Saturday, May 28, 2011

Hiding in plain sight

Though the weather isn't quite sure yet if it's summer in Istanbul, the tourists definitely are. My tram rides over to the old city for my Saturday-morning run along the Marmara Sea are so full of German, English, and other languages that I sometimes find myself surprised to hear a conversation in Turkish. Four massive cruise ships docked along the Karaköy shoreline are a regular sight, as are unfurled maps and perplexed expressions.

Like most anyone who lives in a popular tourist destination, I sigh at the arrival of the summer hordes. (Though I was once among their number, I never would have blocked the sidewalk like that or made such loud, dumb comments, tabiiki.) But occasionally they offer a good reminder or two. I'd walked in the shadow of this gold-trimmed outcropping dozens of times on my way into or out of Gülhane Park without sparing a single thought as to what it might be. Recently, though, I saw some tourists staring at the ground beneath it and took a discrete peek as they passed.

A plaque I'd never before noticed explained that this was the Parade Pavilion (Alay Köşkü), the sultan's favored viewing point to watch ceremonial processions make their way down this wide boulevard before it became clogged with carpet shops and "authentic" Turkish restaurants. The caged windows kept the unwashed masses from catching a glimpse of his majesty -- or, surely more importantly, his majesty's ladies. As the trams and tour buses rumbled by, for a minute I could almost hear the clip-clopping of horses and the steady stamp of Ottoman soldiers.


Sandy Leonard Snaps said...

I am so happy to find your blog, which I did today via Istanbul Eats. Happy to read that you, too, are a runner, as I am...and one who enjoys that Sea of Marmara route. Looking forward to returning to the City of the World's Desire in mid-October. Until then, I remain here outside Boston and read 'The Turkish Life' with great pleasure.
All best wishes,
Sandy Leonard

The Turkish Life said...

Thanks for your nice comments, Sandy! Glad you're enjoying the blog. Mid-October should be a lovely time to run in Istanbul.