Turkey 28: Ramadan in Istanbul

Up early today, five am, in order to catch a flight to Istanbul.  After finally seeking out a shuttle and getting to our hotel in Sultanahmet, we crashed.  Just plain tired.  Around five o’clock, we decided to get up and head to the Galata Bridge to try a fish sandwich.

Now, the last time we were in Istanbul, the summer tourist season wasn’t in full swing, nor was Ramadan.  So it was busy, but not crazy.  Today, it was a little bit crazy.  Amazing, but crazy.

First thing’s first: dinner.  The plan was to get a fish sandwich, which is kind of a trademark food of the ferry docks.  The plan went awry when Daina was sweet talked by a “grandpa” figure into sitting at a restaurant that wasn’t advertising fish sandwiches and, when I noticed one on the menu, they said it was cooked from frozen and not very good.  So the fish sandwich will have to wait.

As we took in the sunset, however, one person who would not wait was our waiter.  It’s not uncommon for a waiter to strike up conversation with their guests, so when this guy first started talking about where we were from, etc, we didn’t think anything of it.  Slowly, however, the attention turned more and more to Daina.  Eventually, the line “I get off in 30 minutes” came out, as did an offer of going for drinks (directed mostly at Daina).  When the cheque came and I was handling the bill, the waiter slipped Daina his name and phone number.

So, above and beyond good service. 

Anyway, Daina was very clear about us wanting to just walk around, so no drinks with the random waiter.  Much better experience wandering.

Ramadan changes the nature of the city, for sure.  Not only are there giant light-up messages between the minarets of the mosques, but everybody is out in the evening.  Restaurants advertise set “iftar” menus and, since the fast of Ramadan is supposed to be broken in groups, they all fill up.  The parks are crammed with picnickers that you could practically trip over and the mosques are full after dark.  It really is a sight to behold.

One sight we missed the last time we were in Istanbul was the Chora Church.  That should be the plan for tomorrow. 

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