As a vacation is coming to a close, I start wanting to get home. I need a vacation from vacation to savor what I’ve experienced against the backdrop of the prosaic, and frankly, to rest. Ten to fourteen days tends to be about the right amount of time to be away, though the same coincidental desire to return home occurs if the vacation is 21 days or 5. Perhaps my mind is wisely preparing to accept the change.
Saturday was our last full day and we did not take for granted that stellar view from the rooftop over the Bosphorus while we enjoyed the Turkish breakfeast. Sadly, I was so ill with an old world cold, food didn’t appeal to me, and instead I guzzled a classic American breakfast of Nyquil.
Our big plan was to visit the famed Grand Bazaar, which covers over 50 city blocks, has thousands of vendors, and has been there for over 600 years! ‘Twas a feast for the eyes, especially the glasswork. Color is a cure, and the bright bowls, cloths, spices, and genuine bling everywhere made me forget about my stuffed head and sore throat for a while. Despite its modern glitz, the Byzantine layout, narrow aisles, and architecture made it easy to imagine being in old Ottoman times. This was not like shopping on an American vacation destination, where the stores in one city are the same as in any other and you might as well have staycationed.
I didn’t really want to purchase anything though, in part because the bazaar was so overwhelming, but more personally, the sour taste from the rug buying experience spoiled any urge to spend. Thankfully, none of the vendors were pushy; perhaps they could smell our mood. For a Saturday, it was remarkably empty.
By now, we’d been everywhere on our Istanbul “must see” list and decided to wander to nearby sites of interest. Right off, we bumped into Istanbul University, which seemed to be walled in: were they imprisoning the students or keeping out would-be scholars like us? Next we stopped at the Suleymaniye Mosque, which we couldn’t enter either, not due to any walls but to prayer time. I think if we were worshippers, we could have gone in. We were able to visit its glorious old tombs, and luckily, we didn’t have to be dead to enter those. Plus, there were spectacular views of northwestern Istanbul from the location. Our excursion ended at an ice cream cafe, with an outdoor view looking down a hill to the Bosphorus. Another pristine day. Is Istanbul weather always so perfect?
How is it possible to feel so poorly when the weather is so gorgeous? We returned to our room and my cold forced me to sleep. Freeman stayed with me to watch sports on Turkish TV. He understood the international language of games well enough: scores are universally presented in Arabic numerals. Michael took Kamala to the Istanbul Modern Museum of Art, on the Asian side of the city, crossing the bridge on a tram. Kamala was tickled by one of the exhibits. Turns out there was a glass work by the same artist who created the mist field we had enjoyed at Versailles, Olafur Eliasson (cue the Twilight Zone music).
Our last supper was at Constantine’s Ark, highly recommended by the bible (aka Trip Advisor). Constantine, per Wikipedia, was the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity, and established Constantinople as the empire’s capitol. All that history in the space of a tweet. The “Ark” in the restaurant’s name remains a mystery, as Google, my other bible, offered little clue. We had a table at the second floor balcony overlooking the street. The food was fine, especially the desserts, with impeccable service. Though it was a Saturday night, there were only a handful of patrons. Terrorism seemed to be winning.
Next morning, we wistfully lingered over our final, lovely breakfast, then headed to the airport. Onur, our hotel host, thought we were overly cautious leaving hours ahead of time. The conversation with our cab driver, with heavily accented English, pivoted from the countless cranes in view and the construction boon, to extolling Erdogan, the master of the plan to make Turkey a powerhouse. Onur turned out to be correct; the cabbie, not so much.
At the terminal, where only 10 days prior we arrived to the cleaned-up carnage, we searched for a spot where I could lie down to rest. We passed through a long, narrow area crowded with people who appeared to be from all over the world wearing traditional Muslim robes, hijabs, and beards, which turned out to be an airport mosque. Hah — we did end up in a house of worship while they were worshipping! Then we found an empty gate area where I stretched out and slept until boarding time.
On the trip home, there were no views, alas. Kamala and I watched the same movies at the same time, but each on our own screens with our own headphones. We turned to each other to share our reactions via facial features. If we were two-year-olds, that would be called parallel play. When finally we arrived at Logan Airport, as we waited in the customs line, Kamala spotted a woman carrying the book I edited for Deborah Hill, “This is the House”. How cool was that? It was good to be home.
Four days later, after leaving my yoga class all calmed out, the radio reported the terror-by-truck attack that ended up killing 86 people on Bastille Day in Nice, continuing the summer streak. And if that wasn’t enough, just five wee days after leaving Istanbul, as we were driving to New York City, NPR reported a coup in Turkey. My ears must have still been plugged up from the cold. But NO, indeed fighter jets flew over Istanbul and armed militia fought in the city streets and gunfire sprayed down bodies on the bridges throughout the night. I was SOOOOO grateful we were already home, though I was extremely saddened for the Turkish people, like S, and any tourists experiencing that.
After Paris and Istanbul, I had an awakened appreciation for New York City. It is totally hopping, with an unbelievable variety of people, clothes, architecture, foods, and things to do. Not to mention extreme traffic, which we got stuck in at midnight!
Since that trip, Turkey has undergone quite a bit of political change, with freedoms curtailed and tens of thousands jailed, including a few Americans who were there at the time of the uprising and were accused of complicity. When I hear news of the country, I care more about it, for having been there. My regret is not getting to know people while on our trips, and I will make sure to do that in the future.
And since that holiday, a whole ‘nother vacation has come and gone: a funtastic week with extended family in a spectacular waterfront home on Cape Cod. Of course, the weather was unbeatable. While I’d like to announce the dates for my next trip so anyone who books theirs for the same week could borrow my weather luck, it wouldn’t be wise to advertise my empty home. But no matter the climatic conditions, regardless of unpleasant surprises and fears, any trip provides an injection of new life. Travel as often as you can!