Istanbul, and a few tips on curing impotency from the Hittites

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Since Istanbul was such a huge city, we decided to take an overnight bus from Bergama instead of hitchhiking like we had in the rest of Turkey. The bus was stuffy and crowded, and I was glad we had hitchhiked through the rest of the country since I much preferred the lack of certainty and barely-intelligible conversations involved in hitchhiking over a packed bus and knowing when/where I was going to arrive.

We crashed in a sketchy hostel the first night, then met up with a friend Anna had met in Nepal, Osi. We stayed in her place for a few more days before Anna flew out and I hitched toward Bulgaria.

The touristy parts of Istanbul were really touristy since it was the summer vacation time for a lot of people. There were streams of cruise shippers and bus loads of Asians arriving in droves, and it was easy to forget you were even in Turkey.

 

 

The Grand Bazaar was of little interest, since it was just locals peddling overpriced jewelry and knick knacks to people wanting to show they had been there. The Blue Mosque was interesting, but of course crowded, and the Archaeological Museum was well worth the high entrance fee. It has some incredible sculptures and artifacts, including an ancient Hittite tablet with this gem of a description concerning an incantation against impotence:

 

If a man’s potency comes to an end in the month of Nisannu, you catch a male partridge, you pluck its wings, strangle it and flatter salt on it; you pound it up together with mountain dadanu plant! You give it to him to drink in beer and then that man will gain potency.

Another cure is:

 

 The penis of a male partridge, the saliva of a bull with an erection, the saliva of a sheep with an erection, the saliva of a goat with an erection. You give him to drink in water. Then wrap up in hair from the tail and wool from the perineum of a sheep and put it at his thigh and then he will get potency.

It was a shame that so many moneyed tourists visited Istanbul with open wallets. Many of the interesting cultural attractions, like the architecturally impressive Hagia Sofia, were priced far above anything that would be reasonable for a budget traveler; I was forced to forgo seeing a lot of things that tickled my interest but I couldn’t justify paying for.

Luckily, as in most cities, just walking around was plenty though to have a good few days of fun. A great free place to visit was the Spice/Egyptian bazaar, a place still active with people trading animals, plants, spices, herbs, and even buckets full of leeches used as a folk remedy. Anna’s friend also took us on a cheap ferry used for local transportation that cruised around the harbor and had great views of the both the Asian and European sides of Istanbul. They didn’t care if you stayed on for the round trip, so we got some tea and enjoyed the views.

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