I have never slept for almost 24 hours before- jet lag is a killer. Got home yesterday afternoon, was in bed by 6:30 in the evening, and with a few interruptions, slept until after 4 this afternoon! Now I feel groggy from so much sleep, but it was good for me- I didn't sleep much this week for obvious reasons. Who wants to sleep when they're halfway across the world for only a week? There's too much to see and do, not to mention the fact that jet lag again had a hand in only letting me sleep for about 6 hours at a time.
Fatigue aside, it was an incredible trip, one that is already taking on the feeling of a dream as I sit at my desktop and try to sum it up. One week is not long enough to see a city that huge, especially when you're traveling in a group and working, and tired and still getting over a nasty illness. I'll describe these photos to give you some idea of what it was like:
The above picture is the view from Bilgi Universitesi, Santral Istanbul campus, where we were staying. A pocket of calm and wealth, surrounded by poor neighbourhoods. We called it the Compound, because although it was lovely and relaxing, it was a bit like being in a gilded cage. The pointy towers are minarets, which are everywhere. There are so many mosques that Sam and Noah started playing "Mosque Buggy"- punching each other in the arm every time they spotted one. There must be at least a thousand mosques all over Istanbul, and when the Ezzan (the call to prayer) rings out 5 times a day over the minaret loudspeakers, the sound of the singing echoes all over the place. Very haunting. This is a picture of one of the countless narrow streets we saw, filled with so many tempting stores & cafes. This was a little market that seemed to specialize in garden supplies and pets. I'm not sure how well those pets were going to be treated though, because Turkish people don't seem to have very many pets. Most of the cats & dogs I saw were strays, and had to scavenge their food where they could. There were even stray cats on our campus, staking out the cafeteria for scraps. And this is a sweet shop, of course. On the whole I found Turkish candy a bit too sweet, but Turkish Delight is just one of those things you have to try at least once while you're in Turkey. And the stores, piled high with colourful treats, looked so beautiful. This is the Hagia Sophia, one of the most famous sights of Istanbul. Funnily, this shot, with its palm trees, headscarfed woman and mosque, looks like a middle eastern cliche. Actually, I didn't see very many palm trees at all, many woman don't wear any headscarves, and the Hagia Sophia was declared a museum by Ataturk, so it's desecularised. The weather may look tropical in this photo, but it was actually really cold the whole time we were there, cold & crisp. This is me, pretending I can dance like a Turk. Of course, they all learn to move as kids, at weddings & parties, so this gorgeous girl did a lot better than me. All the young women there are very beautiful, so the guys in my band were in heaven. I on the other hand, who had only packed comfy, boring clothes, and felt very frumpy after 2 weeks of being sick, felt distinctly unglamorous. And these are the rest of Something About Reptiles, posing on the steps of-what else- a mosque with a Gypsy kid who was selling us some spinning tops. We ended up by mistake in a Gypsy area one day called Kustepe, and were mobbed by kids who led us to an internet cafe and asked us questions and sang songs to us and made us laugh. We were so lucky to have Burcu with us as she was born in Turkey and is still fluent in Turkish. Having a translator got us into places that we wouldn't have otherwise visited (or survived). We also all learned a lot of useful phrases from her, so by the end of the week we could all order food and beer, ask how much something cost, and say our hellos and goodbyes.
Oh, and our 2 gigs went very well. I wondered how Turkish audiences would take to 1 ex-pat Turk and 4 foreigners playing their songs, but we were a hit. As one Gypsy man put it when we busked in Kustepe: "The hands of the Devil play pretty well." Bush & Blair may be seen as "2 devils", as our Aya Sofia guide put it, but we were treated very well.
I think all of our appetites were only whetted by this trip: none of us was ready to come home yesterday, especially Burcu, whose family, as well as most of her heart, is still in Turkey. I'm already plotting how I can return.