Monday, August 24, 2009
Istanbul and the Black Sea
Since I arrived in Istanbul on Saturday I've been walking around, seeing sites like the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia (former church, then mosque, now museum), sampling Turkish cuisine, and trying to avoid the people who want me to buy their entire shop when I haven't so much as looked at one carpet. Usually I just walk by without even acknowledging them, and a couple times I tried to pretend I only speak Spanish. Unfortunately for me, some of the shopkeepers speak Spanish too! I haven't bought anything but food yet--my suitcases are too full for anything else! The first picture is the beach near Agva (see below) and the second is me at the top of Galata Tower with Istanbul in the background.
Today I took a day trip with a tour company to the Black Sea, and it was absolutely lovely. We were a small group of 5: 2 Austrialian women and a couple from Spain besides myself. We went to a Sile (pronounced Shilay) and Agva (silent g), small tourist towns about an hour and a half outside Istanbul. We took a boat trip on a small river in Agva and then ate lunch at a riverside restaurant. Our guide, Umut, was excellent, and since we were such a small group we could decide among ourselves if we wanted to stay in one place longer or move on. I enjoyed getting to know the others in the group, and the Spanish couple was amused by my Mexican-accented Spanish. The Austrialian women and I were amused by watching our guide fall asleep repeatedly on the boat trip. (He didn't need to provide commentary for the boat ride).
I noticed a number of unfinished houses along the river and the road. They were concrete structures with several floors but no windows, doors, or other finishing touches, and it looked like noone had been working on them for a while. I asked the guide if the unfinished houses were related to the economic crisis and he said yes. He said that the prices of homes have dropped 40-50%, and that in the past rent prices went up every year to adjust for inflation, but this year he told his landlord he couldn't pay the increased price and the landlord agreed. In the past, a landlord would have found a new tenant in a week, but now they are holding on to tenants if they can. It's interesting and sad to hear about how other countries have been affected by the greed of the mortage fiasco.
In the afternoon, the 5 of us climbed down a steep hill to a small beach in a little cove. We swam, climbed on the rocks, and sat in the sun. I sat and marved at the awesome beauty of God's creation. It was gorgeous and totally relaxing. I want to upload more pictures, but the internet connection is really slow. Tomorrow I'm off on another day trip to see the ruins of Troy. As a literature person, I couldn't pass that one up.
Thanks for reading! I've never been known for my brevity. And the State Department wants English Language Fellow bloggers to note that all ideas and opinions expressed in my blog are my own, and are not the opinions of the State Department. :)
~Love from Istanbul~