We are the Sultans….We are the Sultans of Sloth.

By the time we arrived in Turkey we had long ceased performing our morning workout routine and had been consuming copious amounts of food and beverage with reckless abandon (all in the name of exploring and appreciating new cultures, you understand).  And with a couple of friends meeting us in Istanbul to celebrate the dawn of my fifth decade on this earth, the debauchery promised to continue if not intensify.  I know, I know, you’re all saying to yourselves “Gosh, really?  He doesn’t look that old.”  You’re probably right, but please let me just continue with the story.

Ian, my good friend from grad school arrived first from Lithuania where is he currently working while being based out of London.  Francesca and I toured the city with Ian as our guide as he had been there a few times before.  I had been once previously, but it appears that my early onset Alzheimer’s had erased pretty much all of the memories I had of that trip.  So Ian took us to all the “must see” sights like the Blue Mosque….

….where Francesca and Ian purified themselves before entering the Mosque.  Actually we arrived right in the middle of prayer time so we really didn’t get to go in, but at least they now had clean feet.

….the Hagia Sophia

And the underground Cistern, which, by the way, Francesca thought would make an excellent venue for a techno rave.

We discovered a rooftop café with amazing views of Sultanamet and chilled out there before starting the afternoon portion of our tour.

In the afternoon we journeyed to the Grand Bizarre where Ian bargained for various items including knock off watches and wallets, but ultimately left empty handed – much to the chagrin of the shop keepers who, given the worldwide economic downturn, had apparently reduced their sales pitches to the raw truth saying “Listen, my friend, you came to buy something and I want to take your money.  Please, come into my shop.”  Ya can’t really argue with logic like that.

Then we went to the spice market and picked out some Turkish Delight for Francesca to try as she was a TD virgin.  While Ian and I enjoyed ours thoroughly Francesca didn’t think it was all that (nor a bag of chips).  I think perhaps her expectations were potentially too high having been lured by the romantic portrayal of this local confectionary in “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” movie and it could not possibly expect to live up to such hype.

In the evening we were met at “5 Kat” – a cool rooftop bar & lounge – by another good friend from grad school, John, and his band of merry men (a.k.a. his traveling partners Russ & Jason) as well as one of Ian’s friends Derek, an American who has been living in Istanbul for the past seven years.

Me, Francesca, Jason, John, Ian

We met the owner of the bar Yasemin and it turns out she is a filmmaker as well with a documentary called “Sidewalk Sisters” playing the festival circuit right now.  What are the chances?  Although she seemed much more interested in John than in any film I could have possibly made, I’ll still plug her film.  Here’s the link if you’re interested.  Sidewalk Sisters:

Despite my advanced age we ended up closing down the “W” at around 3am with the help of Seda and Nisa, two gorgeous Turkish girls that John and Co. had met traveling through their country.

On our way home in the taxi Francesca and I got a mean case of the late night munchies and decided we NEEDED to get some food.  The problem was that our taxi driver could not speak a lick of English (I know, the nerve, right?!), not even enough to understand “Food! Food!” with our right hands held out flat, palms up, as if they were holding plates and our left hands in a clenched fist making scraping motions across our right hands as if we were shoveling food into our mouths off of our make believe hand plates.

Finally – in a spasm of genius I might add – I blurted out “KEBAB!” to which he immediately repeated “kebab!” in a jubilant tone as if he’d figured out the Final Jeopardy question for a million dollars (although, of course, that would be “What is kebab?” so he would have lost anyway – that Alex Trebek is a hard ass.).  He then proceeded to make a few phone calls and drove us to what appears to be not only the only twenty four hour kebab shop, but also THE BEST kebab shop in Istanbul.  Even allowing for the fact that we were drunk and a little filet of leather shoe sole would have tasted good to us at that point, this was one seriously delicious kebab!  And the restaurant manager and the taxi driver could not have been nicer to us.  A great memory was made (which, course, my aforementioned early onset Alzheimer’s will soon have me forget).

The next day, after taking the full standing 8 count to get up, we met Derek for a cruise up the Bosphorus River, which separates the European side of Istanbul from the Asia side (the only city in the world to straddle two continents, mind you).  Derek proved to be quite the knowledgeable tour guide offering us numerous insights into the history and culture of Istanbul and the Turkish people as well as a bevy of scandalous tidbits to chew on.  Of course, none of the names meant anything to us so it wasn’t like my People Magazine, but then again, I had been without my People Magazine subscription for over a month (Dad, I hope you are enjoying it!) so I was happy with whatever gossip I could get my ears on.

After a quick and delicious fish kebab snack – directly from one of the many colorful fishing boats on the river (see photo below) – we headed to The Sunset Grill which is one of the most expensive and trendy restaurants in Istanbul.

This delicious meal complete with amazing views was a wedding gift from my former boss, Scott and his wife Eline.  Thanks guys.  It was awesome!

All in all it was a quality birthday (best 40th I’ve ever had as a matter of fact) even though I could not be with my family.  I also missed getting a card from my Mom  and hearing her voice on the telephone as she never once failed to send a card or call on any of my birthdays or other special occasion (Valentine’s Day, Veteren’s Day, etc.).  I thought about her a lot on this day and she was missed.

But I made the most of it and luxuriated after our final meal in Istanbul before flying to Cappadocia.

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6 Responses to “We are the Sultans….We are the Sultans of Sloth.”

  1. Way to go you drunks!!! I guess I shud hve gone along to reign you in!!!!

  2. gosh really dan, you don’t look that old !

    if you can’t get a late night kebab in turkey the home of kebabs then god help us

  3. Danny: This is Tom Davis father; we met numerous times at Bucknell; Tom sent me your blog as he knew I would be interested. Great pictures of Turkey; we were probably there the same time as you. We spent five weeks there recently, from Mid September to mid October. You may or may not remember that we lived there for seven years, from 1970 1977. It looks like you got a great feel for what an amazing place Istanbul has become, and taste some of the famous Turkish hosptiality. I also see you were in South AFrica; I spent a few motnhs in Cape Town in 1995, loved the city and traveled in Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. Make sure you0 don’t miss spending time in the Okavango Delta..it’s amazing. Stay Foolish! Stay Hungry! My mantra. Tom and Evie Davis

    • aroljahns Says:

      Hi Mr. Davis (or should I call you Big Tom now that I’m forty?),

      What a great surprise to hear from you!!! Of course I remember you. I still have the inscribed copy of “Zorba The Great” that you gave me as a graduation present 20 years ago. I’m glad you are enjoying the blog. When you mentioned it I vaguely remember that you lived in Turkey. To bad i didnt know you were there this time as you and Mrs. D could have come and help me ring in my 40th bday. 🙂 Wow, it seems that you are one well traveled couple. We aren’t going to make it to Zimbabwe or Botswana on this trip so no Okavanga Delta, but we’ve been calling this our “Sampler Tour”, seeing places briefly, but enough to know if we’ll want to return for a longer trip in the future. South Africa and its surrounding neighbors are definitely on the list.

      I am with you on the “Stay Foolish! Stay Hungry!” mantra, but i’m not sure my wife will go along with that. She’s always chiding me for being too much of a foolish risk taker….and well, if you mean stay hungry literally…..that will also take some work as we seem to be eating constantly on this trip. 🙂

      Thanks again for reaching out. I look forward to more of your comments.

      Best
      Dan

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