My original travel journals were split across August Phoenix Hats and a few other websites. February 2021 marked the 12th anniversary of the beginning of my travels. To keep myself sane during the pandemic lockdown, I started reissuing my journals as Director’s Cuts, with the complete text as well as larger and additional photos.
I have spent the last two days in Bursa, and am eager to return to Istanbul. It’s my last day, so I cram as much into my remaining hours as I possibly can. I had hoped to see the Orient Express but it left a few hours earlier. I wander around Sultanahmet Square and the outskirts of Gulhane Park, down alleyways where people are sharing hookah, taking in as much of the architecture and ambience as my memory senses can absorb.
Baha takes a few minutes out of his day to take me to a lamp maker near the Grand Bazaar. He introduces me to the artist and returns to his hotel. I purchase a lamp like those that cover the ceilings of the Kybele and Hotel Han, and am assured that the lamp is ‘Made in Istanbul’ and not India or Morocco. I spend the rest of my day shopping for hatmaking materials along a row of textile shops near the Grand Bazaar. I buy as much lace, woven trims and appliques as I can carry, expecting to use the materials on hats for Baha to sell, although that plan – like many others this trip – would ultimately fail.
I take one more walk through Gulhane Park and Sultanahmet Square before returning to the hotel. I settle up my bill and Baha offers me an hour of his time and a small bowl of chorba, his final gestures of hospitality. A taxi arrives three hours later.
“Inshallah you will visit Istanbul again some day,” he says, as he slams the door shut on the airport shuttle and I am whisked back to Ataturk Airport for my flight home.