Baha invites me to Captain’s Table for breakfast, which he covers with an array of dishes. We are joined by an Australian woman who is also leaving today. Baha offers to take us to the bazaar for some final shopping.
At the bazaar, Baha takes us to the vendor who sells the suzani for his hotel. We make our selections and are each gifted with a suzani pillow case. The embroidery on mine is incomplete, which makes me smile. Baha notices and pantomimes “needle and thread,” indicating that I could finish the embroidery myself (which ultimately, I never do).
I photograph a framed piece of an Ottoman robe that is leaning against a wall.
The Australian takes off to join her friends, and Baha takes me to Iznik Ceramic, managed by Tolga Neidim. I sort through stacks of handmade tiles, and select a few in traditional Turkish motifs.
Baha returns to the hotel, and I locate the Ibrahim Pasa Palace, said to be one of the great surviving palaces in Istanbul dating to the Ottoman period. It’s the home of the Islamic Art and Ethnology Museum.
Here’s a nomads tent, made from black goat hair and resembling a Bedouin tent. There are also home interiors and women’s clothing dating from the end of the Ottoman period. A lantern built around a Chinese dragon pattern blue and white porcelain drum. Anatolian kilims that were woven in one piece, a rare find as they are traditionally woven in sections and then stitched together. Here is my collection ofphotos from this museum.
It has grown chilly and overcast, just like my first day in Istanbul. Dinner arrives at the Captain’s table: potatoes, carrots, and lamb ribs in broth, with a side dish of rice. I finish packing and bring my “bookcase” to the concierge desk. I step outside. Oh look, there’s Cihan! It’s like he never leaves …We engage in an incredibly topic-varied conversation which pauses when he attends to his customers. Near 9 PM, he ducks into the Barbecue House, and emerges with a single plate, two pieces of baklava and two forks. These guys! There is no end to the hospitality here…
Baha arrives and we catch the tram across the Galata Bridge, and climb a steep winding alley of stairs to the base of the Galata Tower. I point to buildings with facades that look like the ones I saw in Genoa. He shows me his favorite church, the Sant’Antonio di Padova, built in 1905 and the largest Roman Catholic church in Istanbul. We admire it through the bars of its locked iron gate.
We eventually arrive at the Cicek Pasaji (Flower Passage). We grab a table, order drinks, and listen to musicians as they roam from one table to the next, one of which is playing something that looks like a hammer dulcimer.
- The Flower Passage building dates back to 1876 and was originally the site of the Naum Theater, a favorite of a couple of Turkish sultans during the 19th century. After the Russian Revolution, impoverished women sold flowers here, giving the building its current name.
We hail a cab back to the Sultanahmet, just after midnight. I am the last guest in his hotel and he has no plan for tomorrow. We talk about my flight home, which will take my plane over the North Pole and Canada on its return to Seattle. He asks if there are sharks in Puget Sound. We talk about cars, and sports, and music, and whatever small talk will continue to keep us awake.
The airport shuttle arrives at 3 AM, and Baha loads my book-heavy luggage into the van. He gives me a warm European-style send-off and promise to keep in touch. It has been a most remarkable trip, and I will never, ever forget this place…
- This is an excerpt from my original travel journal. The full text, which includes historical notes and traveler tips, is now available at AugustPhoenixHats.com.