I also spied a guy wearing a University of Arizona shirt in the passport-control line.
My Tourist Turnout Index has proved reliable throughout Europe: The Japanese wake up first, followed by the Germans. The British and Americans roll out of bed last. Acting against type, I am already across the Galata Bridge by 8:30 a.m. and making the climb to the Galata Tower.
The Italian city states held sway here in the 14th century, and the tower belonged to the Genovese. Originally used as part of a defense system, it morphed into an astronomical observatory and fire lookout. Fast fact: Its walls are 10 feet thick at the base, just 1 foot thick at the top.
Where have you been, my beautiful patata? I love how these characters all have individual personalities and hairstyles — names, too, derived from the kind of sauce you ask for. I went out with Barb-e-kue, and let me tell you, she was a skanky bitch. Give me Mr. Meyniz, or Charlie Ket-zip any day.
We’re on Istiklal Caddesi now, generally regarded as Istanbul’s main drag, and I thought this impressive gate must guard an embassy or consulate. But it’s a high school, Galatsaray Lisesi, founded in 1453. If you’re not a smart kid, don’t even waste your breath applying for admission.
Some kind of police love-fest is going on here. I ask a cop about it and she says it’s “Police Week.” An interesting scene. There are thousands of cops, of course, and perhaps another thousand plainclothes and uniformed police watching the cops. Last year a young man sneaked into Turkey along the Iraqi frontier, made it to Istanbul and rented an apartment. On Halloween, he strapped explosives to his midsection and blew himself up on this spot. The Kurdistan Freedom Falcons took responsibility, and security is on everybody’s mind.
Saw a soldier in a beret with a compact M8 on his hip. Intense!
The self-congratulations tip into the melodramatic. This poster, showing one of Istanbul’s finest scooping a derelict off the street, says “Keeping you safe … because evil thrives where the sun don’t shine!”
A police band. I almost wrote something dismissive like “Don’t quit your day jobs, boys,” but when I saw this little slice of Mayberry in Istanbul, and how earnestly they played — well, it’s hard to watch without getting a lump in your throat.
(But psst. Don’t quit ’em.)
I invite cars to run me over on the Galata Bridge before catching a ferry to Kadikoy. Mighty Fenerbahce is playing Buraspor tonight, and even though the game is sold out, I didn’t come this far to watch the TV highlights.
I’m in! Buying from a scalper wasn’t too difficult, but a little cloak-and-daggery. We did our business on the steps of a home-furnishings store, our backs turned toward the street. My ceiling was 150 lira and I was able to sit in the Fener section for 90. Twice the face value, but whaddya gonna do?
After 10 minutes, it is clear Fener will have trouble scoring against the crafty Bura side. At one point you think, “The Canaries should be up 6-0!” but in reality this match could go either way.
Back in Europe, it’s already early Monday. Sunday morning I stood atop the Galata Tower, but it seems like a month ago. The Yeni Cami sparkles in the moonlight. I catch one of the last trams back to Sultanahmet, but a deep sleep is not in my future. Not yet.