"Sir, you walk past me every night. Please give me a chance! I will give you an appetizer and free baklava for desert!" Really? I honestly don't remember you. I've only walked down this road one other time. "Very Sorry" I say, "I've already got a dinner reservation back at Ocean's 7. " "you will like it!" Says one of the patrons at the current establishment. Another ten steps down the road and we are implored to "Look at my menu." A bit further on we are told "Sir, I have your table ready for you!" The idea that you can bargain for your supper seems so counter productive to me that I just cannot fathom it. Hey, lets see how little I can pay for something I'm about to ingest into my body. The incentives here are all in the wrong direction!
I can only imagine the conversations in the kitchen:
Waiter: One chicken and rice for the cheapskates at table five!
Chef: Oh great, now we know what to do with the gizzard and thigh meat that has been sitting on the floor all night!
No Thank You I will be more than happy to pay a price that puts the chef on my side.
Waiter: Chef the generous folks are back at table seven.
Chef: Great, tell them to order the veal, I've got two extra tender pieces I've been saving for my best customers. Oh, and bring up that 2011 Rombaur Chardonnay from the cellar, I know they will love that.
I think we can all agree on which chef we would rather have cooking our food.
This whole hawking the restaurant thing has been an ongoing saga since we arrived in Istanbul, and we even experienced it in London a couple of weekends ago. I don't remember it being the case in Vietnam or Morocco, and certainly not in Malta, but maybe this has more to do with the onset of high touring season than our location. Now, this is not really a scam (although we have heard stories of the old bait and switch ) so much as an intro to the two things that happened to us today.
Cruising on a Reputable Ferry
Our plan for the day was to take the Ferry up the Bosphorus river to the mouth of the Black Sea. You get to see a lot of Istanbul along the way, then the ferry stops for a couple of hours so you can have lunch or do a little hiking and then comes back. As usual Jane had it all planned out, including a discount for using our museum passes. When we arrived at the waterfront we were immediately accosted by the usual crowd of tour people trying to sell us one of their packages. -- two hour boat trips, three hour boat trips, six hour boat trips... "No, we are going on the ferry!" we would say. "But I can leave sooner. I will take you to the same place, wait for two hours and bring you back. My boat holds 80, it will be much nicer than the ferry and 800 people!" Hmmm, we were intrigued, and a bit horrified that we were even considering this option. But after a bit of negotiation, and multiple confirmations about our destination and pricing we decided to risk it. The captain even threw in a 50% discount on coffee at the nearby snack shack. Run by a relative no doubt. "Just wait here" we were told. So we waited and watched them try to work their magic on other passersby.
After a while, one of them came up to talk to us.
We cannot take you. I cannot do the trip for just your group. It will be better if you take the ferry, down there. There are not enough passengers today, because the bike race is keeping them all away from here. I am sorry.
It was true, there was a big Tour of Istanbul bike race in town, and the weather was a bit dreary, so the pier was sparsely populated. Which also meant that the ferry was not nearly as crowded as Jane's research had led us to believe it would be. So, we carried on with our original plan, got our tickets to the ferry and were on our way.
The cruise was interesting, we got to see some castles, and some amazing real estate. And even a container ship that originated from Valletta! We just can't get away from Malta now. Here is a little slideshow of some photos on the tour.
The shoeshine redemption
After the cruise we had to make our way back into the spice market to buy some of the delicious candy covered "fistik." That is peanuts covered in a syrup and rolled in sesame seeds. We discovered these our last day in Morocco, and were only too happy to find out you can buy them in Turkey as well. Some of the group wanted to hit the archeological museum while others just wanted to wander the spice market some more. So we turned them loose and decided to wander our own way back to the hotel.
As we were passing up one street that was very lightly travelled a shoe shine man dropped his brush in front of us. So, we picked it up and called out to him to give it back. He thanked us and we were on our way. Suddenly he called back to us. He sat down and and said "please," with a look that said let me repay your kindness. We thought how nice, one good turn deserves another. But I had on my hiking shoes, which are not "shineable" and so he offered to shine Jane's black shoes which were definitely in need of some love after all of our travels. He finished up Jane's shoes and then insisted on brushing mine with a toothbrush and some water -- which certainly did not hurt. About this time both Jane and I reached into our pockets for a few coins to tip the guy.
Imagine my surprise when Jane offered him several one lyra coins and he said "no, paper" What? He doesn't want coins he wants paper money? Slowly it dawned on me that we had been played this whole time. He now wanted to be paid the full amount for two shoe shines, which took less than a couple of minutes. I added my coins to Jane's and dumped them in his hand and we turned and walked away. I guess we both got half price shoe shines, and nine turkish lyra (about $3). Lesson learned, and a small price to pay for a story to add to the blog.