Kayla’s Travel Journal
Ferry to Kadikoy; Kayla’s Furniture Safari

by Kayla Summers

 Dear Maman,

I know the story is too long!  I’m going to break it up into segments, but I just wanted you to know that I’m keeping out of trouble.  Now--off to work!  Wow!  I love cut and paste...

The ferry to Kadikoy… well, I decided to brave the streets and byways of this charming metropolis. I am in search of furniture.   Generally I get lost a lot, and knowing this, Suzete, had offered to take me furniture hunting, when the “time” for my new dwelling is to be ready.  The said new dwelling was looking like more of an architect’s “arts and crafts” project, although the owners assured me, it would be ready soon... That was two and a half weeks ago, and they are just now putting in the kitchen!  Sigh… The front door is still missing, although when Kalianna and I made an impromptu field survey, I noticed that instead of a cavernous hole  (that looked as if someone had knocked chunks out of the almost foot thick wall with a sledge hammer) part of my “home” had been finished and painted. So, it appears they are expecting a door.  I’m not complaining, just a bit anxious.  I’m perfectly happy where I am for now, and there has been progress noted.  So.... Ya vashna, ya vashna.”  (Slowly, slowly.)  Since I have no furniture at all, I thought it best to make a preliminary study of what was available, so that when the “time” arrived, Suzette, Master Bargainer Extradinaire, could be used for the choice items, not getting her bogged down on looking for deals.

She was the one to tell me that somewhere in the Koran is written that it’s your obligation to bargain... 

I, who rarely knows the value of anything, caught myself haggling vehemently over what amounted to twelve and a half cents!  I stopped immediately, gave them 25 cents extra (no doubt, confusing them…). The coolest place to go for used furniture is Kadikoy, one of the oldest villages in Istanbul.  It was originally a copper mining town, but long after the mines closed,, and because of its inherent charm of being located by the sea (producing an endless supply of seafood) people just stayed on.

From the divine “’otel Flamingo”, I caught a waiting Dolmus, which is a yellow van that seats four in the back, and two or three in the front. The protocol is to jump in, and wait ‘til it fills up, usually only minutes, if it is not actually in the “take off mode” as you step on. As soon as the driver begins moving, everyone hands him the fare, in this case, from Aksaray to Taxim, it’s Besh Yuz Bin”, five hundred thousand Lira or 35 or 40 cents, but never more than two dollars, anywhere. As the Dolmus passengers begin handing their money forward, the driver is pulling into four lanes of traffic (using a stick shift), and collecting the fares. When most of the fares are collected, he makes change!  As he hands back the coins and notes, he calls out what was given, and the appropriate passenger gets their change.  I have never seen a problem develop, but sometimes to make it easier, passengers will take another’s change and give him a larger bill, paying for two. 

All this is done as he hurls at speeds of 40 mph, weaving in and out of traffic, slamming on the breaks when necessary.  

Generally this is taken all in stride, but I have heard shrieks from my fellow passengers when it became particularly scary (just a few times) as the driver yells at an offending vehicle.  The passengers usually chime in with the driver and glare collectively… Tsk-tsking at said vehicle saying, “Allah hallah (sounds like “ahlaHAHla”). The effect is sort of like Americans sometimes exclaim “Jesus Christ!” or the deviations thereof.  Dolmus can save you bundles of money (in $U.S).  Taxis are about the same price as in the states, and tend to be more dangerous, in my humble opinion. If you are worried about, knowing the right amount, just hand them a one million Lira note.  It usually does the trick with change, if not, they’ll tell you.  Then you hand them another because it will never be more than that.

The course, takes us, across the Galata Bridge, where dozens of men are seen fishing.  The amazing thing about this bridge is, according to my “Lonely Planet Guidebook” that it floats on pontoons so that the middle of it can be removed to let the big ships enter the Golden Horn.  At about 04:30, they do just that, and for half an hour, ships stream in.  The next half hour, they stream out.  The middle is then repositioned.  I have yet to get up that early to see it. 

