Day 2-4. Istanbul and arrival in Assos.

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We get up early and explore the Grand Bazaar. A huge sprawling market
selling anything and everything, lots of gold and leather, lots of
hilarious attempts by shopkeepers to bring us into their shop, all
assume we are a couple and not friends, with exclamations of 'nice
wife, nice life', Mesud thinks it is the easier option for us that
they presume we are married. I refrain from spending 300 euros on
pages from ancient books, beautiful writing and incredible hand-
painted illustrations of noah's ark with real painted gold bits on it.
Istanbul architecture is amazing, domes and spires of hundreds of
mosques, churches, synagogues. Steep cobbled streets lined with a miss-
match of 7 storey colonial style buildings, disused and crumbling,
climbing on top of eachother. The skyline is incredible. We walk
across one of the bridges, filled with fishermen, to the more
residential side of town. Exploring tiny alleyways, street art and
galleries, we find artist workshops open to the pavement. We follow an
old tram to a busy square on top of a hill to watch the sun go down
from a roof terrace cafe, and listen to the atmospheric call to prayer
projected from the mosques.

After two days we're having to make regular breaks for Turkish coffee.
It's sweet and thick, slowly brewed over a gentle heat, served with a
shot of marzipan liqueur, glass of lemon and water and a small Turkish
sweet.

By day three, after we've met the other volunteer who's joining us,
we've learned to say 'hello, we'd like three Turkish coffees, medium
sugar, please?' in Turkish, which is probably the hardest language
we've ever tried to learn. The other volunteer is a 24 year old girl
called Jake (Jaqueline) from Santa Barbara. She's fab. Mesud drives us
to his flat. As we arrive, the art gallery on the ground floor has an
opening, into which we're welcomed with wine and cheese and grapes and
we meet the gallery owner and artists who all speak English and we
feel awful for knowing so little Turkish.

Mesud takes us for dinner with some friends of his at a fish
restaurant on the river. He is warmly welcomed by the waiting staff
who clearly know him, and during dinner the chef and the owner come to
the table to say hello and welcome Mesud.
Tonight is our first proper experience of Turkish food culture. Food
seems to appear endlessly, a meze platter of babaganoush, feta,
olives, breads, almonds in ice, marinated seabass, calamari, spinach,
mange tout, butter beans, all cooked in different sauces, all
ridiculously delicious. Whenever a dish is empty it is replaced with
something new to taste. We have the traditional Turkish drink of raqi-
tall thin glasses, aniseed spirit which goes cloudly when it is topped
with water and ice. Whenever our glasses get to near empty they're
discretely topped up by the waiting staff. Jake, Nick and I realise we
have eaten everything on our plates before the others have even
properly started. Eating is much more casual here, the food is
definitely more of an accompaniment to the conversation. We have to make
a conscious effort to eat slowly and force ourselves to put down our
knives and forks every now and then. We're so full, and then we're
told that was just the starter. Luckily the main course is just one
beautifully cooked fish for us all to share. After a few more evenings
we realise that this is the norm, a huge variety of mainly vegetable
meze dishes to share, followed by a small piece of meat and a small Turkish desert,
Baklava or Halva, or a strange but amazing sweet melted cheese thing.

We meet Jake and Mesud at his cafe for breakfast, fresh fruit
smoothies, kiwi, orange, banana, haloumi, feta, walnuts and apricots,
olives, a fried egg, bread, Turkish sausage, cucumber with sun-dried
tomato paste filled with seeds, salad with pomegranate sauce, mint,
parsley, honey and quince jam and Turkish coffee. BLOODY FUCKING HELL.
It was sooooo good. We spend another day wandering the myserious
streets, I find some teeth in an antique shop to bring home, YES!! and
Jake gets diarrhea'd on by a bird, to the crying laughter of us and
the shopkeepers on the street around us.

We walk all over Istanbul trying to get to Mesud's flat. We realise
that our map is completely inaccurate. As we ask locals for directions,
they peer at our map with so little recognition they may aswell be
looking at a map of Liverpool. It's dark and cold and we eventually find
his apartment. It is worth the walk. A top floor grotto of a flat with
sloping ceilings, crammed with things, things from all over the
world. We have whisky and cuddle his 15year old jack Russell, he shows
us the fabric he designed for Troy and Harry Potter. He takes us out
for another wonderful dinner and drinks at some bars of his friends
around Istanbul.

The drive to Assos takes 5 hours and a ferry ride. We laugh a lot, and plan the weeks
ahead. We stop for coffee and he doesn't seem to have to pay at any of
the cafes. The farm is beautiful. On a hill in remote and beautiful rocky coastal
landscape, breathtaking panoramic sea views to the Greek island of Lesbos. He has a huge matt black
dome roof for his house, and a smaller separate stone house for guests and volunteers.
There are 5 dogs, 2 stone pizza ovens, hundreds of olive trees, 2 deckings,
a vegetable and herb garden.

On the first night we sit out on the decking, smoke 'some pots' as Mesud calls it.
Zero light pollution and the most mind-blowing view of more stars than I've ever seen
before. Head-fuck stars. Screams as we see a shooting one. WOOOO.




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