THE SHALOM SISTERS
by Deborah La Garbanza
The days of the Pudding Shop are over. In the sixties and seventies it was the way station of hippie dreamers, whose eyes and hearts looked East. It was the start of the trip, the end of the trip, a place to exchange energy. The restaurant is still there, at the bend of the road where the tram runs down to the Bosphorus, but it is no longer the gathering place of travelers. The days when the old trams ran - the tiny red, rounded, open-air trolleys with the conductor clanging the bell - have been replaced by sleek, aerodynamic, air conditioned trains. The blueprint of the Pudding Shop is the same, the steam-table laden with vegetables and stews, gooey cheese-topped dishes, minced meats, chicken legs, yet the Istanbul of even twelve years ago when we first visited seems a ghost, so why am I looking further back, scratching surfaces that are now laminated and glossy, hard plastic, veneered wood, impermeable to anything but a forward, gentrifiying thrust? The nineteen sixties are always there for us, a reference point, a moral compass, that we veer away from and come back to, but the passing of time makes the echoes dimmer. The Pudding Shop, its name evoking the time of British steamed puddings, promised something to a young generation looking for a different way to be. Wanting to mourn its demise, we have to stand across the street because of the touts hired to entreat us inside.
The classical age of the Ottoman empire is the foundation of the tourist infrastructure and, compared to our trip the summer after 9/11, the tour groups are here in droves. Their fearless leaders hold up signs to keep the flock in tow, just a stone’s throw from where the Pudding Shop sign has been painted. Anne, my partner, and I have to step aside to let them pass, these encapsulated nationalities with their distinct dress and mannerisms, a study of stereotypes if you want to go there. The fat English with their dripping ice cream cones, The Japanese mincing with their sun umbrellas and impenetrable faces. The bewildered looking Poles. Then there are the touts and endless hawkers of everything cheap and portable - the man who plays a kazoo, the man who plies cheap scarves, the man who dangles key chains in your face, the self-appointed tour guides who have so carefully memorized the English for the things they peddle. “You will be sorry, ladies, the Blue Mosque is closed.” Istanbul, the city whose boundaries cross two continents, the “Asian” side and the “European” side, is alive and hopeful to the promise of a growing economy, to the endless selling and buying of thing and services. Old town Istanbul, called Sultanamet, has come of tourist age and is now a feat of endurance. Anne sees a sign in a restaurant that says, “hassle free zone” and we use it like a mantra until we are too tired and just try to brush the touts off like you would mosquitoes. The guilt is there, this is an emerging country, we are here to support it, we are thrilled by the genuine hospitality and warmth of the Turkish people, but unless you can put up a very hard shell, it is impossible to see the major monuments in Istanbul -Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topakaki Palace - in the summer. It is impossible to walk the streest of the old city - narrow, precious cobblestone streets lined with Ottoman era houses. We swirl our arms around us like dervishes when approached. We try to ferret out a cultural gesture that indicates repugnance, perhaps a turning away of the face, a casting down of the eyes, an ululation beginning to take place in the back of our throats? But, the sad fact remains, we are tourists too. The distinction in my mind between tourist and traveler eroding as we get older and are more consigned to populated places, less wild places, places with more amenities and less chance of mishap. We take plenty of time, unlike the ten day tour, as if looking closely - taking the winding side streets of Sultanamet and the Galata district that slope down to the harbor until we are hopelessly lost, going into neighborhood mosques that are used as child care centers during the day, knocking at the door of small hammans to see the interiors, studying the placards in dustier museums, buying food at markets, taking the commuter ferry as our cruise - will prompt a deeper experience, open up the real Turkey.
He says his name is John Travolta. He emerges, fully grown, from a crouched position at the base of a tree. His English is fantastic, his hair is greasy. The heat of the midday Turkish sun is threatening to engulf us as we stand in the middle of a side street staring at a tale of two cities. One one side is the falling down wooden Ottoman apartment building, leaning, with spaces between the planks, gray, abandoned until we notice the lank curtain in an upstairs window, the signs of an impoverished existence. Across from this building is the new Istanbul, a similar wooden building, polished to a shine, laquered, gleaming dark wood, its boxy bay window extension fully restored. It is now a boutique hotel.
“I bought this building!” he points to the dilapidated one.
“And the people that live here?” I ask.
“In a year, when you come back, it will look like this,” pointing to the hotel.
I don’t want to come back.
