So, I live in Turkey which means that I have to spend my holidays primarily in Turkey. And, while I am finally getting paid (woo hoo!) I am not paid quite well enough to splurge on a flight back to the States, as tempting and as cliché as it may be to go home for the holidays.
Instead I did the next best thing, I imported family from the States. While the original plan was for Kelsey, my sister, and Samantha, our cousin to join, Mother Nature had different plans in store. Since most of you spend the majority of your time on the western side of the Atlantic, you may not have been monitoring the weather that descended on north-western Europe in the days leading up to the Birth of Christ, but since one of the only two entirely English channels we have here in the 'dağ is the BBC, we heard all about it.
And, unfortunately, we had to experience first-hand the incompetency of the British Ministry of Transportation. Basically, two-thirds of flights going in and coming out of Heathrow were cancelled outright, for the four day surrounding Christmas, the four busiest travel days of the year. Major problem since its one of the world's most important air-traffic hubs. So, Samantha was stranded, at work, in Boston, at Christmas.
Kelsey and I carried on without her, much to our chagrin. After relaxing a few days in the 'dağ, we headed to Istanbul. We went to Chora Church, a fabulous gem of a place tucked a bit outside of the typical tourist section of the city. Amazing mosaics and frescoes from the 14th century are still in phenomenal condition, so we marveled at Jesus and Mary for the afternoon.
Turkish J.C. says "hi"Later we went into the Spice Bazaar,
and we made friends with a vendor who makes, as far as I can tell, extremely expensive tea sets. He was quite the shop owner, offering us everything from historical explanations for various Turkish idioms, to rose lokum, to tales of fame and glory. Just in case we didn't believe his excellent-ness, he whipped this out,
"From Fidel Castro to Kevin Costner, the famous drink from these cups"Upon arriving back in Taksim, we were greeted by a Worker's Party protest. Nothing says Christmas like communists, right?
The Turkish Communist Party's headquarters overlooks İstiklal street, the capitalist center of the city.
When we saw busloads of riot police being carted into the area, we, ever so poetically, took refuge in a Catholic church where we basked in the Christmas decorations and the abundance of candles. I was able to snap one photo before being accosted by the caretaker. I would have felt bad, but then I saw him blowing out prayer candles to make more space for new ones, and my guilt magically disappeared. Honestly, who blows out prayer candles? On Christmas?
That night we hit a fasil restaurant on Istiklal. We chowed, drank, listened to traditional music and danced. Kel and I went back to our hostel and watched the Holiday for possibly the tenth time in a week and snoozed til morning.