Sunday we met a new friend near the Galata Tower. He’s here in Istanbul for a conference. My wife and our friend Banu offered to meet him because we share a mutual friend from our time together at USC.
Before he left the U.S., Viet asked my wife if there was anything he could bring us. My wife said, “pancake mix.”
I have yet to be able to find pancake mix here in Istanbul. I spent an entire morning walking around Nişantaşı trying to find the place that supposedly sells American and Western European products, specifically pancake mix and Mrs. Butterworths or Aunt Jemima syrup. I never did find it. But one of the local supermarkets in our neighborhood sells Vermont Maple syrup for the price of 42 lira (depending on the current exchange rate, about $21 – $22 for a 250 gram bottle), which I paid without hesitation.
Meanwhile, there are places selling waffles on the street and at many Metro stations. But why no waffle mix in the stores?
Viet was kind enough to bring us two boxes of Mrs. Butterworth’s pancake mix, aka “Gold Powder.” We treated him to lunch (at a good restaurant recommended by Banu) and a trip up to the top of Galata Tower.
But Viet is far more than just the provider of our gold powder. He’s an artist, poet, and scholar. Check out his website.
During lunch, Viet’s friend Duyen, an artist who lives in Istanbul, used pieces of napkin to make several pieces of origami for my daughter Meredith.
Meredith is very shy. Though she didn’t thank Duyen (I and my wife did), she did make eye contact, which for Meredith is often the most you’re going to get as someone she has just met. Afterwards, Duyen made this neat package to hold the small pieces so they could be carried home.
The Galata Tower was originally built around 507 A.D., and has served as a fire lookout tower, an observatory, and a place for Christian prisoners. It has suffered through a handful of fires, effectively gutting the interior. The tower now serves as a great place from which to view Istanbul. There is also an over-priced restaurant at the top.
Here’s how the tower looks in Istanbul from the western side of the Golden Horn.
Here’s a how it looks up close.
Here’s how it looks when you’re waiting in line.
I’m betting an experienced rock climber would have no problem scaling the tower. I’d pay to see that.
The elevator ride to the top of the tower is quick and smooth. You barely realize you’re moving.
It was Sunday, so it was crowded on the outside platform.
It also didn’t help that these Turks were creating a traffic jam by stopping to write graffiti on the tower itself.
Banu told these assholes that they were damaging the tower and their own history. They told her that other people have done it so what’s the big deal. Teh Stupid is everywhere.
Here is what we saw from the top of the tower.
Meredith made it all the way around the top with me and Banu. Henry was out there for a short while before my wife Stephanie took him inside and then out of the tower. As I’ve said before, he’s not a fan of heights. When we met them afterwards in the square, he was happily playing Minecraft on my wife’s iPad Mini.
The following morning, my wife mixed some of the gold powder with water and we had our first pancakes since leaving the U.S. The kids left for school in by far the happiest morning mood they’ve had since we arrived in Istanbul.