All of the world’s cities are becoming Disneyland versions of themselves. Paris, with the concentric circles of slums that surround the elegant inner city, New York, with Disney characters parading around Times Square, Istanbul with the historic neighborhoods that hug the Bosphorus distinct from the vast stretches of immigrant neighborhoods that absorb the hills.
John Travolta promises us the best rooftop view of the city and we follow him. Up a few staircases of another building to a not so good view of the sea of Mamara, obstructed by cranes and new construction. He tries to show me the angle to photograph. The puppy dog friendliness of the Turks soon morphs into over-the-top soliciticness.
“John Travalota, huh?” I say.
He nods and offers no explanation.
“Disco?” I ask.
“I love women,” he offers. “Are you two a couple?”
I tense up. Anne expands.
“Yes,” she says enthusiastically.
He professes great love for gay people and wants to shake both our hands. They are cold despite the heat. He tells us we look good together. Anne asks him if he knows other lesbians in Istanbul and he tells us there is a large community. The elusive lesbian community that we are always trying to find on our world travels. John Travalta promises he will connect us. He is fast becoming our best friend - he can get us into the Blue Mosque without waiting, he can make sure we don’t have to wear a head scarf. He asks me where I am from, I say California and he shakes his head. New York, peeling back the layers of my family, and he still shakes his head. He says he knows me. An ominous portent delivered with a smile showing teeth. The Ukraine, thinking of my grandparents. No.
“The Euphrates,” he says. “Like me. We are Semites, so we are related.”
He holds out his hand again for me to shake.
“We Kurds are Arabs.”
My face, the passport to the Middle East.
“Are you Jewish too?” he asks Anne and she nods.
“ And now you even have Kurdistan!” I try to steer the conversation elsewhere and Anne gives me the look. She likes hot button topics.
But he is not interested in Kurds in other places.
“I am a very lucky guy,” he says, “ I employ over three hundred girls to weave rugs.”
Three hundred girls who work in near slave like conditions, chained to their looms. The small hands and enforced patience of poorly paid women whose artistry and skill is little factored into any equation. They work in villages all over Turkey, the call to prayer ordering their days, the neighborhood imman preaching their submission. The rugs are shipped to Istanbul, to men like John Travolta, who espouse about weft, warp, knots, dyes and symbols pointing to Mecca. Men who take the lion’s share of profit. They live in Istanbul, in the world of dizzying inflation which is casting aside all the poor people. Men who sit in cafes with hookahs filled with perfumed smoke, drinking small, shapely glasses of cay (tea) served hot and sweet by the cay wallas with their caddys always full. John Travolta’s English is spiced, his words peppered, his face muscled entirely differently when speaking Turkish, legs spread, eyes to the West while reclining on the cushions of the East. Men who unfold rugs in extravagant displays, throwing them down on showroom floors, one on top of the other, like a pizza man spinning dough. Rugs that become piles of choices, a cacaphony of patterns, and then are slowly winnowed down to the one you will buy.
“We met a Kurdish rug merchant on our last trip,” Anne holds out the good memory.
When Turkey was not fast becoming the powerhouse of the Middle East, when there were more wooden Ottoman houses at their crazy angles, when the cats, which Istanbul is so famous for, were thin and defurred by disease, barely recognizable as cats, this Kurd took us into his shop, closed the door, turned on the air conditioner and talked politics, about how much hatred there was for Kurds, how mindlessly patriotic the Turks were, what a murderer Ataturk was. When a melancholy mood hung over Istanbul and people reflected on the past, we drank cay and the rug merchant warned us about the big “DON’T’s” in Turkey. Picking your nose in public, pointing your feet at someown, singing along with the call to prayer or making fun of Ataturk, the big old father of the republic. We had been guilty of all those things except maybe the nose picking. I loved to intone my own screechy voice onto the call and Anne seemed to love to say “Ataturk” in the way you would say “Atta-boy.”
“Better shut up on the cheer,” I said.
“Better shut up on your prayer,” she replied.
“Kurds are rich now.” John Travolta frowns at the mention of another Kurd who sells rugs.
“Your English is so good,” I say.
“I lived in San Diego.”
I don’t believe one word he says.
“Let me show you my shop,” and like sheep, we have no choice but to follow him into a small room with dust motes making the air gauzy and two older men picking at different rugs with an awl-like tool. Repairing? Reweaving? They look at us with tired, knowing, ironic eyes. We are bugs in a spider’s web. He leads us down the stairs to the ground floor showroom. It is vast and moldy smelling, the result of too many old carpets stacked up.
