Lions and tigers and zurnas, oh my!

Today there was really only one goal: to find the mysterious and elusive zurna.


Okay, so it wasn’t that elusive.

Pretty much every tourist trap tchocky store had zurnas, though I’m not sure most tourists really know what they are (or have even heard one).  I was interested in the real deal, so I wanted to head up on İstiklal Caddesi (a street in Beyoğlu neighborhood of Istanbul) where all the music shops are.  They have a pretty genius plan up there, as all the music stores are on one street, places selling suitcases on another, dishwashers and other household appliances, another.  It’s not strictly this, but mostly so.

I started that day with some leftovers from my New Year’s Day Turkemenistan meal (leftover grilled veggies and meat…mmm) and headed up to the Topkapı Palace which was closed on New Year’s Day (because of the day of the week- it’s closed on Tuesdays).  I made sure to get there first thing in the morning because I had heard the harem section, which one has to pay extra for (but it’s included in the MÜZE pass!) often gets really booked.  It ended up not being very crowded I think because of winter and holidays, but it was really cool to explore the place without too many others.  I wrote about this more in the previous post.

Again, my pictures are super inferior to others’.  I will say that the palace is definitely, definitely worth it!  There are many buildings to explore, including some museums with some of the most amazing jewelry and metalwork imaginable.  Also some of the tombs there are just incredible, the sculpture is amazing!

Afterward I headed over to the Spice Bazaar, another must on any trip to Istanbul.  After looking around for items such as salep, rosebud tea, and good saffron and cardamom, (I *may* or may not have secured myself some salep.  I mean, vanilla powder.)   I crossed the Galata Bridge and headed up to the music instrument district on İstiklal.  This part of Istanbul just really felt “home” to me, not like my actual childhood home of course (the Pine Barrens of NJ), and DEFINITELY not like my wannabe-city current “home” of Los Angeles, but I guess sorta like NYC?  Just so many people out and about, all types and colors, all sorts of sounds and smells, lots of shops, people peddling stuff, random people performing outside, just amazing.

Unfortunately I was not all that successful in my search.  I couldn’t for the life of me find the Istanbul Muzik Merkezi.  I am not a total idiot though; it apparently moved to a different street.  Bad guidebook, bad!  I found some other stores but most of the merchants didn’t have much of a clue about zurnas.  The best I found was in a shopping mall sorta thing, hidden in the back.  At around $80 for the cheapest okay one, I was a little hesitant.  I just wasn’t sure where I would really practice this thing.  It’s really a weapon of mass destruction.  I’m also sorta in the middle of med school…big big exams starting up this (Fall 2013) semester.  So….I decided I just wasn’t up to it. $80-90 bucks can get you a lot these days.  For me, that can be around 3 weeks’ worth of groceries ($ store and TJ’s for meat/fish, and couple other groceries, hit it up!)…3 nice days of travel in SE Asia…yeah.  I decided to hold off.

There is a funny ending however; my colleague Jerry, who headed to Istanbul about 4 months after me, send me a surprise: a zurna of my own.  I’m hestitant to work on it right now with my preclinical exam coming up so I’ve entrusted it back to him for the propable good of mankind…take a look!



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