Istanbul is an incredible city, rich in history and beauty. While we were there we stayed in a wonderful hotel just blocks away from Sultanahmet Square. We were basically, in the heart of everything. One end of Sultanahmet Square you have the Hagia Sofia, which dates back to 537 AD and was a Greek Orthodox Church until 1453 when the Ottoman Empire took control over the area. For nearly 1,000 years it was the worlds largest cathedral. It was the inspiration for and sits across from Sultan Ahmed Mosque, or as tourists call it, Blue Mosque.
We were also within easy walking distance to the Basilica Cistern. We woke up that morning ready to have our minds blown by more super old stuff. This sucker is the largest cistern of hundreds that lie just below the streets of the city. You know you’re old when you are crazy pumped to see a big cistern.
On our way we were approached by a man that correctly guessed that we were from California. He said Californians have a certain slow laid back kind of walk. We call it mosey and he was spot on. It’s probably all that sunshine and flip flops that causes us to walk a little slower. He asked us to stop into his carpet store for a bit of a chat and maybe walk out with a nice souvenir. We politely declined and said we were on our way to the cistern. He said he’d chat with us afterwards to see how we enjoyed it.
The cistern is crazy cool. There are tall, engraved columns inside holding up the ceiling and it is capable of holding 2,800,000 cubic feet of water. Mysteriously there are also two Medusa heads carved at the bases of two of the columns. One is upside down while the other is sideways. It’s very dark inside even with the few lights that are hung around to light the path. When we entered the cistern we came in on one side but as we walked through we were exited out towards another end of the street. We exited right into the path of the man wanting to sell us a carpet earlier.
This man was very clever and sly. One minute he is walking with us along the street asking how we enjoyed the cistern and the next minute Jared agrees to allow him to lead us to his carpet shop for some tea. My heart is pounding out of my chest because there is no quiet way I can communicate to Jared that he is trying to work us. He leads us to his shop and into the back room where there is a couch and has an employee bring us some tea. Jared is a sucker for cookies and tea. You can basically bribe this man into anything with tea or cookies. Offer both and you can have his kidney. As we sit on the couch Jared and the man are chatting and laughing away while I am sweating in complete discomfort. I try to communicate with my wife eyes that NO workingman wastes his time chatting away for fun. I narrow my eyes a bit more to drive in the point. He, of course, picks up none of this.
Then it comes. He was done dropping celebrity names and offering tea refills. He was ready to drive in the deal of selling us a $10,000 rug we don’t want or need and definitely cannot afford. The more awkward I feel the more I tug on my earlobe and sweat. I practically ripped my ear off and my armpits were a total slip n slide by this point. Over and over we tell this man “No, thank you. We are cool with our IKEA rug.” I have now taken over saying no and I’m saying it much quicker than the salesman likes. He starts calling me “princess” and jokingly asks how much my dowry was. Umm, we’re from America, bro. We did things the old fashioned way by getting into massive debt and having our parents help us out. Finally, he got frustrated enough and we were able to head back to our hotel. “Babe, what on EARTH were you thinking?” I ask barely able to get the words out while laughing so hard. “I don’t know how things work here! I just thought he wanted to have tea with us. I like tea!” he replies. To Jared’s credit we had met some incredibly gracious and hospitable people while in Istanbul. I will also say that this was one of our most memorable tea time moments and the tea was really, really good.