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March 17, 2008 - Istanbul, Turkey

Written by GingerBlossom Published in
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This has been a whirlwind last four days, I can't believe that I'm leaving Istanbul already, early tomorrow morning. The ground-glass feeling in my stomach also really wore me out, but today I stopped taking medicine, and the pain stopped as well, so here's hoping.

Istanbul never fails to impress me as an incredibly beautiful city, especially in the spring. I took a walk out to the Bosporous late afternoon, after doing as much work as I could on a Sunday, and walked through the big park along side the Agia Sophia. The paths were compeletly lined with blooming primrose, hiyacinth, daffodils, pansies, and the tulips looked like they'd be open in 2 weeks or less. Also flanking the path was an allee of huge trees, I don't know what they were, but one area as filled with parakeets, or parrots, and another area was filled with nesting cranes. This is truly where East meets West, seen in the culture and the faces of the people. On any given street corner, you will find blonds with light blue eyes, and pink skin, and exotically high cheek bones, almond eyes and jet black hair on the next person, and they are both Turkish.

Buying was much better than I thought, I had originally just planned on getting Turkoman and afghani jewelry, and the beautiful old velvet Uzbeki chapans, but I did end up buying maybe 10 or so carpets from Aykut. They're the Kurdish soumak..Soumak is sort of like a reverse constructed knotted carpet, so it is thick, but smooth on top, not piled. The colors were very muted and dark for Kurdish pieces, but they will be much more easy to work into a U.S.interior.

I've known Aykut for over 18 years, so he's always been sort of my window into Kurdish/Turkish culture. Business, at least tourist business, has not been good for him since 2001, but his wholesale keeps him going. He says that he can't go back to his village to tend his family's apricot orchard, if business becomes worse, because his wife would leave him, rather than return to village life. There are 30 families still in the village, and the average age is about 60 years old, the younger generations have all moved to the cities. This is why I predict that the Turkish carpet industry will be more or less extinct in the next 50 years. I could take back some of my old Turkish kilims and sell them back to Turkey, and still make a profit, all of the old stuff has been sold out of the country as well. But they are all looking forward, not backward, and it amazes me the amount of modern creature comforts that you find in Istanbul. I took a fast light rail train from the airport, clean, quiet, and to within a 3 minute walk of my hotel door, and there are ATM machines on every corner, no litter, no dirt, its almost culture shock to be here.

I also saw something nice yesterday, the street sweeper had a cat that kept following him, and he was trying to keep the kitty out of the street with little sweeps of his broom. When he got to the cemetary, he was surrounded by cats, he had brought them a big bag of food scraps to eat, and they all knew it was him by the squeek of his trash can on wheels. I'll save my India cat story for another time, I need to go eat. The Call to Prayer has just started as well, and its started all of the dogs in the neighborhood to sing along with it. My next notes will be from Madrid or Buenos Aires, this is going to a long trip, crossing hemispheres as well as continents, going from early spring to early fall.