Monday, April 4, 2011

The Best Way to Stop a Tourist in Her Tracks

For years I've wanted to travel to Istanbul.  The name conjures up images of veiled belly dancers, hookah pipes, sultans in turbans, and open air bazaars.  Now that I'm back I can say it is and it isn't exactly what you'd expect.

One of Ryan's best friends, Yang Yang, joined us for this adventure.  He is a fun travel partner, always up for eating weird foods and climbing ruins.  He's also very outgoing, which is an asset in Turkey.  I forget, having lived in Germany for almost 3 years, that in many parts of the world, it's okay to talk to strangers.  One of the first things we noticed about Turkey was how friendly the Turkish people are.  I expected as much in the touristy areas where Americans are often viewed as dollar signs, but throughout Turkey we constantly met people who just wanted to chat with us.

In Istanbul we stayed in a quaint little place called "Hotel Peninsula."  It is run by the super helpful Rohat, who we spent a lot of time chatting with and taking advice from.  The hotel was in an enclave of backpacker hotels and cheap restaurants, as well as souvenir shops galore.  The employees of these shops and restaurants stand on the road and try to entice tourists to come in.  We heard many lines, and the line "Hello, I am here!"  became a running gag amongst us.  But there were many other creative and interesting lines:

"Hello lady!  Who is the boss?  I want to give you informations!"
"Hello!  How can I help you spend your money?"
"Hello!  Spend some money for your honey!"
"Hello!  It my job to say 'hello!'"
"Hello!  Do you have money?"
"Hello!  Come buy here!  You not buy?  That's ok, I still love you!"

And on the way to the beach one morning, when I was wearing a bathing suit cover up rather than long pants, I heard the line "Hello!  Is your dad a terrorist?  You are da bomb!"  We laughed and wondered if these lines actually worked on tourists, and we realized that at some level they do, because on our last night in Turkey, after much persuasion from a short man called Ounos, we ate at his little restaurant. It was low season in Antalya, and Ounos treated us right with large dishes of mixed curries.  Then he sat down to play backgammon with us.  He moved his pieces with concentration, and then got up from the table to chat up tourists, usually striking out.  I lost the backgammon, but it was an entertaining evening nonetheless, watching charming Turk trying to entice tourists.

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