I arrive at Taxim, the cultural hot spot that is filled with galleries, and also my favorite place, a dress design center.  The designing center is a regular sized room with hand drawn, new fashions and prototypes of others.  Different themes are selected each month (or season).  Turkish women know how to dress, and “chic” does not begin to describe them.  In this place there are “touristy” areas, the Devrish dancers, a convent (more on that later), Galata Tower (built in 1216 and has one of the best views in town, for only a dollar) with its club at the top.  From here, I walk to “Besiktas” (Besh-ick- tash), which is about a kilometer down hill to the Ferry building, so that I can cross the ever-busy Bosphorus Straits, to the “Asian side”.

A token to Kadikoy, is less than a dollar, and as with all embarkations, there is a mad rush, to get on.  Don’t bother to rush!  They will wait for everyone! Really, really, there is plenty of top-deck and indoor seating, and along the sides, are built-in benches. (The same rule holds for disembarking.  Don’t rush; it’s not required.) Once the ferry leaves the dock, a man who sells tea will come by, and offer you piping hot tea, with sugar.  Another will come by, selling Simici (pronounced “si-mich-eu”).  Simici is freshly baked yeast bread, which is shaped in a circle before it is baked.   The bakers imbed this bracelet of bread with sesame seeds, rendering it into an incredible treat, which is sold for about a quarter. Turks have asked me, what it is called in America, and I sadly say that we can’t, get it in America. They give me, a very well deserved, look of sympathy. It is a staple here.  In all the years, I’ve had the privilege of eating it; I have only been sold one stale one. (Roughly, 1 in 500.) 

As I stared into the sea, the color of which was between emerald and turquoise, I could see at least ten feet down, gazing at some jellyfish, clear with four circles of white in the middle, fringed on their perimeter, which was about the size of a plate. 

As I stared, one seemed to explode, and it released hundreds, of baby ones! 

(Just incredible, I thought.) The Turks have been working very hard to clean up their waterways, and now, thanks to their efforts, the Dolphins are back, which are always a joy to see!

The trip takes about fifteen minutes.  I arrived at Kadikoy, and began the march up hill with no real idea where the used furniture area could be found. The walkways, and majority of streets here are made of different colored cobblestones laid in distinct patterns.  For the patterns at the intersections, some are circular, some diamond shaped, and all are placed tightly and intricately, maintaining this beauty, for hundreds of years. (At least!)

I chose a bookstore in which to start my inquiry. At first I tried using the basic Turkish words bakyorum,mobilya,hayeur yeni”.  Within seconds, a small group of people gathered, watching my mouth for signs of a possible meaning.  They called out in general, for someone who spoke English.   A young man, a customer, came to my rescue.  While he interpreted for me, they all started pointing in the general direction that I thought that I should be going. A rather large, heavy man who was heading out of the door said,  “Gel!” (“Come” according to my Turkish primary book).  The rest of the patrons looked at me and repeated, “Gel!”  So, gel, I did!

We continued, walking up hill along the narrow cobblestone streets, passing the regular outdoor market, past the hawkers selling to tourists and Turks alike. The street became calmer. 
The man asked me, “Why furniture?”
I answered, “For my ‘almost ready’ home.” 
He laughed at “the door” part.

Surprisingly spry for a big man, he kept a fast pace.  It took, all I had to keep up with him.

Every now and then, he’d turn his head, to make sure that I was still with him. We walked straight, along the same street, which is good, because, generally, I can’t find my way, out of a paper bag.

Sure enough, I began to see old chairs that had been recovered sitting along the sidewalks, with variations, on the theme.  My guide questioned me, if this was what I was looking for.   Of course thanking him, I said Evette, evette!”  (Yes, yes!) He just waved his hand at the furniture saying, he knew a better place, about three blocks further.

To tell you the truth, I was a little apprehensive about going too much farther, firstly because of my non-navigational skills.  Secondly, because sometimes, men direct you to shops where they get a cut of the price you pay, which is okay in principle, but I was not in the mood, to get strong-armed for used furniture or carpets.  Passing an incredible amount of used furniture displayed on the sidewalks in front of the shops, that contained, much more.  There were ancient exam tables, and office equipment.  One had a complete beauty salon chair with attached sink (In Barbie Black...). 

