One thing my rug seller “friends” are good for. They directed me to this pharmacy on Divan Yolu, where I picked up some naproxen. I actually have a good relationship with one of them, once he learned I wasn’t buying. “Eh-zane”; the “c” is silent.
I made it. Eminonu is the ground zero of Istanbullus’ daily life. The Yeni Cami (Young Mosque) is in the foreground. The Suleymaniye Mosque is at rear right. I believe the latter occupies the highest spot on Istanbul’s seven hills. The city’s skyline hasn’t changed much in 500 years. Credit an otherwise clueless city-planning system. Europe’s tallest skyscraper opened here just this month, but it wouldn’t be allowed anywhere near this historic peninsula.
Fishermen on the Galata Bridge, formerly a pontoon bridge spanning the Golden Horn. From the looks of them, they’re fishing to eat, not sell. They attach their poles to the railing with bungee-wrapped wooden blocks.
Mom and son take in the sights. It’s a place of jaw-dropping beauty, near where the Golden Horn, Marmara and Bosphorus meet. It’s impossible to absorb the historical significance of this spot, where Jason and the Argonauts sailed 3,000 years ago in search of the Golden Fleece, where the Byzantine empire staked out its easternmost edge, where the Ottomans ruled much of Europe and the Middle East for 700 years. When you walk in Istanbul, you tread on the bones of all these people.
Sellers of warm chestnuts and simit, or sesame-encrusted pretzels, are everywhere. I believe the chestnuts go for 3TL for 100 grams. Applying the eyeball test and some shaky math, that amounts to about six chestnuts for $2. I’d hit that.
Washing before prayers. As “The Facts of Life” taught us, you take the good you take the bad … and as far as Muslims go, they’re a clean bunch. Seriously, the merchants here scrub their sidewalks obsessively.
A simple picture tells a bigger story. Because traffic is so heavy here, a lot of cargo is delivered by hand trucks. And in the upper left corner you’ll notice the closed-circuit TV camera. Not saying it’s Britain, but Istanbul is pretty locked down. I saw cops in this area literally reach into people’s pockets, look into their cigarette packs, ask for ID. Soldiers patrol with AKs and AR-15s. Turkey has a terrorism problem with its own people — the Kurdish minority. When a suicide bomber struck in Taksim Square here on Halloween 2010, it marked a kind of sickening milestone. The British Foreign Office insists extremist Kurds are intent on striking tourists, but I’ve seen no evidence to back this up. The Taksim blowup targeted a busful of policemen. You can expect to be frisked or asked for ID at any time. I carry a copy of my passport.