Travel Notes – Istanbul Day 06

Thursday, December 31st, 2015

What a day it has been! We woke up this morning to a huge pile of powdery snow on our room balcony. There was some lightning and thunder last night and I guess the snow just kept on coming down until it turned this city into a lovely white postcard image. We had to drag ourselves out of bed and after much begging and pleading, my two teenagers finally got dressed and headed downstairs for breakfast.

My friend had promised to take us to buy pure olive soap for me to bring back to Singapore so the four of us braved the cold weather and walked to the Spice Bazaar with the snow slapping in our faces. We went in and out of tiny alleyways, each of us taking turns in almost falling down on the slippery icy path. But as miserably cold as it was, we just laughed it off and carried on with our walk.

The shop we went to was tucked away on one of the back streets of the Spice Bazaar. I would not be able to come back here on my own as I was focusing too much on making sure I didn’t make a fool of myself by falling down on the cold ground.

We got some pure olive soap, or “green soap” as they call it here and due to the super cold weather, decided to head back to the hotel immediately. We took the tram at Eminonu in front of the bazaar, said goodbye to my friend and got off at Gulhane tram stop which is a 2-minute walk from our hotel. There is a little pudding shop in front of the tram station called Osmanlizadeler and we decided to pop in to get some hot tea and cakes. The kids had a white chocolate dome cake with strawberry filling and I chose a Turkish milk pudding with glazed caramel on top. They tasted divine! We sat there for a while and just gazed outside the window to watch people hurry by huddled in their thick jackets and coats. The snow hadn’t stopped at all and we felt fortunate to be warm and indoors.

Our feet had become wet and frozen from our walk earlier and as the kids shivered in their seats, I told them that this time next week they’ll probably be at home blasting away the aircon system wishing we were back in cold snowy Istanbul.

We continued our walk back to the hotel but made another stop at the kebab shop nearby to grab some wraps to eat in our room. It was at that time that I received a message from my friend informing me of the kilim I had purchased a few days ago. The kilim is around 50 years old and was handwoven in a village somewhere near Ephesus. It has 2 holes on each end but I totally fell in love with it from the first time I saw it and said I didn’t mind if those holes were just patched up using a different but equally pretty material. My friend (who sold me this kilim and is a rug and kilim collector) offered to foldstitch the damaged parts but I refused as that would mean I would lose the pretty part on the borders.

But as I was waiting for our kebabs, an image of my kilim came through my phone along with the message “we have decided to repair your kilim to its original glory by weaving the same pattern and colours into the damaged area”. I was delighted as I didn’t think this was at all possible especially with my tight timeframe. I responded and said I wish I could watch the repair process as I have always wanted to see a traditional kilim being worked on, a wish my friend kindly agreed to fulfill. The kids headed back to the hotel with their hot kebabs and the next thing I know, I was on the tram to Beyazit where my friend was waiting and was later lead to a small tiny attic where my kilim weaver was waiting for me.

I sat there for 2 hours and documented the process with my phone over countless glasses of Turkish tea while chatting with my friend about nothing and everything. The weaver was seated by the window and while I watched him work, I knew I couldn’t have asked for a better new year present. All that I had come to Istanbul for was right there in front of me; watching a weaver work his craft while the snow fell gently outside the window.

Around 4.30 my friend and I headed out and we walked towards Sultanahmet to do some people watching as we made our way to the tram station. We saw kids making snowmen, couples walking hand in hand and soaked in all the beautiful scenery around us while taking silly pictures with our phones. It was 5.30 by the time I arrived back at our hotel and from under their blankets, the kids delivered a message from the hotel owner that we had been invited to an early new year celebration at the hotel dining room downstairs along with the other hotel guests. So after washing up and changing into a new pair of dry shoes, I went down and made some lovely new friends over cheese, simits, popcorn, nuts and a glass of fresh cherry juice. After everyone left, I stayed on and had a lovely chat with our hotel owner and exchanged stories about life and my love for travel.

We were supposed to meet up and celebrate new year’s eve with our new friends from Cappadocia but because of the bad weather, their flights were delayed and they just got in half an hour ago around 9, shattered and knackered. So instead I’m spending my last evening of the year on my hotel bed in my pyjamas, typing up this trip report on my phone knowing I have had such a lovely and special day. The kids are safe and warm in their beds and for me, that is the best new year’s eve that I could have ever asked for.

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