Postcard from Turkiye – 2

June 13, 2024

Continuing from the last Postcard…

Day 2

Day 2 of our Turkiye visit began with a buffet breakfast at the rooftop area of Apple Tree Hotel.

The buffet arrangement comprised a generous spread starting with fruit juices, salads, cut fruits, bread, and other bakery items, different kinds of cheeses, butter, and jams, and finally tea and coffee. Breakfast time was also a time to exchange notes with Sid & Prerana – how things had been going and the upcoming plans.

On Day 2, we were to be picked up from the hotel for a day-long Prince’s Island Tour. Lunch was part of the package. We were to go on a cruise across the Sea of Marmara while watching the iconic sights of Istanbul from the water. We were to visit 2 islands – Heybeliada Island & Buyukada Island.

From the hotel, we walked up to a waiting bus. The bus had several pickups from different hotels and by the time, the pickups were done, it was over 9 AM – it was per plan. The bus dropped us at the cruise starting point.

Mother of all surprises

While we were getting off the bus, I thought I recognized someone from a distance and quickly pointed out to my wife, Jyothi. ‘Isn’t this Shanthi Manni?’ Jyothi wasn’t sure. However, when the lady got off the bus and joined a gentleman, I was certain. It was my late father’s cousin, Chandru, with his wife, Shanthi. We had been quite close and then we lost contact with each other. Only recently, my mother had spoken to me about re-establishing contact with them. We had made some attempts but in vain.

By now, Jyothi too was certain and we went ahead and introduced ourselves. Oh! What a surprise it was! During the rest of the cruise, we spent time updating each other on our families – I was so happy that I could introduce Sid & Prerana to them. We took pictures and I sent them to my mother too. My mother was delighted. She called it a divine coincidence.

This coincidence reminded me of my father’s voyage from India to Italy in the 1960s. While relaxing on the upper deck of the ship on one of the days, my father saw the silhouette of a man leaning against the railing of the ship with his back to my father. Something about the way the man stood reminded my father of his dear friend, Mr. Harishankar from Hyderabad. As my father approached him rather tentatively, the man turned around to face my father. And voila! Indeed it was Mr. Harishankar. As can be expected, they embraced each other and had a great bonding time during the voyage. My father was a great storyteller and he had narrated this story innumerable times to his ‘audience’.

Cruising along

On the cruise, we found some unlikely entertainment in the form of a salesman selling a vegetable peeler. He was such an entertainer that he kept the entire audience engaged – adults mimicked his typical sing-song voice while the kids clapped. I recalled our train journeys in India where some vendors with their creative sales skills, kept the passengers hooked.

As we stood on the deck watching the ferry cruise along, for a moment, I was lost in my thoughts. I was recollecting our 1.5-hour-long cruise to Milford Sound in New Zealand. Read about our NZ trip here.

The ferry docked at the Heybeliada Island. The guide gave us some broad directions including our lunch spot and the time by when we were to reassemble at the ferry point. It was meant to be a day of leisurely walks on both islands.

The guide escorted us to the Marko Pasa Restaurant where we were expected as part of the package. The guide took care to ensure that we were served only vegetarian food. In addition to bread and salad, we were served rice and vegetables. The sizzler-like steaming vegetables were served to us in stone cookware. I was reminded of the kalchatti, the cookware made out of the naturally available soapstone, used in traditional homes in South India. At home, we still use the kalchatti to prepare items like the rasam.

At the restaurant, Sid made me shoot a video of him eating salad while he was providing a running commentary praising himself. It was meant as an advertising clip for his principal audience – his grandmother back home who is always after him to eat more vegetables. I love the grandmother-grandson relationship. It is indeed extra special.

Long walks

Sid & Prerana had cautioned us of long walks during this trip. In anticipation, we had been walking in Bangalore to build our stamina for the long walks ahead.

Given a sumptuous lunch and the assembly time, we went on a long leisurely walk through the leafy streets. Some parts looked like Goa to me. We took a lot of pictures.

Incidentally, Sid is very good with the camera and has an eye for great composition. He seems to have taken after my father who was an accomplished amateur photographer and was featured in one of the Italian dailies as an amateur photographer when he was in Italy in the 1960s.

Our daughter-in-law, Prerana, is a great planner. One can tell by the way she lays out the itinerary for the day. It was clear that she had done some serious research in terms of where we needed to head to. In addition to her travel planning, she is also a great financial planner. I love the way Sid and Prerana consult each other, exchange opinions, and decide on the way forward and this observation of mine is not just limited to this trip. I have seen this approach of theirs in the other departments too. I believe that it is critically important to be equal partners in this marathon called marriage. By the way, equal does not necessarily mean sameness. It could mean being complimentary to each other – balancing each other out.


Cats are a big thing here. They can be found everywhere. Most of them appear to be well-fed. They are happily willing to be petted by strangers – in fact, they rather encourage such petting by coming close to and rubbing themselves against us. While walking through a park, we found kittens available for adoption. Adorable! People were holding their cameras to capture their playful mood while these kittens were completely oblivious to the fate that lay ahead of them.


As we walked around, I noticed that the streets were very clean. In fact, in hindsight, I could say the same thing for Istanbul too. Although the city is full of tourists of all shapes and sizes, the areas are remarkably clean. It is another matter that, having traveled from India, I could be having very modest expectations of cleanliness standards in public spaces.

Walking around, we spotted some interesting sights. For instance, we watched a seagull looking at a restaurant’s menu and squawking loudly as if keen to order something.

