Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Interesting Things in Istanbul PART 2

1. Evil Eye 

Turks have devised the Evil Eye Pendant to guard themselves from evil energy. The Turkish Evil Eye Pendant or the Nazar Boncugu is a stone bead, which is worn to protect oneself from evil looks. The stone is a combination of molten glass, iron, copper, water and salt. This blend of minerals and metals is believed to provide a shield from the forces of evil.

The pendant is attached to anything and everything that could attract envy and greed. We saw it on bottles of water, in front of homes and businesses, etched in lamps and mirrors and most commonly in the form of jewelry.

I left Turkey with two evil eye pendants. One was given to us after our Turkish Bath experience. I have since looped in through a chain and have it hanging near by bed. The other was very small and given to us at a restaurant when we received the bill. I took that one and safety pinned it inside my purse.

I’ve never been very superstitious or believed in lucky charms, but I think I could always use a little extra protection from evil.  

2. You Can Go to Asia

Istanbul is a transcontinental city, straddling the Bosphorus between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea. The commercial and historical centers lie in Europe while 35% of its population lives in Asia.

So we of course took the 1-dollar ferry to Asia. Less for the sights… as there were none…and more to say we’ve been to Asia. (Although I have heard they have some pretty legit food markets there) It was extremely anticlimactic. I’m sure other parts of Asia are awesome, but the Turkey Asia was sort of lame. Either way, now I can add Asia to the list of continents I’ve been to.

3. Turkish Tile

iznik pottery is a decorated ceramic that was produced from the last quarter of the 15th century until the end of the 17th century. Meticulous designs combined the traditional Ottoman arabesque patterns with Chinese elements. During the 16th century, the decoration of the pottery slowly changed in style becoming loose and flowier. (no, that is not a word, but “more flowy" doesn’t work either).

These tiles are all over Istanbul decorating mosques and palaces and churches and what have you. I LOVED them. Love love. Entire rooms covered in the blue and purple and subtle red designs were amazing.

I really wanted a souvenir involving the tile… in the format of a bowl. Well, I was in luck because about every other vendor in the Grand Bazaar sold them. And every single one claimed “handmade” and “hand painted”. That is why the prices were so high. Well, after price shopping for a bit, I haggled down the price of the bowl above to five dollars.

And this is why handmade and hand painted were in parentheses. How you gonna sell me a hand painted bowl for 5 dollars? And look at all of them! Those are totally mass-produced*. I searched for a “Made it China” sticker, but they did a good job removing them.

It should be said that I love the thought of authenticity, but I love something that looks authentic but doesn’t cost authentic even more. Except when it comes to diamonds. (Did you read that last part, Dan?)

*I have no idea if that’s true, but c’mon. 

4. Turkish People 

My first impression of Turkish people (men in particular as that’s all we really met) was very positive. Perhaps I’m being naive but the Turks are friendly. (Except the few cab drivers that widely ripped us off on a few occasions).

The night I arrived, I had no idea where our apartment was. It was dark, the street names in Turkish and I was loudly dragging my bag up and down cobblestoned streets. A delivery driver on a motorcycle came cruising along and stopped and asked if he could help me.

The owner of the hookah shop sat at the table next to us, asking us about ourselves and remained completely judge free when we asked if we were doing it correctly.

The waiter chased us out of the restaurant to thank us again for our service. Then invited us to a party later that night. (I know how that sounds, but after some research this is quite normal and not as creepy as it seems.)

Ilhami, the artist, dropped his jaw when we walked into his gallery, gasping “Sexy!”. He told us he would be the Sultan and us his concubines. (So, this is a little creepy, but he’s like 80 and we understood the intent.)

There are many more stories like these. I don’t know what I expected, but I was impressed with the way we were treated and never felt unsafe. Hashtag ThanksForTheHospitalityIstanbul  

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