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Published: June 28th 2014
Istanbul: the WCERE conference (World Congress of Environmental and Resource Economists).
June 26 & 27, 2014. Our trip started off from Ron's apartment in Brookline on a humid morning, catching the T with him as he went to work. We continued on to Logan after saying goodbye at South Station. Things did not bode well for an easy trip when the wheel on my duffle bag split open at check-in! I envisioned myself (or more likely, Wayne) dragging a crippled bag all around Istanbul and Switzerland. More on that later.
We flew to Toronto first and had three hours sitting in a waiting area (with free iPads at each seat!) where we could watch the US lose to Germany in the World Cup in Rio. At about 4 pm we boarded the Air Canada flight to Istanbul. There was a surprising number of young children on board. We had our own row of two - no extra seats but at least we weren't trying to avoid falling asleep on a stranger's shoulder. Each seat had a TV, and we watched the Grand Budapest Hotel as well as a couple of Fawlty Towers episodes. After a remarkably bland meal of
chicken and couscous we decided to try to sleep right away, since it was already past midnight in Turkey. So we entered that foggy state between time zones where one hour seems like eight and vice versa. Not sure how much sleep we got, but when they served breakfast, we felt fairly refreshed and definitely ready to disembark.
Our luggage was about the last to appear on the conveyor belt, which was a bit worrying, but when I looked at the duffle bag, I noticed that the split wheel had been replaced with a new, sturdier one!! What amazing service from Air Canada! Without even being asked they had apparently noticed the broken wheel and repaired it in transit in Toronto. Canadians have a reputation for being super nice, and this was certainly confirmation.
We had a ride in a big black FBI-style SUV to the Hotel Marti near Taksim Square. Istanbul looks like any other big city except for the spiky minarets that dot the skyline and the occasional sightings of women in burkas. Lots of traffic, much commercialism, shopping malls, and rooftop satellite dishes.
We walked the five minutes or so to Taksim Square, a
wide-open expanse where political demonstrations sometimes take place. Today it is peaceful, fortunately, with just a few vendors selling simit bread (big, pretzel-like rolls covered with sesame seeds) and corn on the cob. Having tried both, I'd say the bread is good, but the corn is wicked tough. They should import from Harris Farm in Maine.
We took the funicular down to Kabatas and a tram from there to Karakoy, where we got some interesting small dishes for lunch at Karakoy Lokanteshi: puréed eggplant topped with chicken, eggplant kebab, which surprisingly had meat with it, and a purslane-carrot-yogurt salad. We also went into a baklava shop and got one pistachio and one Turkish baklava piece, and found both to be very yummy. This was the most successful non-hotel meal we were to have for a while, as we seemed incapable of making very good choices for the next couple days!
We walked up to the Naval Museum which had some fancy caiques, long boats that the sultans used to get rowed around in. Dinner was at the Hunkar Restaurant, recommended by one of Wayne's Turkish grad students who said they served food most like what she has at home. Unfortunately, we couldn't communicate well with our waiter nor were we very hungry, so our choices of grilled chicken and stuffed eggplant dinners were not very inspired. Yes, there is a lot of eggplant here!
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