An excursion was planned for 10:30 this morning, a van and guides would meet us in the lobby and take us to the old city for a few hours. When I first heard about it the night before, my initial reaction was to give it a pass, I was completely knackered and all I wanted to do with the day off was sleep or lay out at the pool. After a little thought, I realised what a wasted opportunity it would be not to take advantage of, after all it is Istanbul and all I'd have to do is turn up at the appointed time, who knows when or if I'll be back here again. I'd left a wake up call for 9 before going to sleep last night at 2, an early evening these days. The problem was, I couldn't get to sleep and the last time I looked at the clock it was 5 in the morning, a half hour after the first call to prayer echoed through the city. The wake-up came on time and my first thought was to go back to sleep and leave the excursion for another trip, but I peeled myself out of bed, went down for some breakfast and coffee and was in the lobby at 10:30. Our group was: Paul and Ellen Crockford, Pete and Tina McKay, Shelly Cummings, Paloma Rollings and myself joined by the driver and two lovely girls who would be our guides. We ended up spending our couple of hours at the old Spice Bazaar and Grand Market. These are both indoor malls of the ancient kind, built in the 1500's and still attracting thousands of buyers, sellers, traders, hawkers and tourists every day. The sights and smells that greeted us were probably no different than those of 500 years ago...anise, coffee, saffron, peppers, chillies, paprika, cardamom, salami, cheeses and cooking meats. The crush of people was endless as were the merchants calling out to you to come look at their wares. Everything from wedding costumes and clothes to musical instruments, gold jewelry and shovels were available to buy. The market is a series of hundreds of stalls and shoppes all beckoning for your attention and Turkish liras. Through the sprawl, with the vigilant herding of our guides, we managed to stay together as a group, nobody separated or lost. Wonderfully overwhelming, an assault on the senses and very difficult to convey in words. I'm very glad I got myself out of bed and went.
Back to the hotel mid-afternoon, I went down to the gym to find MK, Glenn and Matt already working away. I found an empty treadmill and joined them for my usual 90 minutes of humiliation. A shower, then back out of the hotel. For the last several days I'd been noticing an instrument shoppe several blocks away and I took myself off to see what it was about. A tiny store with about 60 sazes and ouds, traditional Turkish string instruments, hanging inside. The idea of purchasing a saz while in Turkey is very appealing. I walked in to the tiny space and nodded at the man and woman who I assumed were the owners. I quickly realised that communication was out of the question, neither of us could speak the other's language. I did manage to get a general price range, but began thinking about how I would get it home if I did purchase one. My equipment trunk that contains all my guitars for the show is completely full. I might be able to squeeze something small in, but certainly not a saz which has a very long neck and a large bowl shaped back. With one more nod, I left the shoppe empty handed and headed back to the hotel to get ready for tonight's planned excursion.
The promoter of the show in Istanbul arranged a dinner cruise down the Bosphorus Straits toward the Black Sea. We met at the pool bar for a drink then all boarded a beautiful wooden yacht for a most memorable evening. The sun was beginning to lower in the sky but the air was still warm, the wine flowed as we slowly headed out admiring the great homes along the shore of the Bosphorus. In about an hour we anchored in a cove and a miraculous spread of food was laid out buffet style. The tables laid with white linen cloths and a brilliant dinner was underway as the sun set. Several times through the evening I took myself off to a quiet part of the deck and stared out at the water, shoreline and sunset, thinking how fortunate I am. After dinner and dessert, Turkish coffee was served, the anchor hoisted and we slowly made our way back up the straits, admiring the lights of the city and bridges over the Bosphorus, returning to the hotel jetty around 10. What a day off!