“Tea?” he asks.
I am nudging Anne. I want out.
She is still looking for the Kurd we spoke to on our last trip. She can’t give up the old Turkey for the new.
“We have to go,” I say.
He tries once more, a certain pitch indicating the effort already put in.
“Just tea,” he points to the low cushions we will sit on, facing out onto the selling floor.
“We really have to go,” I am pulling on Anne’s arm.
John Travolta shrugs. Men like him keep their luck in front of them.
“Shalom, shalom,” the man approaches us as we turn a corner on the way back to the hotel.
“How do you know we are Jewish?” I demand with more fear than I want to admit.
It is the summer after 9/11 and there are few tourists in Istanbul.
The man scrutinizes us as if the greeting had just fallen off his lips without any conscious thought.
“You,” he points to me, “you look very Jewish.”
“It’s not bad,” he consoles us in a soothing tone when he sees my face. “We have many Jews here, always have.”
The elusive Jewish community that we are always trying to find on our world travels. The man promises to hook us up, holding out his arms beesechingly, as we break free.
Anne forms theories about who knows we are Jewish and who doesn’t. It is the same classifying technique she does around who knows we are lesbians and who doesn’t and how they feel about it. It is a subset of minority awareness and self determination that she does almost reflexively. I have always been happy to blend into whatever background there is to be blended into, not to cause problems or confrontations.
“Are you from Tel Aviv? Haifa?” another man asks a minute later.
“I am American,” I say.
He seems confused. How could you forsake your religion, your ethnic itentity for a nationality?
“We are not Zionists,” Anne continues with how not everyone who is a Jew is a supporter of Israel and its terrible policies.
The man says nothing. Maybe it is the linguistic barrier or talking about Israel in public that is too threatening. Anne has a theory that saying anything against the government, any government, will drive the Turks into a panic.
“My uncle has a carpet store,” the man says, getting to the real point of his interaction with us.
“Not now,” Anne says. “We are not in the buying part of our trip. We just got here.”
“We can save the carpet for you, we can ship it wherever you are,” the man suggests.
“Not now,” Anne says. “We are going to Gallipoli, Euphesus, Cappodocia.”
“We have a good price for you, our store is close to here, come in for a minute.”
Anne looks amazed, this being her first encounter with Middle Eastern selling practices. She is getting the gist of what she is up against and it enflames her.
I hold my breath. Are we going to be called Jews in a way related to withholding money?
The carpet man shrugs and walks away but not before Anne theorizes that only carpet salesmen know we are Jews, a theory that will be disproved but for the moment we feel safe.
The hotel seems far away from the main tourist area with all the restaurants and imperial mosques. We take a wrong turn, ending up in piles of gargage and the lopsided wooden houses of a poor neighborhood. Anne is still theorizing.
“We are visible and invisible at the same time here,” she muses.
‘We know you,’ the rug merchant had said. It hit a chord. I am from here, the Middle East, generations ago before the forced peregrinations of my ancestors. Being an American is being an anonymous white person. Here, identity brings up issues and complications. But we are lost and the hotel seems no where in sight and it is getting dark. Now, I am an American and feel anxiety. We walk along the walls of a mosque, someone greets another person pleasantly, men are sitting legs spread on boxes and plastic chairs outside their stores. Boys are still playing in the streets. Skinny and diseased looking cats roam the streets. It feels very safe. I almost fall into a huge hole in the sidewalk that I didn’t see because I was trying to decide if one of those askew wooden houses was a true example of Ottoman architecture.
“Shalom,” says a man sitting in front of a corner store.
The light is very dim.
“SALAAM,” Anne answers and I stare at her.
The two words are so close in sound, a reminder of how familial is the conflict between Arabs and Jews.
“It’s just a theory,” she says afterwards, “maybe one will neutralize the other.”
We find the hotel, determined that we won’t get lost again. This proves not to be true.
ANNE BLOWS UP
Anne is red rimmed around the eyes over chicken shish kebabs (the only words I can say in Turkish. “Ta-vook-shis,” I say proudly to the waiter) as we order our late evening meal. She says she has been keeping everything in and monitoring her speech so as not to upset me. I feel myself getting annoyed because I feel like I do my own version of the same thing. Anne’s issue is that she can’t stand being back in the closet in any way. I have heard her muttering all day about how retro Turkey seems.
