29 July 2007

Hot Summer Evenings

They said Istanbul has 'miserable' winters. Well, it hardly rained, it didn't snow, we didn't see any fog, there was barely any wind, and it didn't really get cold.

But summer in Istanbul? Now that is miserable!

At the moment the middle east is in the grips of a heatwave - temperatures pushing the high forties day after day - and we are just on the edge of that. It's hot, and the place isn't geared for heat. Many places do not have air conditioning. And there is a water shortage and electricity shortage, so they turn off water or power to whole suburbs for up to a day at a time.

End of Time

Our contract ended precipitously somewhat sooner than we had originally intended, but we can't go anywhere until we get Peter's passport back from the British Consulate after our visa interview there on July 31st. We still had test writing to finish for Dilko, so that kept us inside and at the computer (by turns) for a while. We finished that, and then we packed our stuff, and weighed it, and re-packed ... and still there are days left.

Going for Walks

Walking is good - healthy, cheap.

Walking in Istanbul can be a wee bit hazardous. The sidewalks are narrow, and even the walking streets are unbelievably crowded. It's like always pushing through a fair-ground crowd. You can't just walk in a straight line, you are always dodging and weaving, watching out for bikes, motorbikes, and sometimes even cars or trucks that have chosen the pedestrian way. People do not specifically walk on the right, or the left, they come in from the side and they meander, and many of them seem fairly unaware of the presence of others - wearing a scarf or a burka would be a bit like wearing blinkers.

And you don't see many prams or pushers, these old Istanbul streets are incredibly rough with a variety of cobbles and brick paving, pot-holes, bumps and dips, drains, broken off metal pipes sticking inches out of the ground, rubbish in piles and scattered - there's definitely no room for power walking.

The Promenade

That's what the path along the sea-front was called in England, I remember. Great place for a walk. We went there quite a few times during the "winter" and were puzzled by the emptiness and desolation, the only other people were a few exercise enthusiasts.

But now it's the summer holidays. The kids are at home and everyone is hot and bored.

Its obviously the place to be. Someone even provides little tiny tables and stools under the trees.

Great place to snuggle with your girlfriend, or do a spot of fishing. People catch tiny hamsi - like sardines - we have seen one guy catch seven at one time.

There's even enough space for a kid to kick a football.

Then if you think you are really clever at kicking footballs, there is some kind of little competition here - I'm sorry, we haven't really worked out what the idea is.

Actually there are a few ways you can throw a few coins and have a go at something.

You can shoot a pellet to pop a balloon, or break a glass bottle into the sea. There is also a man with two or three cute white bunnies sitting on top of a wooden box, very tame. People come and play with them and stroke them, and then they buy a ticket to try and win one. What a racket!

And what a great opportunity for all the little people to set up stalls and make a bit of extra money.

You can feast on fairy floss,

or sweet corn - steamed and/or barbecued.

Then there are lots of varieties of seeds and nuts, and the ubiquitous simits (bread with a hole that is very popular here).

Some chaps are cooking fish or kofte (varieties of meatballs) on a portable barbecue, and selling it in bread with tomatoes and peppers.

You can buy various evil-looking things in jars,

or even just a cooled bottle of water.

These photos were taken about 6.30 pm while it was still bright and sunny. But we are often down there at 9pm - when it is just starting to get dark. By ten o'clock we have pushed our way back up the crowded streets to our soggy bed and humming fan, but we have no idea how long everyone else stays - maybe all night. Some of them are just lighting little fires and settling babies into prams at that time.

In less than a week we will be in England. Cool, wet, green England.

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