14 June 2007

WOW Istanbul and Greece Trip – May 2007


Well I don’t (or should I say didn’t) blog…however my trip to Istanbul and Greece with 23 other wonderful women has inspired me to blog...at least this once…

After an early morning (slightly delayed) flight to Istanbul, we were greeted at the airport by Lawrence (of Arabia??)…our cute guide…who transferred us to Hagia Sofia. The highlight of the day - the flutter that we created and the looks that we got! Reason being - Sumitra’s idea that we all wear some amount of pink …to identify all of us instantly…infact we got to be models for 2 mins with a lady asking us to pose for a photograph for her…
This is also where we met our 1 eyed guide …for some reason at any point of time only one eye would remain open..either left or right. I wonder if that was an effect of the 24 beautiful women!!!

The Hagia Sofia or the Church of Divine Wisdom is beautiful with its magnificent domed ceiling soaring heavenward, …it’s the only place where one sees a combination of a church and a mosque…It was originally constructed as a church and infact was considered to be the greatest at that time. But was later converted into a mosque and supporting buttresses were added. The Christian paintings were covered with gypsum…it was only later in 1935 that the gypsum was carefully removed to re – reveal the paintings and Hagia Sofia was converted into a museum. It is a place that quite literally stuns one into silence.

From Hagia Sophia off we went to our hotel for lunch…I had thought Sumitra made a typo when she wrote that we would be staying in CARTOON hotel….yessssss …its’s actually called cartoon…and they have these beautiful prints in the corridors and rooms on which they have pasted Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck on the edges….Maaaaaaaaaan...looks like some kid designed that place.
Anyways it was our first meal and our first Greek salad…so I guess we all enjoyed it…coz at that time we didn’t know that every meal is gonna begin with a Greek salad…even Anu who said…hmmm a Greek salad makes my day…eventually got fed up…
And the main course reminded me of a friend who often says…Do you eat or are you a vegetarian…these Europeans don’t have any concept of Veg food. We got veggies, which looked as if they had been put in the pressure cooker for 15 seeeties…

After a quick freshen up we took off to go on a Bosphorus cruise. Turkey is said to be transcontinental – it straddles the Bosphorus, which marks the border between Europe and Asia and so we have one part of Turkey in Asia and another in Europe… It is here that one gets to see the Turkey’s skyline studded with domes and minarets..the blue mosque, the hagia sofia….just like the scene in Guru when AB jr lands in Turkey…
We had reached a bit late and so missed the boat that we intended to take and had to take the next one which was an hr and a half later…we decided to hang around…it was a chilly day on which one would enjoy a nice cuppa coffee…so we decided to try the Turkish coffee…ugggh…opppgh…eeggge…do my words say it all…Better would have been to see my face then …as Gowri said that I have very good facial expressions (infact she’s gonna call me for amateur theatre)… it was the coffee…Gowri…

Returned from the cruise to tramp the streets till our intimate evening of chitchat, girl time, drinks and food in Sumitra’s room…

Day 2…..Ahhhha Haaaa..one of the things that I will remember most about Istanbul … the Hammam or Turkish bath ..thanks to Renu for the idea of visiting Cemberlitas Bath…Hmmmmm…there was this warm room with a big marble platform in the centre and small rooms around it…well we stripped to towels and chappals and went to this room…there was signage saying…don’t remove your towels and chappals…so we assumed we would get into the small rooms around the edge… imagine our shock when this lady walks in with only a red thong….poor Moitri…the guinea pig…she whipped off her towel and you had a room of 15 shrieking, gasping, giggling women…Massi and I travel around and I am sure we would never have ventured close to this place had we been travelling alone…Kudos to the WOW club for making this an experience to remember…
A buffet breakfast at the hotel, followed by a walk in the imperial gardens …the amazing colours of the Tulips had us all posing for snaps, snaps and still more snaps…guess everyone wanted to capture the colours.