“Go ahead,” I say, “fling open the closet door in old Muslim Turkey. See if I care.”
“Women can do anything they want in Turkey, it is a progressive society,” she counters.
The never-ending condundrum that is Turkey. Western? Eastern? Secular? Religious?
Anne says my fears are inhibiting her. When a man asked us today where our husbands were, she sucked in her breath with impatience. She looked at me and then blurted out, “Our husbands drowned in the Bosphorous.”
The man seemed oblivious and continued to try and sell us a carpet.
“It was a great tragedy,” Anne continued, “we were just walking along the edge of the water, and they looked over to get a better view and the mighty Bosphorous just rose up and swallowed them.”
The man paused, looked at Anne like a beast he'd never encountered, and we walked away.
The bed situation is also getting to her. She has been devising a way to get us a double bed without it seeming like it is necessarily our first choice. It is the double bed by default plan. She’ll say that the double bed is in the room we want for other reasons over the twin bed in the desirble room. She’s beginning to horde things too. I watch her put two small berry jam packets into her backpack. “In case they don’t give it to us at breakfast,” she said. She started screaming when the hotel receptionist took the red bedspread and she can’t figure out why. She has devised a whole environment having to do with the air conditioner, which she is constantly fiddling with, to block out the noise but entailing the absolute need of the red bedspread for warmth. I think of what it would be like to travel alone, without this relationship to support a world view.
We have lost the hotel again. It never seems to stay in the same place. We are not talking and I mark this off in my head as the first fight of the trip. We pass the Hippodrome and the ancient Egyptian obelisk lit up at night to show off its hieroglypics. It was brought to Istanbul as booty ages ago by the Romans and it stands as a sentry to their playing field. I try and listen for the echoes of the thundering hooves of the chariots, the smell of the greasepaint, the roar of the crowds as the gladiators do battle on this now, burnt-out strip of grass. The fight with Anne dominates my thoughts. How can two totally diffferent personalities co-exist, compromise, enjoy each other?
It is almost 10 o’clock but people are still selling things. A man with a bundle of flutes passes us, playing one mournful note. “No,” Anne says. Another man with a bundle of the same flutes passes us a few feet further on. “No,” Anne says. A third man with the same flutes passes, entreating us to buy. Anne seems crazed. “We walked past two flute sellers. Why would a third one think we are going to buy?” She is talking more to herself.
“It’s a tsunami of flutes,” I suggest.
“All of a sudden, of all things, I want a flute? Gotta have it?” What does a flute have to do with anything here?” Anne is shaking her head and her tone suggests that our fight has been put away for another day.
We slip into the courtyard of the Blue Mosque, behind the enclosing walls, and a man selling postcards approaches. It’s one of those postcard packages that unfold like an accordian. The man unfurls them with a flourish. Other men, selling the same postcards, narrow in around us, waiting for the second and third and fourth pitch.
“I thought that once we walked throught the gate to the mosque, there was no selling!”
“There is selling here,” the man points around.
“Isn’t it sacrilegious to sell in a mosque?”
“This isn’t the mosque. That’s the mosque,” he points to the entrance.
“We were in here earlier. No one was selling anything!”
“We have to make money. Just like you!” He is getting angry.
Anne’s voice matches his. “So, it isn’t against your religion to sell in a mosque? I think it would be.”
“It’s not against our religion to make money!”
The other men get closer and the circle gets tighter. I take Anne’s hand and start to pull her away.
“I don’t want postcards! It’s dark! I can’t even see them!”
“I have a flashlight,” he says.
“If I wanted postcards, I would look for them. I would go to a store and buy them!”
I pull Anne through the men who reluctantly part to let us by. There is a silence and I can feel the stare of the postcard seller penetrating my back.
“Are you Jewish?” he asks and I shiver. His voice is neutral but I leap at the undertones.
We are strangers here, members of a historically despised minority.
We pick up our pace, out of the courtyard of the mosque, along the dark streets, looking over our shoulder the entire way back to the hotel. We are Americans now.
“You had to start with him? You couldn’t just walk past? You had to tell him you didn’t want postcards?”
“That wasn’t a fight. You are so afraid of anger. It was a discussion,” Anne says but I can hear the fear in her voice.
“Did you hear the way he asked if we were Jews?”
“That was just a nice observation, I suppose. What happens next?”
