My Stray Cat Expedition in Istanbul, Turkey – Day 4, part 2 (continued from Day 4, part 1)
Dr. Arnold Plotnick
(click pictures to enlarge)
Okay, we’re done with the historical sites. Now the shopping begins. It’s time to plunge ahead into the insanity that the call the Egyptian Spice Market.
Built in the mid-17th century, this hall was gradually taken over by merchants peddling spices, herbs medicinal plants and pharmaceuticals. Most of the stalls still sell the same products, although admittedly the place has gotten pretty touristy. It’s called the Egyptian Spice Market because it was once funded by taxes collected from Egypt. It has the ambience of a true Oriental market.
The air is thick with the aroma of exotic spices. Indeed, it is stall after stall of spices, teas, and my pastries, dried fruits, and my favorite, Turkish delight.
I snagged a couple of spices, four or five teas, and a ton of Turkish delight. It was now onward and upward to the mother of all insane shopping experiences… The Grand Bazaar!
When the phrase “shop ‘til you drop” was invented, it must’ve been by someone visiting the Grand Bazaar. This market is a maze of 60 rows with more than 4000 (!) colorful shops, fragrant eateries, and persistent shopkeepers. The experience is overwhelming.
As you can see, the place is total insanity.
Notice the kitty in the lower left hand corner. He was checking out bargains, too. Other cats were in the Bazaar as well, but they were content to just window shop.
After the sensory overload of the Spice Market and the Grand Bazaar, we decided to chill out in beautiful, pastoral Guilhane Park. This was originally Topkapi Palace’s imperial garden. Now it’s Istanbul’s oldest park, and it’s a nice chunk of greenery within a bustling city, similar to Central Park in my beloved New York City. This park is a favorite weekend spot for locals, as they picnic with their families or just lay on the grass with friends. And when I tell you that the park was crawling with cats, I’m not exaggerating. They were everywhere! The pictures of kitties that I took in this park could fill a travelogue by itself. Here, after some agonizing editing, are some of my faves:
After relaxing in the park for an hour or two (I don’t know if you call chasing after cats “relaxing”; I know I do), we chose to meander up a very interesting looking street by the main exit to the park. It’s was called Sogukcesme street, and it is lined with cool shops and restored 19th-century townhouses. I saw some pretty cool sights on this street, for example, a car hood onto which someone had dumped a few piles of dry cat food. And in this town, where there is cat food, there are cats.
Further up the street, along the sidewalk, there were several seating areas belonging to a few local teahouses. These comfy seating areas were occupied by young people drinking tea, eating snacks, and smoking water pipes. I looked at one group and saw the cutest, most charming sight of the day. Joining one of the groups was a tiny little kitten. The kitten was standing on its hind legs, while a big, burly Turkish guy was gently feeding it yogurt from a spoon. I wish the photo I took had more of the Turkish guy in the picture, but alas, the moment was fleeting, and I was lucky enough to get a photo at all.
We reached the top of the street and found ourselves in the midst of a bunch of souvenir sellers. Alongside of their stalls, at the base of the building behind them, was a group of well-fed looking cats nibbling on kibble. Quite a nice looking bunch of kitties.
Ready to call it a day, we headed toward the Sultanahmet tram station. On the way, we passed through Sultanahmet Park, and I caught a nice picture of a mama cat hanging out on top of a rock in the park, with her baby
We caught the tram back to Taksim Square, walked back to our hotel, and chilled out for a bit. Then we hit the street (Istiklal, of course), found a nice restaurant, had a late dinner, and then went dancing at a disco called Tekyon. Where do I get the stamina?