Friday, December 28, 2012

Istanbul Diary, Day 4

Having learned what delicious lessons brunch in the hotel had to teach, we returned for more fruit and other breakfasty delights, including the figs at the top of the plate. I had to hurry myself along, however, as we had a date to observe the liturgical tradition of Christmas at a local church here in Istanbul. That and because apparently gluttony is a sin.

When we arrived at the Crimea Memorial Church, also known as Christ Church, we were first greeted by a pair of waddling, quacking ducks. They didn't seem to be part of any living crèche display; I think they were just local residents taking a walk around their yard.

The area around the church is sufficiently built up that it is difficult to get a good vantage point of what the exterior actually looks like. It's further obscured by a Violet Venable-style garden that might profit from a pruning jubilee. Here's an artist's conception.

The interior of the church, decorated for the festive holiday season, featured a set of red paper hangings that suggested a cross between Chinese lanterns and piñatas. The rest of the interior was quite traditional and beautiful. The service itself, while brief, was also a lovely event. Afterwards, the priest thanked everyone for coming and for being sober. Apparently the celebrants that showed up for midnight mass the evening before had been consuming the blood of the Lord long before communion was ready to be offered. 

Having discharged our religious duties for the day, we set about wandering through the Beyoglu/Taksim district. We briefly considered having our photos taken like old timey Turkish gentlemen, but decided that, while fezzes can be fetching, borrowing extravagant mustaches just for picture purposes wasn't quite our speed.

We also passed this basement window which, according to Ottoman legend, would once happily eat any misbehaving children in the neighborhood. It seems to have slowed down these days, but locals insist it is only one tantrum away from succumbing to its historical hunger.

We also passed by this poster, which is advertising an elegant restaurant. The implication is that, after a romantic dinner for two, both spooning and forking are possible outcomes.

Eventually we found our way into an underground arcade which was filled both with inexpensive consumer electronics and an extraordinarily large selection of garden supplies. Bryan and I were both suitably impressed to see that one of the merchants was selling the same brand of bird repeller used by the U.S. Secret Service.

After briefly considering the purchase of a well maintained rototiller, we continued to the Galata Bridge, which spans the channel of water known as the Golden Horn (not the Bosphorus itself, as I was reminded). At the Northern end, there is a ferry dock and fish market, home to dozens of shouting fishmongers and yet more of Istanbul's endless population of stray cats.

Here we look down from the bridge level to the dock. A ferry is arriving, and you can see the southern half of European side of the city is the distance. Below you can see Bryan, looking very chic and sophisticated in his Ray Bans.

The Galata Bridge is lined with dozens of fishermen, casting off the side into the water below. When I asked a local what kind of fish they were going after, he just shrugged and said they were fishing "just for fun." If standing on the side of a bridge with four lanes of traffic at your back and squinting into the sun for hours on end is your kind of fun, consider yourself at home.

Among the many shops we saw, I can especially recommend "Hero Select," a store to quicken the pulse of any sci-fi or fantasy fan from around the world. They've got a breathtakingly geeky selection of figurines and collectibles from your favorite fandoms, including Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Indiana Jones, and the various superhero universes. Many of these items are finely wrought licensed merchandise, so you can rest easy knowing that the media companies who own the copyright to your favorites characters are getting their full kickback from the artists who actually created the pieces.

They even had one item that I myself received from Santa only recently, the Han Solo encased-in-carbonite ice tray.

Naturally, however, the highlight of the season and of the store was this merry old elf/Jedi master. I didn't see any resin-molded Lando Calrissian figures celebrating Kwanzaa, but I suspect they were just sold out.

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