|Istanbul. Our room with a view.|
Recently, Husby and I made a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Istanbul.
A fantastic, astonishing, amazing, astounding, surprising, wonderful, beyond-our-wildest-imaginings trip.
I guess telling you we enjoyed it would be moot by this point.
We stayed in an old mansion (built in 1835) turned hotel in the old city, overlooking the Golden Horn and just down from the Galata bridge which marks the boundary between the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus Straight.
Husby studied the life of Suleiman, the Magnificent when completing his doctorate, so the area and the people and the architecture are very, very close to his heart.
We explored the old city. The mosques. The museums. The markets.
And it is this last that I wanted to talk about . . .
The markets in Istanbul are amazing. Crowds of people sandwiched and moving slowly between piles of goods. The scent of spices, roasted meat and corn, coffee, incense and perfume in the air.
I guess you can guess I loved it!
At the end of the day, the markets were closed. The people somehow stuffed the contents that had been spilling out into the narrow street back into their shops.
And the ‘blanket’ shops appeared in front of the stores.
Anywhere there was a sidewalk, these intrepid salesmen spread blankets and arranged piles of goods. It wasn’t unusual to see some man stripping off his shirt to try on one from the neatly-arranged stack before him. There were hardware supplies, kitchen utensils, food stuffs, knickknacks, leather goods, glassware. Everything you could imagine that could be easily carried and that someone could find useful.
But one man stood out from the rest.
Or rather, sat out from the rest.
An elderly man, we found him daily on his frayed, but spotless, blanket with pairs of used shoes spread neatly about him. Shoes meticulously cleaned and just as meticulously arranged.
Now to the rest of the story. My fellow traveller and good friend, Carol, and I had scoured the shops for a bargain on shoes. We had found one. And each purchased a pair.
Then Carol had the brilliant idea of taking our used shoes to our elderly salesman.
We did so.
Yeah. I’m, a follower.
He took them and looked them over. Testing the soles. Studying the uppers closely. Finally, he looked up at us and, through the kindly interpretations of the shopkeeper next to him, asked us our price.
“Oh, nothing,” Carol said, quickly. “We’re giving them to you.”
Then we saw the biggest smile we’d ever seen break over that seamed, elderly face. A smile with few teeth but lots of heart.
He got up and shook Carol’s hand. Then mine. Nodding and continuing to smile. Then he looked at Husby, who was wearing cream-coloured walking shoes, and pointed to his shoes. He then indicated his own well-worn, but still stout boots. His gesture was obvious. Trade?
Husby laughed and shook his head.
The salesman laughed, too and spread his hands in a ‘can’t hurt to ask’ gesture.
After that, whenever we walked past, he would greet us, his ‘Canadian friends’.
Now I don’t know what he could have gotten for our old shoes. A few lira perhaps.
But the funny thing? When I think of that amazing, stupendous trip, that is the experience that stands out the most.
I wonder why that is . . .