Monday, April 13, 2015

Shenanigans, Part Deux: Bazaars and the Bosphorus

Day two began on nearly as high a note for us as day one.  I didn't think the spice market was going to be a huge draw for our kids, but I needed to buy us tickets for the Bosphorus cruise and it gave them something to do in the meantime.  Something that, as it turns out, they really enjoyed.  They hit the ground running as far as shopping goes, and were still going up until we boarded our plane to come back to Mongolia.  I told them all to be sure to try the Turkish delight, and plenty of boxes found their way into backpacks before we set out - far too soon for their tastes! - for our Bosphorus cruise.
Several of the kids asked me about going to the beach before we set out, and I had to tell them we'd be on the water a bit, but it would be too cold to swim.  Most of them are Mongolian, and if you haven't figured it out, we're a landlocked country, so it was pretty cool to be out in a boat.  For most of the trip up to Anadolu Kavagi they were out on deck, taking in the fresh air and lots of selfies with the new selfie sticks it seemed like half of them bought in front of the spice market.  When we pulled into the final dock, it was sprinkling, and Time Lady and I were worried about the hike we were supposed to take up to Yoros Castle, but the weather held and nobody melted.
In my prior incarnation as a hopeless wanderer in Istanbul I didn't take the trip up the Bosphorus...too many other things to see.  This go-round we had more time, and I thought it would be cool for us to see a real fortress, and luckily Lonely Planet was wrong for once - we actually got to go in and see the Black Sea from the wall.  Which is a good thing, because it would have been a helluva hike to go up just to turn around and go back.  We'd just got back down to the village when the rain started in earnest, at which point we jumped on the boat and went back to Istanbul proper for yet more shopping.
The Grand Bazaar was one of my favorite places in Istanbul the first time.  I must have spent five hours wandering the place back then (in part to find a metal belly dance bra that Belynda later told me would just look like pasties on me - le sigh).  We didn't give the kids nearly that much time - an hour and a half later we were leaving, our bags stuffed with even more goodies.  Mostly this was because I'd scheduled an art workshop for us at 7 that night, and since the awesome folks at Les Arts Turcs were kind enough to accommodate our late schedule, I didn't want to keep them waiting.  However, I think it took a load off Time Lady's mind that she'd only have to worry about someone getting lost for an hour and a half - she was quite concerned, given the size of the Grand Bazaar and the number of people who visit there each day.  I tried to encourage the students with a good sense of direction to go with her, but I think in the end I lucked out - I got my tenth grade Mongolian boys (one of whom I would have trusted to lead us around, if he weren't underage) as well as a few others, and we had a pretty damn good time, ending up at a damn good doner shop while waiting for the other group (did I let my kids swear a little on this trip?  Fuck yeah, because they were definitely going to hear me doing it by the time it was over!  Vacations and weekends are fair game, in my book, although this is probably to my detriment since now that we're back at school they're using "I'm not used to not swearing" as an excuse to drop bombs in art class...)

We finally all got back together and made our way to Les Arts Turcs (which was down the hill from the main gate of Topkapi Palace, not behind the Basilica Cistern like I thought).  We worked really hard raising money for the trip with our weekly coffee shop, and I decided that rather than give it to them as spending money (which they had plenty of!) we'd use the money on some experiences they couldn't have anywhere else.  When I contacted Les Arts Turcs, not only did they arrange to do our workshop around our schedule (which was day-heavy), they gave us a great price.  At first, we were all kind of worn out, but after everyone (except the Mormon) drank some Turkish tea we perked up and got into a creative mindset.  We made our tiles using traditional designs, methods, and colors, and they were ready for us to pick up Friday morning before we left (which provided me with an excellent opportunity to come back and buy their marbled paper supplies, which they taught me to use at no extra charge!)  When we went to the Blue Mosque the next day, I made sure to point out all the tiles decorating the building and remind them how long it took all of us just to make one of them, and I think that helped them appreciate its beauty even more.

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