Our first adventure pup expedition ever was to Istanbul, Turkey. It is hard to say why we chose that destination, particularly as it was during the first year of the US WMD hunt in neighboring Iraq. All I can say is that it was an exotic, historical, destination and well, it was Thanksgiving vacation so in our minds Turkey fit. Being our first trip with a four-legged pup we were very careful about what to pack, what papers to bring, and what to be cautious about. On arrival at the airport we were cleared right through customs with no hesitation, so much so that when we headed toward the sliding doors expecting another checkpoint we, instead, found that we were exiting the terminal without anyone having even notice Blessu hanging off my shoulder. We quickly backtracked and found an officer who reluctantly agreed to find a customs official who could stamp Blessu’s veterinary papers explaining to him that it was so that we would have no trouble reentering stateside. They both laughed and said they didn’t need to look at his papers but acquiesced at our insistence and off we went.
We arrived at our hotel in Sultanahamet, the historical old town of Istanbul on the European side of the city. We set out for an early supper and hit up the nearest open restaurant. Being that it was November there was literally no one around and it was also much, much colder than we had expected and we had bundled up with all the clothes we packed. Even Blessu had to wear his little snuff jacket at all times and even then he would look up at us, as if to say, “can I have your scarf too?’ which he got. The restaurants were very accommodating to us and did not question Blessu’s presence at all. In fact almost everyone we encountered got a kick out of Blessu just quietly sitting there and would ask what his name was. We would say bless you and pantomime sneezing and excusing the sneeze. They would then say “Ohh, Hap-shoo” and we understood them to mean that in Turkish one says Hap-shoo following a sneeze. We later on realized it just meant sneeze but by then Shuie was stuck with it!
Sightseeing was very easy as our hotel was steps away from the Cisterns, Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Hippodrome, and Bazaar and overall the Turks were very polite and inviting people, in fact, no matter when or where you were they would offer you a hot cup of apple tea, which Lucy really developed a taste for. The only incidence of deviance was when we bought more than we could carry at the Bazaar and needed to take a taxi back to the hotel, but perhaps the driver thought it was not worth his while so he decided to swindle us out of $30 due to the confusion of the ever changing lira notes. Other than that we has a fantastic time tackling the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, and Bazaar in one day. The following day we took an extensive guided tour through the sites of the new town on the Asian side of the city. This included the pristinely conserved Hotel Pera Palace famous for the Orient Express, the Genoa Tower, and for some reason many sites that had been bombed by terrorists, sadly much too many. We then hopped on a ferry, which was a great and cheap way to cruise down the Bosphorus and check out the contrasting architecture of the new houses from the classical houses.
We then took a van to check out some more museums and artifacts further away from the city including the Topkapi Palace and the Sultan’s famous harems (all since retired) then ending the tour at an even larger Bazaar where we over did it on the Turkish delights and discovered Turkish Viagra which I declined to buy though I was getting a very good price. Blessu loved the Bazaar and his little nose went wild smelling all the different spices, perfumes, and delicacies. We all had quite an adventure in Constantinople. It is a city of contrasts and contradictions that can best be characterized with a glass of Raki, the national spirit (in an otherwise dry country). It pours out of the bottle clear but when you add water, the customary way to imbibe, it becomes cloudy and mixed and essentially that is just how the east and west come together in this ancient and new city… and that was just one leg of our Turkish expedition.
Worst part: not being able to help all the stray dogs and cats who flocked to us. Best part: even sung badly (imams don't use vocal exercises), the call to prayer was beautiful, alien feeling but also comforting.