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Cock & Toenails II: A Farewell to Europe

My Friends,
   Turkey still goes well.  Havent moved around too much since last I wrote but have seen a lot.  We got it in our heads that we wanted to walk to the Bosphorus Bridge…

…pictured here being large and imposing…
…and cross it by foot into Asia.  However, we found out after walking 2.5 hours that it was cars only, so we had to hop a bus or take a ferry to Asia.  We opted for the latter and took a boat ride across the strait.  Once across we proceeded to do my fave kind of traveling:
1. Pick a direction (preferably away from touristy spots)
2. Walk in that direction til you are lost
3. Find your way back
4. ???????
5. PROFIT!!
Finding a mosque which was inconveniently walled-off I climbed the wall in order to take a gander at the devout.  Feeling all badass perched on the wall and keeping a vigil from above, I took this opportunity to perfect my Batman pose.  
   The next day we didn’t travel quite as far but spent the day wandering nearby Topkapi Palace.  The former home of the Ottoman sultans and seat of what was once the most feared empire in te known world, we found it to be quite pleasant.  In particular, the treasury bears mention for the sheer quantity of diamonds, rubies, emeralds, gold, etc. which it contained.  But the harem was spectacular for its fantastic architecture and tiling. 
   In the few days since seeing the palace we also saw the art museum, shopped in the bazaar and feasted like kings.  Now typically, I tend to pass through cities within a day or two of arriving, and therefore miss the tourist attractions.  But in light of the 9 days we have in the city we have really plumbed the depths of what the city has to offer.  I mean that both figuratively…
The Basilica Cistern
…and literally.  And I have definitely made the right choice regarding which city to spend a little more time in.  Istanbul has so much to offer to the casual tourist, the student of Mediterranean history,
…and of course this guy,
that I would have regretted passing through after a day.
   As for my departure Monday morning, the plan of attack is to take the metro-tram as far South-East of the city as it will take me and then  hitch-hike to Syria in the fervent hope that they allow me into the country.  From there I will make haste to Lebanon, and Beirut specifically where I wll crash for a week with some friends before getting the ball rolling again.  I am apprehensive about going into Syria especially in light of all the unrest going on there right now, but I already regret skipping Algeria and Morocco out of some vague sense that bad people lived there and I dont want to make that same mistake again. 
   Essentially, any place is dangerous and any place is safe.  By using sense of a slighly-better than common variety, I am hoping that I will not look so tempting when fate comes a prowling.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo
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Cock & Toenails

My Friends,
   Been in Istanbul, Turkey for a few days now and having a time of it.  There is so much history in this city which I have previously studied and now have the pleasure of seeing up close.  Literally “straddling” two continents, the city was the center of the Roman empire after Rome fell and was afterwards the seat of the sultans of its successor, the Ottoman empire.  The city is a mixture of Turkish (Ottoman), Roman and Byzantine buldings and influences.  But while this makes it a historian’s wet dream, you can’t get wasted on culture and architecture alone.  Fucks naw: you needs this fly shit right here:

Like Sambuca only more flammable
One night in particular we got pissy-pissy on the raki while also indulging in some other vices…
…which shall go unnamed…
…and ended up getting all but kicked out of the establishment we were at because apparently 3am is a little too late for delicate sensibilities of Turkish restaurant proprietors … bitches…
   On the real though, the locals here are very friendly, if a little pushy when they are trying to peddle their wares.  Our first night here we stumbled upon the Cafe Han and found the atmosphere and the proprietor, Moustafa so agreeable that we have been back every night since.  Moustafa is truly a man with a thousand stories and the first night we had drinks and desserts at his cafe he regaled us with anecdotes and jokes every few minutes to the point that we began demanding such entertainment during subsequent visits.  With his meagre but respectable command of the English laguage and stage presence he adds a certain je ne sais quoi to jokes that I either don’t understand, have obvious punchlines or are variations of other jokes I have heard before.  Really, his strength is in his delivery: he’s one of those guys that when he talks people listen.  We have made it something of a mission to frequent his place until he runs out of stories to tell but so far he is going strong.  We’ll see if we can’t break him before our departure.
   In spite of best intentions, we have been sleeping in much later than expected for the past few days and our desire to get an early start is tempered by our late evenings.  Its not the worst thing in the world though as, aside from admission to mosques and castles, there is not much that cant be enjoyed later in the day.  Today for example we bought tickets for what we thought was going to be a 90 minute boat tour up the Bosphorous Strait all the way to the Black Sea.  Well, the tour was, rather serendipitously, 90 one-way, which put us on the north-east end of the strait and gave us and hour and a half to explore.  First things first we crushed some Turkish coffees (cause that’s just how we do) then we set about climbing a mountain to reach this dilapadated residence:
The walk was half the adventure as it was (obvisously) uphill and it was a winding route which afforded us a great tour of the countryside as well as some interaction with locals.  At one point we came across some property where two women and a little boy were picking figs from a tree.  Perhaps a little too intrusively, we entered the property to see if we could cop us a fresh fig.  When we weren’t discouraged by the residents we were emboldened to search harder for the fruit, but to no avail.  Finally, perhaps of a dual sense of pity and a desire to hasten the departure of the two foreign interlopers trespassing on their property, the two ladies handed us some fresh figs which were then eaten and photographed mid-ingestion…
…thusly.
   Finally reaching Cenevezi (?) castle, we walked around (I got attacked by a wild dog, but it was cool, we talked it out and he realized he was in the wrong) and got let into a special gated-off courtyard area by some local curmudgeonly old man who seemed to be letting tourists in at his convenience.  Perhaps it was my boyish good looks or my exquisite mustache,
The leading cause of hairy palms among female ALL readers of my blog
but dude let us in with the stipulation that we had five minutes to look around the courtyard.  Naturally, we flouted this stipulation, as I had heard that stipulation-flouting is what’s fashionable this seasonAlso, there was more than five minutes of shit to see, climb and take pics of. 
*NOTE: I thought I had a better pic to complement that last sentence but this arch will have to do -Ed.
Having had our fill of ruins for the day we boarded the ferry back to Istanbul-proper for the next 90-minute boat cruise.  It was cold, but the sights and lights were such that it was worth it to brave the chill for the sake of the view.  All in all, not a bad day since we technically took a day-trip to Asia whcih I never thought I would do.  That said, the plan is to take another such trip tomorrow by walking across the Bosphorus Bridge and back because fuck seeing only one continent a day.
   Please believe there is lots more I wanted to tell but unfortunately for the sake of delicate attention-spans I will cut it off here. 

Stay Thirsty

-Andre Guantanamo

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