7 Days In Turkey – Before The Fire Began (Part 1)

Anirban & Arijit, Humor, Journey, Series, Travelogue

Day 1 – Istanbul ~ Ekla Chalo Re

Reached our place @ 1 at night, struggled with the door lock for quite a while, scared the hell out of the unknown neighbors, and then entered the flat at 1.45. Beautiful place, with Frida Kahlo on the walls, the owner does have taste for good arts. Went to sleep at 2.30 only to wake up at 6.30. The bloody alarm on my phone is not artificially much intelligent to understand the difference between a work-day and a holiday. Or it’s the master who forgets too much!

Started my day trip @1 in the afternoon. Today its me only, the baby and mother are still recovering from a 10 hours long sleep following a super calm BA flight and sumptuous dinner (nope, not being sarcastic, the flight and the dinner was really good). Women are made of very sensitive material, no one knows it better than me.

I was buying the Istanbulkart when I met Serkei, he caught my impeccable Indian British accent as he used to work in India few years ago, now managing health tourism here.
I said, “Hi, I’m Anir!” (Yes now it’s my name in UK. Brits can’t spell ‘R’ in the middle of a word, so I became Aniwan, Anuban etc. So I made it easier for them!).
Serkei said, “Anil? Anil Gupta?
Me – “Yup , that will do.” (Now I hate my name.)
Serkei took my mobile number and email id, apparently he would be keeping in touch with me, and promised me healthy commission if I send patients to him :P. Turks don’t have any idea about NHS it seems.

Boarded the famous Istanbul tram, it’s like a Mercedes Benz with a few bogies attached to it. Goes smoothly, with a speed of 2 times of our kolkata trams, but that ‘ting ting ‘ sound is same as ours. Feels like a déjà-vu, as if I’m crossing busy Esplanade, not the Sultanhmet. Another similarity is there, you can cross a tram line while it is on sight, yes I did it here! Breaking the rule has its own charm

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Istanbul Tram

Visiting Istanbul is incomplete without the cruise on the Bosphorus Strait. I went to the harbour. That water looked like liquid Sapphire, it was really tempting to take the cruise. But that generally takes 2 hours. And costs 20 turkish lira, but I was on a budget, both for money and time.

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Bosphorus

Suddenly the Bengali in me nudged on my head. Went to the local Ferry ghat and took the ferry, it was as good as a small cruise ship, with open decks and an in house cafe. Did a round trip between the European and the Asian part of the City (FYI- Istanbul is one of those few cities in the world spanning both Asia and Europe, with the Bosphorus dividing the two parts). I paid 2.60 turkish Lira for this. Clever huh!

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Super cheap cruise!

Apart from misdeeds, I visited the Topkapi palace and the Basillica Cistern, saw Moses’s walking stick, remains of Profet Mohammed and Abdullah, magnificent islamic arts on the walls and ceilings of the palace, and mysteriously placed heads of Medusa in the Bassilica Cistern.

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Medusa Head
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Basilica Cistern
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Topkapi Palace

When I was there, one chap asked me to take a photo of him. After doing the favour, out of the courtesy I came to know that he is German. When I said I’m Indian, he said, “Kya haal hai?
Small world!!
P.S- The only German word I know is Das, and it is not a surname!

 

Day 2 – Istanbul ~ Kebab Calling Kebab

 

Woke up @ 4 in the morning, the kebabs begged, “Get rid of Us, Now!”
And I obliged them. Nature and wife, whenever they call You, try to reply ASAP, otherwise both will make you soil your pants.

Flashing Back ~
Yesterday, after returning to the room, we decided to have dinner outside, as because it was the very first day of trip, we tried to follow very basic and light diet, so we ate roasted Chestnuts, Durum (spicy wrap with minced chickpeas inside), Chicken kebab, Adana (lamb) kebab, apple tea and a couple of baklavas. The kebabs were very similar to those of the celo kebabs in Peter Cat, another deja-vu for me. Betu played drums on the restaurant table with spoons and forks, cooked some stuffs with sugar and air, and made us to eat them. We bought a new pair of shoes for her. A very few people are aware of my legendary bargaining skills. I haggled with the shopkeeper, him in Turkish and me in English, Hindi and Bengali. using a calculator in between us. The only common words we exchanged were “Merhaba” (“Hello” in Turkish), “Baby”, “No No” and “Goodbye”. At the end I managed to save 8 lira.

Fast Forward ~
Today we left @ 12, this time I was blessed to be with my daughter and her mom. Boarded the Metro, then the tram, tried to entertain Betu with imaginary dogs on both sides of the tracks and failed miserably, then she found peace in pulling my hairs.

Our first place to see was the Blue Mosque. Named such because of the blue tiles adorning the interior. Once upon a time it was the second largest mosque on earth, after Mecca. The Sultan Mehmud who ordered to make it was criticized for the same number of minarets it had as Mecca, 6. So to overcome it, the Sultan came with an incredible solution, He ordered to add one more Mineret to the great Mecca! This is what happens when you have power, and brain, both! It is also famous for only the second papal visit in history to a Muslim place of worship. Here after having removed his shoes, the Pope Benedict VII paused for a full two minutes (in medical term, we call it Blackout 🙂 ). Jokes apart, we were amazed to see its overwhelming size and splendour. Though the only part of it that amused Betu was the flocks of Pigeons outside the Mosque.

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Blue Mosque 1
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Blue Mosque 1

Just across the Mosque is Hagia Sofia (Turks spell it as Aya Sofiya). If you have never heard of it then google it now! This is the ‘Baap’ of all Secular places.