We arrived at a shop, which just as he had said, had much finer merchandise along with some ancient refrigerators.  My escort introduced me to the boss, and went on his way, after giving me his business card (He turned out to be a math professor.) and shaking my hand. He wished me luck. The owner, talked to me, telling me of one daughter who is a physician in Michigan.  Colorado and Kentucky were also mentioned. He has not seen her in 16 years (sigh…).  Anyway, among the piles of furniture, he had some tables, made of a dark wood with burled walnut inlaid in the middle, an ancient portable Singer, sewing machine, circa 1900, like my old one, except with a far more, gorgeous design of some Goddess on a chariot, with the obligatory swirls, in light gold and green. He led me inside his shop. 

Inside there were massive wardrobes! Turks are not big on built-in closets. 

Some had mirrors, some doors of iced glass, and one of pale yellow bird’s-eye maple.  A small thick table that folds out sporting massive legs, carved in the form of some ancient dragons. I’m not good at hearing the price well enough yet, but I think the table was about $100.  Of course, there were rugs and rugs and rugs for which my mind told me that I’d have to come back, because he is selling big, room-sized, wool ones for about twenty bucks!

After collecting his card, I started back the way I’d come. Arriving, at the downhill slope, facing the ocean, I entered into the market zone. I passed a boy selling mussels, and naturally, I stopped. The protocol for this is: you tell him, how many you want to eat, (you can hold up fingers, if you want).   The mussels have already been prepared by stuffing the mussel with a mixture of bulgur and spices; then it is placed back in the shell, so that it appears “whole”.  He begins by opening one, squeezing fresh lemon over it, and handing it, to you.   Your job is to chew it up, and as you swallow, he breaks open another one, and that’s the drill.  If you ask, he will slow down.  Five mussels cost me about 80 cents.  I’m unsure, if, you can buy them, “to go”.  I’d never be able to last that long… 

My rule for seafood is (generally) that you have to see the water from whence the seafood came!

After, having been stuffed with mussels (really, five, will do the trick), I wandered slowly through the market. The fish were fresh; you could smell them, but interestingly, it was a fresh smell, and they looked as if they had been that day’s catch. (No sunken eyeballs).

I entered into a cheese shop to score little goodies like stuffed olives and bits of all their cheeses. They were very amused by my, “a little of this, a little of that” routine.  They usually sell by kilo, so I could tell they were being good sports.  They have a type of fresh cheese here, (from sheep) which is like a bland feta with more moisture, among myriads of others.  I finished my buying extravaganza, with some fried donut holes, the name of which I can’t begin to pronounce, drizzled with chocolate and topped with shredded coconut. They are more substantial than regular donuts, (if that’s the proper term) being far crustier on the outside, with a donut-like inside.  Seven of those puppies packed nicely, for later cost me only 50 cents!

I returned to the Ferry Building.  The plaza in front of it was full of people soaking up the sun.  The weather here has been what I consider “sucky”, so everyone was out:

Muslim women in full dress (but no mask) were “high fiving” each other,

gypsies in small circles, one having her head massaged by another, all wore brightly colored clothing.   Adding to this scene was “Children’s Day”, a two-day “Bayram” (holiday) during which many of the children are sometimes dressed up in native costumes, some from different lands.  I saw one Native-American Indian princess, but most of the small ones were dressed as flowers. Too cute, really! One can’t help smiling and cooing at all the daises, roses, and tulips as they bounce around or parade though the streets.

I returned, on the ferry, which is an excellent way to see the coastline, with all the mosques standing apart from the buildings, as they have for centuries at night they are lit up, making them even more spectacular, if that could be done. There were so many ferries docked there, that they tied onto another ferry that was tied onto another ferry etcetera. Finally the gangplank to shore appeared.  Pretty funny, I thought.           

  Signing off,

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