Jyothi picked up her Dondurma (ice cream is known as Dondurma in Turkiye). In Turkiye, many ice cream vendors tease their customers with their antics of handing over the Dondurma. Dondurma’s sticky elasticity makes it possible for the vendors, dressed in red with fezzes on their heads, to play games with the ice cream and put on a little show. However, Jyothi was a trifle disappointed that the vendor handed over her Dondurma without any of his antics.

At the appointed time, we took the ferry to Buyukuda Island, our next stop. We did a lot of walking and window shopping. The day was coming to an end and as we returned to Istanbul by ferry and then by bus, we were taken to a fashion show organized by a leather exporter. We returned to the hotel and for dinner, we headed again to Turgut.

Even before we reached Turgut, we were passing by some other eateries, and as mentioned in my last post about young salesmen employing all kinds of influencing tactics to persuade us to visit their eateries, one of the young men addressed Sid, ‘You are shining more than my future will ever be’. Just an amusing attention-grabbing tactic! These guys are so natural! We loved these one-liners.

Anyway, we proceeded to Turgut. At Turgut, we got to try Gozleme & Kunafa – something new for us.

For those who feel vegetarian food is difficult to find in Turkiye, here’s a page out of the Turgut menu:

This time around, from the Turgut rooftop, we saw the Blue Mosque fully lit.

It had been a long day. The next day was dedicated to going into the Blue Mosque and visiting the iconic Hagia Sophia, a walk of a few minutes from each other.

Day 3

We were to visit two iconic sights of Istanbul: the Hagia Sophia & The Blue Mosque.

It was a bright morning and we walked by the eateries while being accosted by the young men inviting us in, passed by the Arasta Bazaar, and entered the precincts of the Blue Mosque. A very well-maintained park with generous pathways for walking greeted us. A railing was installed around the median with some trees planted there. We could see small and colorful pushcarts where vendors sold Simit, a Turkish bagel – a sesame seed-coated twisted Turkish bread.

Other pushcarts sold Sut Misir or corn on the cob and Kozde Misir or roasted corn on the cob.

In a sense, the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia were at two ends of the same pathway.

Both Jyothi & I posed in well-coordinated outfits with the Blue Mosque in the background. Jyothi had suggested that we wear yellow on this particular day trip. I had a yellow T-shirt which I had carried from Bangalore. Even during a vacation, one needs to come out with flying colors especially if the color has been chosen by one’s life partner. What is Life without some excitement?

The conditions were perfect for some great pictures.

Ah! Hagia Sophia

We headed to the Hagia Sophia first. While we waited in a long queue for the tickets to Hagia Sophia, a dignified, elderly gentleman approached us offering his services as a guide. We immediately engaged him. He had two more customers – a couple. Being with him, we could skip the queue and tag along with him.

Sami was a great guide. He knew a lot about the place, was passionate about his job, and had a stake in the matter. It was clear about his stake given his multiple requests to the Hagia Sophia authorities to change the current process in the interest of the well-being of the monument.

Hagia Sophia, officially the Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque, is a mosque and former church serving as a major cultural and historical site in Istanbul, Turkey. The last of three church buildings to be successively erected on the site by the Eastern Roman Empire, it was completed in 537 AD. The site was a Chalcedonian church from 360 AD to 1054, an Orthodox church following the Great Schism of 1054, and a Catholic church following the Fourth Crusade. It was reclaimed in 1261 and remained Eastern Orthodox until the fall of Constantinople in 1453. It served as a mosque until 1935 when it became a museum. In 2020, the site once again became a mosque. (Wikipedia).

We gathered that there is pressure to restore the character of the monument to a museum again. Sami was supporting this change and had already approached the authorities with his request. Sami’s passion was contagious as he borrowed Sid’s camera, leaned across pillars, and contorted his body to take pictures. He then zoomed into the pictures and shared interesting snippets with his excited audience. Engaging Sami as a guide proved to be a great idea.

After the Hagia Sophia visit, we headed to lunch.

This time around, we chose Dubb, an Anatolian restaurant. When we ordered Rice and Vegetable Casserole, we were served with a full show accompanied by Turkish music so much so that all the guests seated in the outdoor seating area participated in the ‘celebration’ following the encouragement by the waiters. Watch this video recorded by me:

The Blue Mosque

The Blue Mosque in Istanbul, also known by its official name, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque is an Ottoman-era historical imperial mosque located in Istanbul. It was constructed between 1609 and 1617 during the rule of Ahmed I and remains a functioning mosque today. It attracts a large number of tourists and is one of the most iconic and popular monuments of Ottoman architecture.

While the Blue Mosque provided a backdrop to our pictures from Turgut’s rooftop, this was the first time we were visiting the Blue Mosque.

Even after a couple of hours, we were still inside the Blue Mosque. Sid was taking pictures and Prerana was met by a young girl-volunteer from Germany who was studying in Turkiye. They spent a lot of time together talking. We took advantage of this situation and settled down on the well-carpeted floor for a long time. It was a tiring day. We had been walking the whole day – outside and inside the Hagia Sophia and the inside Blue Mosque.

By the time, Jyothi & I reached the hotel, we were dead tired. Sid and Prerana went out for dinner but Jyothi & I opted for Cup-o-noodles in the comfort of the hotel room.

The next day was to be a very early start with our flight to Cappadocia at 6 AM. We were to check out of the hotel room and there was some packing still to be done.

Coming up next: We turned cavemen at Cappadocia as we watched the hot air balloons from a vantage point. With a car in self-drive mode, we explored Pasabagi, Devrent Valley, Kayamakli, and Uchisar.

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