Friday, October 19, 2007

Asia and "Mapkins"


One of the stunningly unusual things about Istanbul is that the city is actually located on two continents - the Bosphorus Strait separates Europe from Asia. Now, this is something that couldn't go unchallenged. I'd talked to a few people about taking a side trip across the strait, but I'm an adherent of the "more the merrier" school of adventure-taking, so as presentations ended, I hollered out, "Anybody wanna go to Asia?" I didn't have a plan, but hey! why let a detail like that stop me? One thing led to another and eventually, 11 of us (along with 4 of our increasingly amused Turkish friends) set off for the ferry docks. While the city residents had other plans, they wanted to make sure we got safely to the docks and we were equipped with a napkin that was covered with jotted notes and rough directions - hence the term "mapkin." While the "mapkin" is not as well-known a talisman agains the "evil eye" as the picture at the top of this post, we remained safe and happy throughout our adventure.

To residents of this magnificent city, it was another commute home from the office; we were delighted tourists. And by the way - yes, it was chilly enough on the ferry to need a coat and no, that doesn't make it a "straitjacket," at least not in the usual sense of the word!

The city does take on a different perspective when you're on the water at sunset. The walls of the older part of this ancient city are bathed in a mellow, almost rose-colored light and the domes and minarets of the mosques appear soft and rounded. It's a different view than the one you get from walking along the cobbled streets and one well worth the trip.

In Asia, we proceeded to walk and gawk a bit, but you don't do much of that anywhere in Istanbul without attracting a lot of "come here, come here. Best food - you want lamb?" As a matter of fact, the other night one of these restaurant barkers (or "food pimps," as David Lavery dubbed them) told me in a single breath, "You want fresh fish? Pretty eyes." I'm still not sure if he meant I had pretty eyes or that the fish had the pretty eyes, but either way, I was walking on! Four of the group split off and the remaining seven of us (nice magical number) found a restaurant and stayed and stayed, talking about all things under the sun. I recited the first line of my paper and it was decided that was enough to claim that I had made presentations on two continents on this trip. At the table, we had something like six languages represented between the seven of us (alas, I was the only monolingual one - more proof that Blanche DuBois got it right when she claimed to have "always depended on the kindness of strangers") and we understood each other quite well.

I hope I never forget it.

1 comment:

Stacked Librarian said...

I really need to travel with you more. It sounds like you are having a marvelous time! I'm so happy for you!