Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Hello from the City on Seven Hills...on Wed June 18th.

Yup,  you read that right. Like Rome, Istanbul was built on seven hills....and that's not a coincidence. It was founded during the Byzantium (600 B.C.), otherwise known as the Eastern End of the Roman Empire - so it was modeled after Rome. Then it was Christian, until the Ottoman crowd came to town in 1453 (Constantinople), and decided that Islam was the way to go. It remained Ottoman until the 1923 (post WWI), when the current government was created by Mustapha Ataturk. So, that's 1000 years of Christianity and over 500 years of Islam. Get the picture? A lot of old churches converted to mosques. And in a mosque you're not allowed to decorate with anyone's face, or a cross. They had a lot of statues and artwork to cover up. But all that makes for a very interesting city with lots of amazing history and antiquities. It's pretty cool.

We arrived on Wednesday afternoon (1pm local time) after flying from the 'Burgh to Newark to Munich to Istanbul. Sam decided to audition for the U.S. soccer team just before we left, so I woke up on departure day to discover him with a swollen ecchymotic (bleeding internally) foot. Off to MedExpress in Aspinwall. X-ray showed a minimally displaced avulsion fracture of his big toe. The doc at the urgent care center warned that hobbling around Turkey was not wise, and suggested we cancel. Ha! No such luck. A quick call to our bud Tanya Hagen at UPMC Sports Med took care of that.


Sam took a picture of the x-ray at the urgent care center, and emailed it to me...whereupon I emailed it to Tanya (thank you T-Mobile). Her reply: "If that were my toe, I'd tape the hell out of it and go to Turkey!" Good enough for us. I think we decided to go and not go 5 times before Tim coaxed us out the door into his running car...with not a moment to spare. After depositing a very excited Zoe at her gate, we proceeded to ours.

Zoe flew from Pittsburgh to LaGuardia, where she was met by one very kind Paul Dorfman, a cousin of mine who lives in Brooklyn. Paul escorted her to JFK airport, where she promptly met 20 of her close friends from camp GUCI. They departed for Tel Aviv at midnight on Tuesday. You can follow Zoe's adventure in Israel on this blog.

So that brings us back to Istanbul, and our cab driver at the airport. When I showed him the address of our AirBnB apartment he had no clue where it was. Fortunately, I knew that it was in an area of Istanbul known as Taksim Square. By the time we got to Taksim we were in phone contact with our host, who was able to fill him in on the details. Taksim is at the top of one of the seven hills of Istanbul, and (yup you guessed it) our apartment is on the steepest street in the entire city. Maybe not steepest, but surely the 2nd steepest. So Sam has been trudging up and down this INCREDIBLE hill on crutches. Which is especially fun in the RAIN.

Can you tell how steep the street is? This is the view from our window.

Here is the view from the top of our street. 

After a bit of up and down, Sam managed to get used to it. The apartment itself is quite lovely. A two bedroom with a well equipped bathroom, including a clothes washer.  This is our shower, complete with piped in music.

After we moved in, we hiked up to the top of the hill and visited a self-service restaurant. This place has become our favorite go-to-breakfast/lunch spot. A spectacular place with lots of delicious Turkish food out on display. You point...they serve. We went way overboard that first day, stuffing ourselves to the tune of $15 per person. This is what the food looks like:

Eggplant, stuffed peppers, potato pancakes, beet salad, and lots more to choose from. The place is mostly filled with working Turks. With good reason. Feeling quite full, we walked for a bit, returned to the apartment, and collapsed into bed.

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