [bodega/package store/liquor store] workers' union was out in force one night—guh?), but I wouldn't be able to explain American politics to a Turk either, so whatever.

Also, that night we ended up walking past a hospital where some of the wounded were being treated, and there was a vigil on.

They re-opened the public transit hub at Taksim the next day, and those of us who didn't get blown up got on with our business.

I don't have much more to say about it. Hell of a thing, though.
roadrunnertwice: Silhouette of a person carrying a bike up a hill (Bikeluggin')
And the word is, NO JET LAG. Fuck yeah, I am a dynamo of awakeness. That's pretty much all there is to say about that. (Well, there's more, but I'm going to leave it until I have time to write about stuff that isn't exciting foreign locales.)

I'm in Istanbul on the morning of my third day here, writing this in our hotel apartment while Kate types some emails. I'm having to re-think a bit how I interact with a new city, simply because I haven't traveled in so long, but so far I think I'm absorbing an okay amount of it. We've gone to the Ayasofia, walked around the old town, sat in cafés, eaten some amazing food, seen the insides of two incredibly old and cool mosques (including the "new" mosque, which, well, that name writes its own punchline in this town, doesn't it), not-shopped at the grand bazaar and the spice market (both tourist central) as well as the pet market and the highway underpasses and really pretty much anyplace where there's enough free space on the ground to set a cigar box. (The entrepreneurial spirit, she is alive and well in Istanbul.)

I've NOT been interacting much with the Turks, which I do feel somewhat guilty about; this is also the first time I've traveled with a guide (of sorts), and I'm leaning on her, possibly too much. Still, I'm here for less than two weeks, so I'm not going to get over-ambitious re: cultural exchange.

At any rate, we've been spending a lot of time wandering the streets, dodging scooters laden with water tanks and dancing around and between families and couples and clusters of bros. The streets are crowded here, it's kind of unbelievable. I think even more so than the chain of big European cities I rushed through back in '04, though it's tough to compare across so much passed time.

More soon.
roadrunnertwice: Crow perched on a trail signpost. (Crow on signposts)
(post-posted, but you 'd have figured that out in a second anyway.)

So here I am at *checks seat computer* 37,000 feet, about to cross the border from Romania to Bulgaria, and trying to figure out whether my slightly deranged efforts to avoid jet lag are working. (I think they might be, but it's hard to say, yet.) I'll be landing in Istanbul in about an hour, with hardly a word of Turkish to call my own, and now that the grogginess has worn off a hair, I'm pretty fucking excited about it.

In my mind leading up to it, this trip has been "going to see Kate" rather than "vacationing someplace awesome," possibly because that thought was better at keeping me going through the last few weeks. But now that the coincidental work-related complications are all dealt with and the bullshit of trying to follow a dozen contradictory instructions from the airline is all done, I'm suddenly totally amped about getting out of the country for the first time in six years. Holy shit, even just walking around aimlessly in the cities is going to be so awesome.

And that's about all I have to say about that. Not feeling particularly pensive or worried; it could just be the breakfast after a 20 hour fast talking, but all feels right with the world.

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