Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Day 16, Istanbul (last full day)

8:56 a.m. I've never had soup for breakfast before. I went down to the restaurant serving breakfast (there are two other restaurants in the hotel), and, among the huge assortment of buffet items offered, noticed a soup tureen. Opening the lid, I asked one of the white-uniformed attendants behind the table what was in it. She did not know and had to consult with two other attendants before one came over, took a small sample, and announced it was “vegetable.” He did not specify which one, and there was no way of telling, but I took a small bowl just because I enjoy unbridled adventure. It was quite good, but I never did find out what it was.

I was joined by a very nice Englishwoman named Jean who I had seen often on the Odyssey, but never met officially. She, like so many of the others on this tour, is very worldly, having lived in Milan, Indonesia, Munich, and all around the world...all of which she related casually and not in an attempt to impress: it's just the way things were. I've noticed that travelers seem to be place-droppers, mentioning time spent in Mali or Hong Kong, or having lived in Cairo or Marrakech, or their last trip on the Mekong or the Galapagos. Heady stuff for a midwestern, middle-class kid from Rockford, Illinois.

I think, as soon as I've charged my camera battery, I'll go out to explore a bit. There is supposedly a promenade avenue nearby, and a park was mentioned on the way, which I believe is the park currently causing so much stir over the city's plans to bulldoze it to put up a shopping mall.

12:45 Just returned from a walk to the Promenade...a wide commercial street with very limited traffic. I did pass through what I'd thought was the contested park. Heavy police presence. However, there is another another park nearly adjacent to the Promenade, and I suspect that might be the one. There is a large government building a corner across from the park which is totally barricaded and cordoned off with more police (many of them with assault weapons drawn). I got a few pictures approaching it, but when I tried to get a few more on the way back I was ordered not to take photos.

And I have determined (I am not the quickest on the uptake) the causes for much of my complaints about my age on this trip. It is, I realized...for I will do anything rather than face the fact that it is age: it's a combination of the heat, the interminable walking therein and, a far more major factor than I'd considered before, is the necessity to force my head up high enough to see what's in front of me. It is truly physically exhausting.

And now to go to one of the restaurants and see if they have any appetizers (the poolside restaurant is out for that reason).

2:08 It is so very rare for me to actually enjoy food that when it happens, it's memorable. Such was the case just now. My lunch...your “appetizer”...consisted of thin-sliced smoked salmon with horseradish sauce, and an Efes dark beer. My poor mouth won't tolerate anything spicy, but horseradish is somehow totally exempt. It's hot going down, but not painfully so. At any rate, I'm very happy to have remember what a pleasure eating can be.

6:04 Back from a 2 ½ hour boat cruise of the Bosphorus, up almost to the Black Sea. Unbelievable wealth represented by the homes overlooking the waterway. Guide said average home prices on the Asian side (in case you didn't know, Europe is on one side of the Bosphorus, and Asia on the other) run around $5 million! Spent much of the trip with Fabian, the very nice young (well, he's 30, and that's really, really young) Swiss man traveling with his sister.

10:15 Ready for bed. Will watch BBC news for a while, then call it a night. Had a wonderful seafood crepe for dinner tonight. I was only able to eat 1/3 of it, but I wish I could have had a doggie bag. To really enjoy eating is, as I've said, something akin to a miracle for me..and to have two meals I truly enjoyed in one day! Oh, if it could only continue!

And tomorrow at 11:00 I catch a bus for the airport, and the U.S.

So long, Europe. It's been fun.

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