29 August 2015
The day has arrived, Istanbul here I come.
Arrived at Old City Hotel at 1 am. Surprised by sea view, just. Awoke at 7:30. Lovely start to holiday with Turkish Airlines hospitality. First, an offering of Turkish delight, then some lovely food served by man in chef’s hat. Taxi driving is on a different level here.
A morning negotiating Istanbul’s new trams to get to Istanbul Modern and then on to Ortakoy. Kind of like Camden Town, but without the dogs on a rope. A simple lentil soup for lunch, followed by tea between two of the most beautiful buildings ever constructed, Ayia Sofia Cathedral and Sultan Ahmet Mosque.
As a city of 14 million, Istanbul is no place to be less than 100% alert. Sharing trams, buses and pavements can be a challenge. Today we visited Emirgan Park before travelling across city to get tickets to Trabzon, 17 hours away. One more night here before we depart. Caught up with sleep courtesy of an afternoon nap yesterday.
Tuesday morning, packing up in hotel. Looking forward to leaving big city later. Will see Basilica Cistern later and maybe pick up a book to read, the Nick Hornby one I picked up at airport isn’t appealing to me at the moment. Reflections on first two days of Istanbul;
1) public transport is cheap but crowded, the trams and underground are quicker than buses.
2) the conflict in Middle East is evident by sight of man walking up and down tourist trap with his wife pushing a child in a pram carrying a sign saying ‘I am from Syria, please help.’ I did. But only in a small way. I hope they reach somewhere they can feel safe sometime soon.
3) two Arabic boys selling water fight. I’m not sure why. Young Turkish men pull them apart from each other.
4) I’m followed 50 yards up a road by carpet seller saying ‘one question’.
The most relaxing day so far, just hanging out in cafe’s and public spaces in the middle of the city. Discovered the Sultan’s Tombs, behind Ayia Sofia. Fed crushed peanuts to pigeons. A Turkish girl was walking around recording birthday greetings in as many languages as possible. I contributed in the English language. Happy 18th birthday Behre.
Things I recommend; red mullet, aubergines, water melon and Efes beer.
Sleep. Wearing seat belts.
Figs and nuts. Sleep, sugar with Turkish tea.
The Istanbulkart, a version of oyster card, any journey, any distance for 50p.
Deodorant, if you’re travelling on public transport.
Doing nothing, and taking your time doing it.
Things I don’t recommend; waking up at 5 am when you don’t arrive at your destination till midnight.
Playing Palace when they’re in form. Second in the league? Can I return to UK with Palace at the peak of the summit?
Milk with Turkish tea, leaving the jacket I’d washed and ironed in Hastings. As its 30 degrees dropping to 22 at night I might get away with it.
Coming to Istanbul for a quiet life.
Stopping to talk to carpet sellers. Unless you REALLY want to buy a carpet.
Feeding peanuts to sparrows, they prefer corn.