A scarved woman passes us by.
“Minnie Moskowitz?” Anne asks tentatively.
She had made the joke earlier in the day. A scarved woman walking into a mosque is named Minnie Mosque-ko-witz. The name had stuck and any time we saw a scarved woman, she became Minnie.
“On her way this late in evening to the mosque?” Anne asks.
But I am not having any of it. When we finally find the hotel, I lock myself into the bathroom and stare into the mirror trying to isolate what it is about my face that looks so Jewish. At first, I am convinced it is the eyebrows. Then I include the eyes. I put on my sunglasses to see if that hides it. Then it is the hair. I scrutinize my profile. It is definitely the nose. Then I check the lines running down the ends of my mouth to where one embryonic chin sides inside a larger one. It is no use. It is a complete look. My whole physiogonomy screams middle-aged, chubby Jew.
At breakfast the next morning, Anne seems to be flirting with the waiter. She keeps telling him how much Istanbul is like San Francisco - the bridges look alike, there is water on all sides keeping the breezes going, there are hills. The waiter seems inordinately friendly and he bends over the menu and explains every selection. He asks if we are sisters, a comment we will hear a few times on the trip, as if people are trying to understand and accept our relationship. Anne not only hates to lie, she considers it her mission to confront homophobia abroad. I tell the waiter that yes, we are sisters and he seems happy although Anne rolls her eyes. We don’t look at all alike.
“You know - SISTAHS,” I say.
It’s the invisibility that gets to her most on trips, leaves her screaming for the real San Francisco. She bites into her stuffed aubergine meze, the little cold starter that we have ordered even though it is morning. We hear the call to prayer from a nearby mosque, a real lead in to the idea that homosexuality is not an overt fact of life here even if the aubergine is good and never, ever called eggplant. The waiter comes back with a standard Turkish breakfast of cucumbers, tomatoes, a hard boiled egg, feta cheese and a huge basket of bread. He asks if Anne is the younger sister which increases my already bad mood as she is really a year older than me. I should have dyed my gray hair before we left. He brings Anne a rose he has made out of a napkin and she puts it behind her ear, blushing, which is a rare thing for her. They keep talking. Anne tries out her French when English fails the waiter. He tells her she is the clever one. When she drops a piece of food in her lap and starts her cat-like cleaning techniques (little dabs of spit on her forefinger applied to the spot), the waiter rushes over with advice, bending down to give assistance. “Salt is best for food stains,” he says. Anne seems aghast now. What waiter in the USA would get so intimately involved in her eating manuevers. “Enough is enough,” she says, “I don’t want him in my crotch.” He delivers the bill to her. “You’re the boss,” he says. Now I am thorougly depressed. I am the older, more Jewish looking, less dominant member of this pair on a month’s trip around Turkey.
We walk behind a gaggle of them into the cool oasis of a courtyard. We have already discovered that walking through the portals of any mosque will bring you to a place of tranquility and shade. The ablution fountain is in the middle, men washing their feet, their hands and faces before entering the main entrance of the mosque. Anne frowns. Women are not afforded the luxury of a cooling down, a cleaning or even a respected entrance. The entrance is posted in many languages telling the tourists what to do. Take your shoes off! Men - No Shorts! No Entrance During Prayer Time! Women - Cover Your Heads! There is a box of old scarves for the taking but Anne is scared of lice and we have brought our own which we take out of our backpacks. A Minnie laughs at how I try to tie my scarf, the triangular flap falling in front of my eyes. She bends down to help me, tying it under my chin babuska style. I am a proper Muslim woman now. I turn and see that Anne has tied her scarf behind her ears. She gives me a wicked grin. She has managed to subvert the dominant paradigm. I am amazed at how great she looks with how little she had to work with. She looks like a lesbian feminist from the seventies. She looks like she is wearing a doo rag from the hood. She looks like a revolutionary.
“Wow,” I say. “That’s quite a style, maybe it will catch on.”
“The Shalom Sisters at the mosque,” she says.
“In solidarity with the Minnies,” I look around for them, but they have evaporated.
A man rushes up to us, pointing frantically at the posted sign. He is very agitated and I glance at Anne’s scarf. She shrugs. Her head is covered, she is one that follows the letter, if not the spirit, of the law. The man stands in front of us, blocking our way into the mosque. He looks us over, making sure we are “mosque-ready”. He is smoking a cigarette with deep intakes, “smokes like a Turk” is the saying we will learn, He points to the sign.
