My Stray Cat Expedition in Istanbul, Turkey – Day 7 (continued from Day 6)
Dr. Arnold Plotnick
(click pictures to enlarge)
It’s our last day in Istanbul. Sigh.
When I booked the flight, I had originally planned on taking the 11:00 a.m. flight, bringing us back into NYC at 2:30 p.m. Instead, accidentally, I booked the 5:15 p.m. flight. Once I did this, it was too late to switch without paying a substantial penalty. So I kept the 5:15 flight. This flight would arrive in NYC at 9:00 p.m, and by the time we got home it would be 10:30 or 11:00. Having to work the next day, it wouldn’t give much time at all for unwinding or unpacking. As it turns out, I’m glad I did it this way, because we didn’t have to catch the shuttle to the airport until 1:00, giving us a half day of sightseeing.
First thing I see is a kitty across the street. This should be a good omen for the rest of the day.
Our goal today was to see the Quincentennial Museum of Turkish Jews. The museum is located not far from the Galata Tower, so we took the same route that we took a few days ago, starting with our beloved Istiklal Street. This time, however, we were seeing Istiklal Street early in the morning before the swarms arrive. It’s that nice time of the morning, when shop owners are just opening and laying out their fruits and fish and other wares for the day.
As we strolled down the street, we took a little detour down an interesting side street, and at the end of the street was a gate, behind which was a courtyard for some old building. I don’t know what type of building it was, but I tell you, I hit the kitty cat jackpot! There were TONS of cats in this courtyard. Take a look for yourself!
All shapes, all sizes, all colors. All looking pretty well-fed.
You can see I’m enjoying myself.
All of them were really sweet. I’m sure they were looking for food, but I prefer to think that I just have this type of animal magnetism.
One last look at the kitty crew, and then we’ll move on:
We finally found the entrance to the Quincentennial Museum of Turkish Jews. In 1492, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel of Spain ordered their Sephardic Jewish population to accept the Christian faith, or leave and “dare not return”. The Ottoman sultan Beyazit Han was the only monarch of th time who extended an invitation to take in these refugees. Jewish people remain a vibrant part of Turkey’s cultural mosaic. This museum, founded 500 years (hence “quincentennial”) after the Spanish expulsion, commemorates those first Sephardic Jews who found a new home here. The museum is housed in an inactive early 19th-century synagogue, and displays items donated by the local Jewish community.
After the museum, walked around in search of the Camondo staircase. This is a short, curvaceous double staircase leading up from Voyvoda Street, the historic banking hub. It was build by Avram Camondo, a leading merchant in the Jewish community and head of the prosperous Camondo family. He was the first foreigner given the right to have real estate in the Ottoman Empire. He built this much-used staircase in the 19th –century as a mark of his gratitude, and also to ease the uphill journey to the family’s home when their baby Moise was born in 1860. I checked my map, and found the staircase.
I climbed up and got a good picture from above, looking down.
We continued the Jewish history tour with a quick visit to the Schneidertempel Art Gallery. Built in 1894 as one of the city’s few Ashkenazi synagogues, this well-restored building holds temporary exhibitions relating to Jewish life and culture. The most striking feature is the simple Star of David stained-glass window, above the area which used to be the ark (the ornamental closet that contained the Torah scrolls). “No photos allowed”, the sign said, but you know how I feel about that silly rule.
After the gallery, we strolled back slowly to the hotel, lingering over souvenir shops. There was a nice looking hotel on the street we were walking, with a cat (wearing a collar) sitting on the step outside, observing the world go by.
We headed back to Istiklal Street, then to our hotel nearby. Here are the last cat photos I took on the trip. First, this little gray kitty watching the woman in the shop prepare for the lunchtime rush. I’m sure he thinks he’s gonna grab some lunch there, too.
As we passed the high school, I spotted these cats in the front courtyard. Someone had just tossed down a huge handful of kibble.
Here’s another of the high school cats
We got back to the hotel, grabbed our bags, and headed over to Taksim Square where we caught our shuttle bus to the airport.
Istanbul. It’s the historical, cultural and financial center of Turkey, and it’s onne of the world’s most dynamic cities. It’s the crossroads of civilizations where Europe meets Asia and where East meets West. Great food, great shopping, great people, and as you know by now, a city teeming with friendly, sweet, well-cared for cats. I had the time of my life. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my trip and seeing all the cats I met while I was there.