Tuesday, January 26, 2010

If one had but a single glance to give the world...

one should gaze on Istanbul.

I wish I was travelling with Alphonse de Lamartine, but back in my uni-days, I used to go travelling with my friends, and we landed in what was once upon a time Byzantium and Constantinople. Visitors take their photographs and have their own stories to tell - well so do I. My pictures are in a photo album somewhere, my stories in my head.

I still remember vividly two conversations we had in the centre of Istanbul, in the vicinity of the stunning Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque.


“Sirs, you looking for a place to stay?”

Not wanting to sound too eager, my friend gave a nonchalant “Yes we are”.

“You should stay at our place. Price is good, and we serve seven items for breakfast.”

A few minutes later, all in, it sounded like a reasonable deal. Food too was an important consideration, considering we were nearly on a shoe-string budget. And so we stayed at the motel recommended by this guy.

The next morning, we were extremely upset. We didn’t have the seven items for breakfast as promised by the guy.

We tracked him down somewhere near the motel, as he was looking for more tourists to stay at his ‘we serve seven items for breakfast’ place.

“You promised seven items, there was only bread!”

The guy looked genuinely concerned.

“No seven items?? No coffee, tea, jam, butter, marmalade and milk??”


We managed to convince him to buy us some papaya for breakfast the next morning.


“Have you visited Haleh?”

We looked at each other. Among the five of us, we had done enough research to know every corner of Istanbul, but none of us has read about Haleh.

“You haven’t heard of Haleh?”


“Ah, but no visit to Istanbul is complete if you haven’t visited Haleh.”

To say that this guy had our attention was an understatement. How could we have missed out on visiting a gem of a place in this historical city? Maybe we were too caught up reading our travel guides that we failed to connect with the locals like this kind gentleman?

“What’s Haleh?”

“Like I said, you must visit Haleh if you come to Istanbul. Please, please follow me.”

“What’s Haleh??”

“Haleh is my carpet shop…”


I have visited so many places I just wish I had more time to write about the amusing people I’ve met, the crazy things people have made me do (and done to me), and the unforgettable experiences that colour my trips.