x0x Flying Into Istanbul for Turkish Delight By Carole Mallory
Flying Into Istanbul for Turkish Delight
With the return of the ABC series Pan Am on Sunday, I recalled my visit to Istanbul in my stewardess days.
Istanbul was a city steeped in mystery. Historically it was known as Byzantium and Constantinople and had been the capital of the Roman, Byzantium, Latin and Ottoman Empires.
Visiting it with my mother on our way around the world from Hong Kong was going to be a real treatespecially to see the handsome faces of the men. The women had dark features and their own beauty, but it was a city and nation represented by virility. A testosterone capital.
Istanbul was located on the Bosphorus Strait and encompassed the natural harbor, the Golden Horn. It extended to European and Asian sides of the Bosphorus and was the only metropolis situated on two continents.
Mother and I stayed in the Hilton, which was a surprise as far as comfort, and not far from the Crazy Horse, a nightclub known for its exotic dancers. Here they were belly dancers. There were Crazy Horse Saloons in Beirut and the original was in Paris.
In 1954, Conrad Hilton chose Istanbul as the first city outside of the U.S. to build his hotel franchise. By 1966, the Istanbul Hilton was thriving. Close to Taksim Square and not far from the Golden Horn it was a good choice for a mother/daughter combo in need of assistance in navigating the intrigue of the Turkish culture. The Hilton was a Turkish delight.
After mother and I had flown through the night, at 9 a.m. we arrived, napped and then dressed.
Lets go to Taksim Square, I said to her.
Whats that? she asked.
Well find out, I said as I laced my sneakers.
The concierge and staff were respectful to my mother and to me, unlike in Tokyo, where the employees of the Imperial Hotel smiled and were gracious to our faces, but when we walked away and I looked over my shoulder, I caught them ridiculing my mother who had been a farmer.
After strolling through the magnificent lobby, I realized why this hotel deserved its first five-star rating and was the first hotel in Istanbul to achieve this.
A storm was brewing and it was 4 p.m. We walked in the direction the concierge had indicated and were amazed at the chaos and traffic in the streets. Shops lined Istiklal Caddesi, the Avenue that led us to Taksim Square, and of course, there was a McDonalds, as they were everywhere. It was crowded.
Want a Big Mac? I asked mother.
Carole, I havent traveled half way around the world for a Big Mac. Lets have something Turkish.
OK, I said. Hows this bistro? We had come upon a charming restaurant.
Looks interesting, Mom said. She opened the door as a handsome Turkish man held it for her. His demeanor was friendly, but I cautioned mother after he asked if he could sit with us. Mother was gullible; I was less so. Still, he was charming and seemed innocent. After realizing this was an opportunity to find out about this city, I said, Sure, if you dont mind being quizzed about Istanbul.
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