This walk ended in the Topkapi Place, which was the imperial residence of the Ottoman Sultans. It has this extraordinary collection of porcelains and jewellery…There was this moment of pride…we Indians really have the eye for intricacy, don’t we? There were thrones from various parts of the world…very beautiful...but the one from India was by far the most beautiful….
Within the palace is the Konyali Restaurant, which overlooks the Bosphorous…where we had our lunch and got the first taste of 4 variants of Baklava.
Did we have a whirlwind tour…as immediately after lunch off we marched to the Blue Mosque. This is the only mosque in the world with six minarets. A very interesting reason..the Sultan wanted to have the minarets made of gold which is "altin" in Turkish. The architect misunderstood him as "alti" which means "six" in English…Its beautiful with blue and white Turkish ceramic tiles and inlaid mother-of-pearl adorning the interiors

And finally a visit to the Grand Covered Bazaar…as Lawrence said…that’s usually the first thing most Indian tourists wants to do…but of course we were different! But still we all went berserk shopping…Some like Renu amazed us with her bargaining skills..she got Tania a purse for which the shopkeeper was quoting 350 for a mere 70…and then there was Shabari and Neelam who couldn’t manage to bargain at all !!
This is where we saw the Turkish men at their flirting best…Indian men can certainly learn something form these guys…It was harmless, open flirting..done with such smoothness which didn’t put one off…
Anu was offered 1000 camels in exchange for Farheem’s hand in marriage!!
Massi and I went to buy some music…this shop had CDs and instruments…after our purchases he insisted on giving us a wonderful live performance…truly enjoyable…
Well obviously we could not miss the Turkish Hookah and coffee cafes …where Sumitra enjoyed her Hookah, Vandee enjoyed the Turkish coffee…(eeks) …and the rest the Apple Tea…and Rachael forgot her Ray Bans, which I found…and which she managed to lose again the next day!!

After dumping our bags in the hotel we went for our Turkish evening at the Galata Tower Restaurant. An unforgettable evening … it was here that Rachael earned back her Ray Bans…she had a choice from me…either to steal Vimla’s shawl for me or do a belly dance..and whoa…she was pulled up on the stage to join the belly dancer…She looked so cute…a tomboy in jeans trying to pull of a belly dance…
Then there was the local Folkloric dance… very energetic…and there is this one part where one guy lies on the floor with an approx 12inch by 10 inch piece of board on his torso and another guy flips knives at him using his lips…These guys pulled it off and then got one guy from the audience to join them in the dance…okaaaaayyyyyyy....all hunky dory till it was only dancing…but then they made him lie on the floor with the board…that guy’s expressions were hilarious… The dancers would build up a climax and this guy would cover his eyes…and instead of flipping the knives the dancer would sit and bang them on the board with his hand…a sign of relief from the guy as he would peek at the board…
As the guy relaxed a bit the dancer actually flipped the knives with his lips at him…and as if that was not enuff…this guy picks up the board and …he he he…replaces it with a 2 inch by 2 inch one bang on target….I nearly rolled off the chair laughing…
And finally this guy…who amazed us with his singing skills…there were tourists from different parts of the world at the restaurant …he picked up each table one by one and sung a song from that country…he was really good…Japanese, French, Hindi, Tunisian and what not!!

That was the end of our Turkey trip….
This is getting quite long and so I guess Greece will have to be another time…Hopefully soon!!

5 comments:

Farheen said...

Mougli this is just too good...i wonder how you managed to remeber the dates....btw another first which you may remeber was being directed to the men's loo at Topkapi palace and yes it was inuse :)

arunima said...

Dimple that was fun and fantastic some of your observations had me chuckling away to glory.But hey you can't leave us mid way. You must do Greece and soon.Infact I hope you will inspire the other WOW
gals to do the same
Aparna

Venkat H said...

SSH,

Welcome to the world of blogging. Its a sweet blog, i shud say. But also convenient, eh? You forgot that funny dance of yours and other interesting things about "YOU" in the trip. May be i should blog them all eh!! Btw, DragonWoman..suits you well ;)

surd said...

Hey, that's a good blog -- vivid, and makes me want to go to Turkey--and cartoon hotel. You write surprisingly well -- er..not surprising that you write well, but surprising that I didn't know.

Inscrutable Exhortations of my Soul said...

M,

Amazing! You finally did it! Cool Blog & nicely-written!

I have only one complaint - Where are the juicy details ? Surely, I am not asking for much, am I ? :)