The Galata Bridge in Istanbul, Turkey.

The Galata Bridge in Istanbul, Turkey.

This entry is part of the 2014 Italy (& Turkey too!) Travel Blog Series. Read this story and then the rest HERE

 

We arrived in Istanbul late afternoon just as the sun was nearly set. Our cab ride from the airport was an abrupt introduction to the city with the driver weaving his way in and out of the narrow streets, ones that were originally designed for foot traffic, not cars. He was quick about things and used brakes only for turning corners. His skills were impressive. We all giggled to one another as the ride continued, most likely a little groggy from our 13 hour plane ride. At that point anything was hilarious. 

After dropping our bags, we immediately headed out to explore, mostly in search of food and drink. We found the Galata Bridge that spans across the Golden Horn, a major waterway in the city. The bridge separates the old part of the city (where we were staying) from the new and was covered with restaurants whose menus listed all kinds of seafood dishes. 

Not in the mood for fish, we ventured inland. We settled on a restaurant with outdoor tables off a small side street. We ordered beer, wine, and ottoman pots - a dish of meat, veggies, and spices cooked in a fire oven then served table side. To serve they reheat the clay pots over an open fire then crack open the bottom with a large knife. Everyone liked their meal. 

The dinner conversation quickly turned to the topic of hookah - smoking flavored tobacco through a water basin creating vapor. Not long after, we were off in search of a place. 

Almost as if it appeared because we had wished it, we found a series of small hookah huts located (of all places) along the wall of the Topkapı Palace. They were open booths with cushions for seating and decorated with colorful hanging lamps. We ordered the apple flavor partly because it sounded good but mostly because it was their only option.

 Josh, Emily, Jeff, and Nichole smoking hookah in Istanbul, Turkey

Josh, Emily, Jeff, and Nichole smoking hookah in Istanbul, Turkey

It was as perfect a night for hookah as any. The air was slightly chilled from the rain that fell earlier in the day, the stars were out, and we were leaning against a wall built in the 14th century. It felt like a scene from an indie movie.

And then came along a cat.

In Turkey stray cats are everywhere, which means there aren’t many small rodents around – a bonus assuming you like cats… like Jeff.

The cat crawled around the backside of our booth between us and the palace wall. Jeff, whose instinct tends to always greet a cat, reached out to pet the it. Almost immediately the cat jumped to his lap, curled up, and fell into a deep slumber. For nearly 30 minutes the cat slept while we smoked.

Nearing the end of our coals, it was time for the kitty to move along. Reaching into his lap Jeff grabbed the cat to move it. Seated next to him, I heard a nasty meow and felt a stabbing pain in my thigh. Upon waking the cat, Jeff must have startled it, which then caused it to bite Jeff in the hand and claw my leg.

The cat ran off and laughter erupted. We’ll never forget the time Jeff got bit by the stray.

Later that night we stumbled upon a street full of hostels and bars, meaning, this street was still awake while the rest of the city slept.

“They’ve got beer towers here!” the guys exclaimed.

And that’s where we sat for the rest of our night drinking and asking each another questions such as: if you could have dinner with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be and why?

Our vacation had begun.

 View of the Blue Mosque from a rooftop bar where we grabbed a drink. 

View of the Blue Mosque from a rooftop bar where we grabbed a drink. 

BONUS TRAVEL NOTE: While in search of something sweet after dinner I learned the treats in Turkey are very different than those in the U.S. A common sweet is a Turkish delight or baklava. If you’re in the city an craving chocolate, forget it! 

This entry is part of the 2014 Italy (& Turkey too!) Travel Blog Series. Read this story and then the rest HERE

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