“We know the rules,” Anne says.
The man finishes his cigarette and throws the butt into the grass. He lets us pass and I can hear Anne muttering about how pious it is to smoke endless cigarettes and then litter.
A boy rushes out from the medressa that is catty corner to the main entrance. This is a neighborhood mosque, one where boys play and study in the shadows, imbibing the Koran like oxygen. We are the first visitors of the day. The boy opens the heavily latched wooden door and we step inside. This mosque has a particularly beautiful and harmonious feel to it. Its proportions sing. The boy, who speaks no English, points to the nameplate. “Sinan” - the master architect at the height of Ottoman power, the person responsible for domes and half domes that cascade down from the sky and float up to the heavens. The light through the stained glass of the dome and the flowery Iznik tiles that line the walls dazzle us as we sink into the plush carpeting. The boy points out the lettering on the altar. “Mecca,” he says. He touches it, runs his hands over the spiritual destination. Islam, a tactile religion. Not forbidden to receive direct coummunion through the senses. I say, “Medina” and the boy seems to get happy. I try out a few more words - “Imam” and point to where the preacher would deliver his sermon. The boy nods vigorously. He shows us what looks like a marble rolling pin stuck in the wall near the altar. He spins it for us with great excitement. We have no idea what it is or what it is for. “Mecca?” I ask but that is not what it is. I point to the pattern on the carpet, a carpet salesman had told us that the designs are oriented to holy cities. The boy shakes his head. We hear the rustling of the Minnies in the narrow back area of the mosque behind the tightly latticed screen that has been set up for them . They are here early for the service, having come in by their own side entrance to be squeezed together in the confining, airless space, further enclosed in their billowing tents where they will rock together with eyes closed. Layer upon layer of separation. The beauty of the mosque is not for their contemplation, their prayers not heard in any public space. The profound separation and discrimination by gender takes our breath away. “Good to be a man,” Anne reads my thoughts. We have debated if we are really any more free than a Muslim woman. Freedom takes on an existential quality. We pay homage to the suffragists, to the women’s movement, to our own radicial lesbian feminists. Anne claims that as tourists from a Western country we are honorary men but that doesn’t lessen the shock of a society rigidly fashioned on gender roles.
We head out of the mosque but the boy blocks our way. He pulls out faded polaroid photographs. To be polite, I look through them and pick out one that I might want but he thrusts all of them in my hand. “Set,” he says, an English world he knows. He wants us to buy all of them. I pull out my wad of million lira notes and wonder how much of a contribution I should make. Meanwhile, a British couple has breezed into the mosque and glanced around for a minute. As they leave, the boy offers them the photographs. They barely look at them, turn up their noses, and walk out. I drop a small contribution into the boy’s hand and we leave.
That night in the hotel, Anne rubs her hands over my breasts. I lay in the bed and absorb it like a cat receiving strokes. I can feel the neediness in her warm hands, extensions of her sensitive mind. She rubs my breasts up and down, I lay impassively enjoying but not aroused yet. I think of the boy rubbing the Arabic lettering on the altar on the mosque, think of Mecca, and contemplate heaven.
No one has called us Jews on this trip and I take that as an ominous sign. It is not that the awareness is any less. In retrospect, the greeting was mostly friendly and it showed the alliance between Turkey and Israel which no longer exists. The world since 2002 has conspired to drive Jews and Muslims apart. It is now a smoldering place with fractures along old wounds and conflicts. Istanbul seems more sophisticated now, confident in its rush to gentrify, dignified in its assumption of power. There are no million lira notes any more, all the zeroes have been knocked off the currency. A visa is now needed to enter the country. The crowds of tourists are here, unlike the summer after 9/11. The prices are higher for everything and poorer people struggle to keep up. There are more Minnies. We are older and more guarded. Still, looking back at the cribbed handwriting in my notebook, names of places to visit jump out - Ruyan Pasha Camii, Istikal Street, Pierre Loti Cafe. The Frenchman Pierre Loti was looking for something too when he arrived in Istanbul in the 1920’s. It was said he fell in love not only with a woman, a courtesan, but with the faded glory of a well-worn city. Its charms seduced him as he sat above the Golden Horn in a cafe, looking for signs in the thick, swirling grounds of the little cups of coffee. He tried to leave Istanbul but he couldn’t. The city where continents met bewtiched him with a new definition of how to live.
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