Thursday, May 29, 2008

Istanbul 02: Travel Journal Except

Friday, May 16, 2008, Hotel Turkoman, Istanbul

After what seems and certainly feels like two lost days of traveling across continents and time zones, the beginnings of my third day in the same clothes due to a lost bag by the ever-incompetent American Airlines, I know why people don’t travel like this, like me. But sitting atop our hotel on the terrace over breakfast, overlooking the Bosporus Straits in front of me and the Sea of Marmara to my right, over strong coffee, after waking at 5:00 am by the call to prayer at the Blue Mosque across the street and a subsequent leisurely stroll around Hagia Sophia, and now surrounded by squawking seagulls who have nested on the roof, plates of dried fruits, sweet melons, and cakes topped with sesame, and spoken foreign languages, I cannot for the life of me figure out why people don’t travel more often, more like me.

We’re waiting to be joined by Chris and Mary before deciding on a plan for today. Cars and tour buses honking. A ship’s horn. The sun is breaking through and dispelling the haze over the water.

We saw a group of attractively dressed boys crossing the hippodrome on their way to school this morning. Seeing the beautiful Turkish lads reminded me of all those accounts about the sultan’s seraglio and how the conquering Ottomans fought over the choicest Byzantine girls and boys after breaching the walls of Constantinople in 1453. Runciman writes that even the Emperor’s godchildren were not spared: “The girl, Thamar, died [in the seraglio] while still a child; the boy was slain by the Sultan for refusing to yield to his lusts.”

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