A bittersweet day. We are on the road at 7:30am bound for Istanbul, not Constantinople. The scenery is mostly the same as every other day. We work on puzzles and doze. Stopping for lunch at yet another Turkish roadside cafeteria with the same food as all the others, but today we have a secret weapon. Leftovers from the market! Certainly not the most scenic of places for a picnic, a curb in the parking lot at a truck-stop, but that lunch was one of the best, if not the best on the trip. I find myself loving oranges and shall begin to eat them in earnest upon our return. Well the cliffside stop was pretty good too. On the road again, and I am thankful the collywobbles have mostly passed. Few more hours to the city. Crossing from the Asian side to the European again I am struck by the enormity of the city. We travel down the golden horn past the second more modern of the Sultans palaces, and arrive at the ferry terminal where most disembark for the river cruise. We, however, leave and wade into the throng of humanity in and around the spice market. What feels like an eternity later, we find the market entrance. The streets around the market are packed with people and shops and dudes delivering tea on silver platters. The whole scene is too chaotic for photographs and out of control, but we are on a mission and dive into the market.
Shops come in three flavors; trinkets, spices, and jewelry. Many are a mixture of the three such that it all blends together into a dizzying array of continuous merchandise. Very little of which has price tags on it. I dislike bartering for goods. Please just give me a fair price and be done. You never feel that you got the best deal, because it always feels and seems arbitrary. Regardless we have lira to spend and no reason to bring them home. So off we go. We meet Mr. Super Mario who sells us some pepper and slips in a 'sultans aphrodisiac' into the bag for free. He is a true salesman, but nice about it and not overly pushy. On the way out we stop for coffee. In ordering two 50 gram bags of grounds, money has left my hand, change is slapped on the counter and a plastic bag with my order is tossed my way before I can complete the word grams. The "S" is still on my tongue not out of my mouth as I turn to walk away, transaction complete.
On the way home to the hotel, we wind through more alleys full of shops. It seems that every square inch of space is taken up by something in this city. We are not 100% sure of our location and this unnerves me. Thankfully something recognizable, the University, appears and we make it back to and check into hotel Mosaic. Dinner at a fish market restaurant. Efes beer, the Bud of Turkey is not much more palatable then its US counter-part. The fish is boney and I have no idea how to effectively eat such a thing, so unfortunately most goes to waste. Joy and Joe were good company and it was good fortune to share a table with them. It seems surreal to have crossed 2,000 miles of Turkish countryside and be back in this oppressive city, but here we sit, dining and being forced to dance by local musicians. We effectively wait out the storm till it passes and are allowed to remain seated. With no fan fair, no hoopla, dinner ends and the trip is over. Levent confides in me that this is likely his last tour. He remained outwardly resolute, but being away from his injured wife...I don't envy what he must have gone through. It is good for him to be heading home to be with them.
We are bound for departure at 9:00am with 18 hours of travel to follow. It is with nervous anticipation of the journey ahead and bittersweet emotion on seeing the journey end that I drift quickly to sleep.