[I'm the first traveler-in-residence to participate in a new partnership between Matador
Hey you guys, do you remember when Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) slammed the rim of that shot glass onto the table in her dim Nepalese bar? I do, and at that moment my young heart lifted. I remember turning to my dad in the darkened theatre. He was smiling too. Say what you will about the Indiana Jones franchise, but in Ravenwood, Raiders of the Lost Ark delivered something new. She was unafraid, independent, unapologetic — and a woman. She was amazing, as rare and exotic as the landscapes she and Indy ran and drove and punched their way through for the remaining minutes of the film.
I was 11 when Raiders was released so I can be forgiven for not understanding then the racism and stereotypes that mar the script. I hope also to be forgiven now for so quickly surrendering to nostalgic fantasy when, after the quiet intensity of the Süleymaniye mosque, we stepped back out into the hot sun of an Istanbul afternoon. Imagine my excitement to find myself in a place she might have swashbuckled. I’d waited 29 years for this.
From outside the mosque we darted into the narrow streets of the markets. Three consecutive blocks were dedicated to belts and belt buckles, and then we turned into a tangle of alleys with only children’s toys spilling out of the tiny shop fronts. “The toy market,” Iskender announced. “There are markets here for everyone.”
The spice market was a crush of noisy barterers, all shouting good-naturedly at each other and passers by. Iskender delivered us to a select Turkish Delight seller who offered us samples on a silver tray. “If it’s good Turkish Delight, it will not disturb your throat,” Iskender advised, pointing to his Adam’s apple. The morsels were tender under tooth, and dusted with trace powdered sugar. Throat was most definitely left undisturbed.
Then to the waterfront, where the culinary adventure continued.
In the din of the wind, the ships’ horns, the musicians, and the boat-tour hawkers calling “Bosphorus!” Iskender’s voice was nearly carried away as he asked if we were ready for the (optional) main course: an intestine sandwich.
The meat was pleasantly musky and tender, wrapped in a crusty roll. Iskender said that the intestine sandwich is one of the spicier street food offerings in Turkey, but I noticed only a gentle kick and I was a little disappointed that the sandwich additions I’d expected to see here — tabouleh, tahini, and hot sauce — were nowhere to be found.
After our roadside meal, the group disbanded with instructions to reconvene later at the And, where we’d load our bags onto a shuttle to the train station. Tonight we`d sleep on the overnight train to Goreme.
With a few hours to myself, I decided to return to the waterfront.
On the Bosphorus: Corn/pickle/cigarette/bagel/chestnut vendors. People spitting. People shouting. People laughing. The bread man carries his bagels on a stick. Women in burqas push babies in strollers, cross-trainer running shoes peeking out from under floor-length coats. The wind picks up plastic bags and snaps them taut. Men roll beer in metal kegs as far as the tailgate of their delivery truck then bir, iki, üç they hoist the barrels onto the bed. A perfume-seller approaches and introduces himself. “Almanca? Fransızca?” Then, “Kanada?“ The men selling boat tours call “Bosphorus! Bosphorus!”, the emphasis slapped heavily on the first syllable. I buy a ride.
The banks of the Bosphorus are dotted with palaces. Men outside a restaurant smoke and fish off the side. Tourists and Turks walk freely about the vessel, taking turns posing for pictures in a captain’s hat. Topside I meet a man from Brazil who asks me to take a picture of him pretending to throw himself overboard. The servers bring us tea in tulip-shaped glasses. As we chat I stir in sugar, clinking my tiny spoon against the bowl like I’m ready to make a speech.
Later, I find an English pub that’s showing the Hotspurs game. I don’t have a team allegiance but Tottenham reminds me of friends. After the match, I pay the waitress and down the last in my pint glass. It takes all of my self-control to resist tipping it over and slamming it on the tabletop.All photos © Keph Senett