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Hagia Sofia

It was made in 5th Century, first a Greek Cathedral, then a Roman Basilica, then a Christian Church, then a Mosque, now a Museum! This is the only place on earth where you can find symbols of opposite faiths. A Muslim embroidery on a roman column, with symbols of Greek god Poseidon on both sides. The dome depicts ‘Mary with the Child’ and the name of ‘Allah’ side by side, staying together, without any smell of crude petroleum or nuclear weapon. This is a place of indigestion for the extremists, at the same time it is a tight slap on the face of the religious thugs. We were spellbound to see the remnants of a Byzantine masterpiece, the Jesus with Mother Mary and John the Baptist on his either sides, Betu paid her respect to the Christian lord by doing a pure Bengali Namoshkar.

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‘Mary and the Child’ and the name of Allah, peacefully together
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Mary, Jesus and John, one of the oldest Murals

Tried to visit the Grand Bazaar, but it was closed due to some Turkish Holiday. Jayee went into deep depression for a few mintutes. Woman and shopping are two different sides of a same coin.
We ended our day with Two Simits (Circular buns with Nutella inside!), one Cinnamon bun, One large Pide (Turkish Pizza), 4 different types of Locums (popularly known as Turkish delights), one bowl of Maggi (UK made, MSG free) and two Magnum ice creams. Being the flag bearer of Gluttony is a not an easy task. But I try to do it by my heart.
Going to sleep now. Need to wake up @ 6.30. Lunar landscape and hot air balloons are waiting for us. Cappadocia here we come!

 

Day 3 – Cappadocia ~ Lost In Translation

 

I was about to ask the Turkish lady for a date and that bloody alarm rang again, you must hate it when you have to wake up at the climax of your dream. Started @ 8.30, I was supposed to leave the flat keys in a nearby barber shop, but found it closed. Trouble! Went to a nearby computer store,
I asked, “Do you know Aydin”?
That guy promptly revealed a Samsung mobile phone out of his pocket and opened the google translator app. Smart move. Now we started our conversation, just like husband and wife, who just had a broil, now not talking to each other, but for the sake of saving the universe communicating with pen and paper. That went on for 15 mins. Al last he agreed and kept the keys with him, and I started running to catch a taxi. Got one, reached the airport in 10 mins.

The Ataturk domestic airport is like a small railway station, total chaos, most of the staffs do not understand English (Good for them though, they were spared of the British colonialism!). Somehow managed to reach the Turkish airlines kiosk, got our tickets, dumped our bags and went for security check in. Betu was playing with the airlines staffs all these time, all she needed was smiling faces. Our flight was right at time. 50 minutes of flight, nice and clean airbus with snacks and iced tea, all for just 1500 rupees per head! Can’t ask for more. The Nevsehir airport is a very small one, placed out of nowhere .Outside we found our chauffeur with my name on the board (he got the spelling correct , Yeppii!). Transferred to our hotel in 40 mins.

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Our Hotel

Cappadocia means “The land of beautiful horses”, but truly the reason for its fame is its unique terrain, aptly called lunar landscape, with cone shaped rock formations known as fairy chimneys.

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A Room With A View

Inside those chimneys are caves where the people of bronze age used to live, and we are living in one of those caves now. Yes you have read it right, fitted with all modern amenities, room-heater, TV , shower, commode and of course room service. Only place on earth where you can live in a cave hotel.

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Cave Room

Few thousand years ago in this very room some Neanderthal men might have spent their life time, fighting mammoths and making fire out of quartz stone, and now it’s me, gorging on sweet Lokums and typing on Google doc. Exciting, isn’t it?

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Fairy Chimney

Met Bekir, the Turkish hotel owner, and his wife Brit, a Norwegian. Brit’s daughter is a medical student and Bekir’s son is in school (do not smell any “Indrani Mukherjee” here, talking about legitimate marriages only). Bekir showed me N numbers of different Trips available here, and my Bengali brain kicked in, chose the most financially efficient one, if then Jayee was there with me she would have asked about some free stuffs as well.

After having lunch with good helpings of pide, I went for a quick stroll outside, the mother and child was in recovery mode today. Bekir drove me to Sunset point, I had to come down hiking from there. Great place with 360° view of the region. If you love nature, then try to visit this place at least once in your lifetime. You may have seen jungle, river, desert, falls, snow capped mountains. But Cappadocia is the Koh-i-noor of Mother Nature, one and only. Tried my best to capture the landscape on my DSLR, though my novice hands were not good enough to do the justice.

Met one Afghan lad here, named Zahir. Zahir loves Bollywood, Shahrukh and Kapil Sharma. When he came to know that though I am from India but presently working in UK, he asked me whether there was any chance of getting any unaccounted job there. Now I’m sure that my face was very convincing for an illegal immigrant.

By the evening I knew how many hotels were in the region with the first name Anatolia, because I was lost while returning from my rendezvous, and directed to all of them. It took me another 30 minutes to find my hotel at last, felt like finding that desired movie torrent after surfing through N number of proxy sites.

The family went for dinner then, Betu had half a packet of chips. We had an amazing delicacy, Pottery kebab, chicken kebab cooked within a covered earthen pot, broken just before serving. Yes my mouth is watering again as yours.

It’s already past 12 here, need to have a good nap, will wake up @ 5 again. The first adventure sport of my life is waiting for me there! (Though I’ll be spoon fed by an experienced pilot. Hope she’s Katrina! After all, Zindagi na milegi dobara 😛 )

 

Continue (Part 2) ->

 

Author: Anirban Ghosh

Image Courtesy: Anirban Ghosh

Copyrights Of All Images: Anari Minds

 

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