Istanbul, Part 2

My apologies for the many blurry photos. Autofocus seems to be letting me down. But. This is my take on what I see here.

Turkey is going through a difficult time right now. But the founder of modern Turkey, Kemal Ataturk, and the values he represents — fair treatment and equality for all, openness to the world and to new ideas — are widely admired, even though they are, at present, under attack. Many expats are returning to their native countries and many educated Turkish people, the ones who should be able to make a good life here, are emigrating. However I think, or maybe just hope, that those who choose to stay will be able to turn things around.

I am seeing plenty of wonderful things. As is the case most everywhere, traditional skills are being lost. However some people are learning to package and market those skills and items as luxury goods. The photos that follow are an assortment of things seen on my way around town: items lost or in need of rescue and those that have been rescued or fully transformed.

Turkish food is still quite seasonal. These summer fruits and vegetables have been pickled to preserve them for the winter. This shop sells to locals, but in fancier neighborhoods you will find similar items in smaller jars with pretty labels and much higher prices. I wonder which is better positioned to withstand increases in rent and labor costs.

They eat every part of an animal here. This man is cleaning a lamb’s head.

Coffee needs no introduction. Istanbul has many artisan roasters. The man in the photo below makes simit, a round bread something vaguely like a bagel.

The arts are down, but not out. Here you see a used bookstore, a street musician and a truly lovely infill building. Long may it remain untagged.

Here are a few more places that are holding on. Istanbul is an absolute bargain destination right now and quite safe. It’s easy to get a table in some delightful places.

And that is it. I’ll be here for a few more days and I surely will return.

Istanbul, Part One

So. Robert has been gone about five years, now. It seemed a good time to come back to Istanbul.

I was thinking about this post while I was in Paris. The idea was that it was time to wrap up these memorial posts. There are only so many memories that you want to post to a blog, after all. It was during a trip to Turkey — to Istanbul, Izmir, and along the Mediterranean — that Robert and I made the shift from not serious to probably permanent. It seemed that this was a fitting place to put the dedicated blog posts to rest. My plan was to visit some favorite old places and find some favorite new ones. Time to transition.

Well, too true. I have just arrived. If my attention span holds, I’ll do a second post about what I see during my week here. I can tell already that this is not the Istanbul that I saw all those years ago. The city has grown exponentially. It is winter, so pollution is not an issue, but it is dirty. The crowding is much worse. The tourists are staying away. Those who are here are not spending much money. So far I am seeing many fewer shops that sell the metalwork, carpets and all that were such a magnet for me, and more sweets shops, of all things. Even the old standbys, like Mehmet Cetinkaya, are salting their exquisite offerings with scarves and the like.

The world has moved on, no question. So far I have no way to relate my planned farewell tour of Memory Lane to what I actually find. To get through a week in what used to be a beautiful, cosmopolitan city, I intend to affix the rose-colored glasses. I’ll talk to my friend Jennifer. She’ll know who is still doing good work. I’ll check Cornucopia to see what’s on at the galleries. And really, dervishes doing a turn at the cafes? I guess even Sufis have to eat.

Jacques Report

Here is Jacques in the utility room, on his grooming table, with his dog shower in the background. He’s pretty scruffy right now, isn’t he? It’s my fault.

Jacques turned four in December. That makes it close enough to four years that I have been less than thrilled with his grooming. The good guys are booked. The others, eew. The last time I took him to the groomer, only to have him turn tail and fight to get away, was once too many. I decided to find another solution but of course being me, I put off any action for quite a while.

My other dog, Piper to me, AKC Champion Legacy Pipes A’ Callin’ to you, was a Wheaten terrier, a sort of strawberry blond color dog who stood about knee-high. She got me through fourteen pretty difficult years, falling ill with cancer for the third and final time just about the time I met Robert. She was put to sleep on 9/11, yes, that 9/11. Years later, when Robert died and things looked bad again, I knew it was time for another dog. But no more showing. I can take only so much.

Most show dogs look pretty good, pretty close to the standard. Besides, often the judges don’t really know the breed standards all that well. This means your ribbon often depends on extraneous factors, which I won’t go into here. Suffice it to say that grooming, which should matter hardly at all, matters a great deal. Fortunately Piper’s breeder was willing to groom her for free, so I sat and chatted with him and watched. This went on for years. I learned that grooming requires patience, but it’s not rocket science. So when Jacques obviously, seriously wanted just to get away from those sweet young women who were so happy to see him, I knew it was time to step up, do the dirty work myself. And I knew I could handle it.

I think maybe he has spent too much time on the table, so I’m starting with short sessions: 10, 15 minutes. That’s part of why he still looks so bad. I found a dog brush with rubber tips, so he’s not being scratched by the metal ones. It’s working. He leans into the brush, loves it, and is now okay with my going after the mats. Obviously I could do a little more with the mats. No bath just yet. It’s about 10 degrees out, which is balmy for France right now, but still, it can wait. We are pneumonia-free and I’d like to stay that way.

Westies have a double coat. The groomers use an electric clipper to remove the outer layer, in the process removing its insulating and dirt-shedding properties. I’m going to let that grow back in. It takes a few months.

Meantime, I’m watching Westie grooming videos on YouTube. I found out I’m supposed to have been brushing him every single day. Oops. I’m sure Jacques will forgive me. When all is done, he’ll be a shaggy little dog, with all that extra hair, but I think he’ll be cleaner and a lot happier. Will he have a show groom? I don’t know and I am grateful beyond measure that I don’t have to care.