China Dogs, Stray Cats, and Fear of Eminent Paralysis

So, after finishing the previous post, I got my act together and hit the streets. Took the tram over to Tophane in the New District and walked up a bit of an incline to find The Museum of Innocence. As I mentioned a couple posts back, it is a museum about a fictional story about a man who created a museum to document his love for a woman.

Book stamped for admission
Book stamped for admission

It’s brilliant. I know Orhan Pamuk had the idea as he was writing the book to build an actual museum, but was he collecting the items as he was writing, or did he write based on items he already had, or did he make some of these things up? In the book, Kemal talks about a gossip column that makes aspersions about the woman he loves. In the museum, there is that column. Did Pamuk write based on that column, or was the newspaper clipping created for the museum. What is real? Now that there is a real museum based on a fictional museum, based on a work of fiction – isn’t it all real now? The museum is designed with shadowboxes and dioramas, one for each chapter of the book. I took my book with (and got it stamped) and read a few of the chapters while looking at its display. Everything mentioned was there. He talks about her wristwatch, or her hairpin, or a doorknob from her family’s first apartment in the story. And you’re looking at it, and you’re going, “it’s real, it’s right there.” So brilliant!

Museum of InnocenceMy two favorite boxes were Chapter 58, Tombala, and Chapter 65, The Dogs. Tombala was filled with all of these trinkets and tombala boards (sort of like bingo or keno). I was struck by it because it had one of those plastic toys where you slide around the 15 numbers within the 16 spaces to make it align in numerical order. It was black with red and white squares with gold numbers. I had one as a child – looked exactly the same. The Dogs was filled with china (and some metal) dogs, mostly sitting, that people would put on top of the radio, and later, television. It made me think of someone I know who has a dog on top of their TV. It appears to be a common practice, or used to be. Do you know anyone with a dog on top of their TV?

Stray CatsDining is a fun experience. Luckily, some of the institute participants have begun to arrive and I can dine with them. It was good timing. I don’t mind wandering around places alone, but eating alone can really make you feel lonely. You don’t have anyone to chat with, even about the food, the people nearby, or just catch up on life. I would find cafés with Wi-Fi, so I could look at Facebook, check email, or play Candy Crush (I’m starting to hate level 147, by the way), anything to pass the time after people watching got boring. At most of the outdoor cafés, there is at least one stray cat wandering around. Looking thin, but proper. Hoping you’ll feed them. Not getting too pushy, but after a while they may put their front paws on your thigh. Then you shoo them off. Not many stray dogs, lots of stray cats.

After the museum, and lunch near the Galata Tower, I continued walking (walked all the way back) down the hill and across the bridge that spans the Golden Horn and connects the Old City and the New District. Cool breezes, ferries and other boats, people fishing off the upper level, a row of restaurants on both sides of the lower level. A place to come back to for dinner one night.

Galata Bridge
Galata Bridge

Today I wandered around with my roommate for the next 3 weeks, Brian, who’s from Topeka, Kansas. He arrived around 11 or so and is staying at the same hotel as me for this one last night before the institute starts. We sat out on the rooftop terrace for a bit, then headed off. Noon prayers were going on at the Blue Mosque, so we walked to the Spice Market. Bit of a walk, but passed the time. Shopped a little, had lunch in a café, and then headed back, this time stopping inside the Blue Mosque. Still impressive.

Spice market
Spice market

Dropped Brian off and took a quick shower to ditch the sweat. Then I decided that I had enough time to go over to one of the Turkish baths and get back before dinner. Went to the Çemberlitas Hamam, which was designed by the famous Ottoman architect, Sinan, in 1584.

Now, many people think that a Turkish bath is some kind of depraved sexual freak show, but it’s too painful at times to be at all sexual. Sensual yes, as it definitely heightens some of your senses. The smells of the soaps, the tactile aspect of the rough silk kese that is used to scrub all of the dead skin off your body, the shock of having hot or cold water dumped on you at different times. The cold water was worse as it caused me to try to breathe in and then another bucket of cold water was dumped on me and I couldn’t take a breath. I think they do it to see the reactions. So, unless S&M is your thing, this is probably not that kind of a thrill for most people. Anyway, I had the traditional bath, followed by an Indian head massage. This is a massage of your head, shoulders, neck, back, chest, and face. Man it hurt, but a good hurt. This guy could give pointers to my chiropractor. He did something to my shoulder – I was lying on my back, he took my arm, bent it at the elbow, stuck my hand under my shoulder blade (as if you are reaching back to scratch yourself) and then started pushing my elbow down toward the table. I started grimacing, then uttering sounds of distress.

His response: “Trouble?”

I was just praying I could walk out of there.


One thought on “China Dogs, Stray Cats, and Fear of Eminent Paralysis

  1. Mr. Ellison: enjoying your adventures via your blog. Hope all goes well. and Continue to be vigilant cc your safety ( now I DO sound my age… but that’s ok…). On an added note, feed the stray cats from an avid animal lover… Dr. Conway

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