Istanbul is such a unique city where east meets west, where traditional meets modern, and where there is something to discover on every corner. On our last full day in Istanbul, Stella and I visited Topkapi Palace (totally worthwhile if you want to see big jewels), took another walk through the Spice Market, and then took the ferry over to the Asian side of Istanbul to an area called Karakoy. Few tourists venture to this side and it was a quiet day when we arrived. Though I wouldn’t consider it a must-see while in Istanbul (though I know many who do), I have to say that we had a really fun time because of the locals we met.
When we landed, we saw these little kids sitting, playing their little flutes, and begging. Also a common sight in Nairobi, I can’t stand to see parents essentially pimp out their children to beg. At one point the children were looking in one direction and we saw their mothers sitting with friends and hanging out on the sidelines. Frustrations aside, one can’t help but notice how adorable these kids are though.
Stella and I wandered through a gift market and then through the streets with local food vendors and shops. We took advantage of this time to shop for John and his brothers’ Christmas presents. Stella knows the boys from her time in Kenya and cares for them as much as I do. She wanted to help them have a good Christmas, since they have never received a Christmas gift in their life. Not a single one. And though it’s not as shocking as it might seem, since the focus of Christmas isn’t as consumer-driven in Kenya as it is in the U.S., who doesn’t want to be spoiled just once in their life?
I had brought tshirts from Old Navy and fun bracelets that Stella and I had picked up on our road trip at the MLK museum in Memphis. We stopped at a little cologne stand in the gift market. And that’s when the fun began. :) Stella thought cologne would be a great gift, so we looked at a list of nearly 100 cologne knock-offs to see which ones we wanted to smell. One of the sales guys tried to spray it on Stella’s wrist but she was quick to inform him that she didn’t want to smell like a man- so he had no choice but to spray it on his wrist. We continued to pick out possibilities, meaning the man sprayed both wrists, the backs of both hands, and when we picked up the fifth scent we wanted to smell, he looked to his colleague. With a mischievous grin, he pulled down the collar of his shirt, sprayed his neck, and leaned over for Stella to smell. This guy was probably in his 40s and we all started to crack up, even locals that were shopping there as well. After that, we decided it was probably best to stop testing, as we had no idea where he would try to spray next! We selected a scent and moved on. We purchased socks, gloves, and a hat from a stall, a card game and Rubik’s cube from a little game shop, and a nice watch on clearance at a watch shop. Stella had also brought some thread bracelets with her, and with that, we were ready for Christmas in Kenya. (I still need to post the video of the boys opening their gifts- it’s quite a memorable moment).
We had to rush to catch the ferry back before nightfall. We caught sunset over the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia on our way back. It was a risky task to take photos of it; a million birds follow the boat looking for food scraps and the benches we sat on were covered in bird poop. Luckily, we made it back without incident.
This is my last post on Istanbul (at least for now). I can’t believe we only spent three nights there. I would definitely return to this city without a doubt! Anyone want to go? I owe a very special thanks to Meg, an Istanbul expat who gave us recommendations on where to stay and what to do. Catch her on Twitter (& hear about her adorable baby) at @thenotoriousmeg.