Anne treats us to yet another of her magnificent adventures; what an intrepid lady she is?
End of November and a leaflet dropped through the door saying "go to Istanbul" so I did.
I was met at the Asian Airport by a box of Turkish delight, and a taxi driver, who took me by a roundabout route to my hotel. Later I discovered that the Pope had made the same decision as me, and was given precedence over me on all the main routes and in all the mosques.
But he did not want to visit the bazaars so I was able to wander off and bargain and taste to my hearts content. Small green sausages on sticks were crushed pistachio nuts stuck together with honey and Turkish delight came in about 50 flavours and everybody who invited you into their shop gave away a small cup of apple tea ...I did not need to buy any food or drink that night !
I could have had a cooked breakfast, but the bacon was made from beef, so I had some delicious bread with cheeses and honey in the comb (difficult to spread). I slipped a satsuma into my bag for later.
I met the rest of the group, about 12 of us, and we set of for the Yeni Mosque. Shoes off, beautiful tiles, mostly from Holland, and amongst the hanging lights were empty ostrich shells (!!!) to keep the spiders away. As I saw no webs so I imagine they worked. Must try this at home.
Next, the spice bazaar, piles of spices all colours and smells, and all out in the open, I wonder why those I spoke to did not want to join the Common Market? Further in were every thing from toys and clothes to spades and wheelbarrows.
Where next? The Basilica Cistern. A 6thC underground water storage system about the size of two football pitches, supported by arches (to withstand earthquakes) some scenes of a James Bond car chase were filmed down here.
Now some time to myself, I found an interesting looking cafe and asked by mime, drawing and saying coo coo, what the flat thing with head and beak, was, after they had finished laughing the manager arrived and said 'aubergine' (I thought it was a small pigeon.) Tasted good.
Next day the Pope was still taking precedence so we caught a boat and travelled the length of the Bosphorus, four and five storied houses lined the banks, their doors only a foot above water level! The water looked clean (not like this in the summer). I was surprised at the lack of water traffic, something to do with the tunnel being built underneath by the Japanese (assuming my translation was correct)
Lunch, I went to a fish cafe, put a 5 lira note on the table, shrugged my shoulders, and was given a basket of bread, salad, and a Bonito. A fish which tasted much like pike, but was flatter, rounder and purple on the outside. None of the others came with me.
Bus to the Dolmabahce palace. Quite imposing, built about 1850, with a grand colourful dome, and a Waterford glass chandelier. An important tourist attraction summed up in one sentence.
Next stop the Suleymaniye Mosque, the complex included library, schools, bath house and tombs. This large, bright, airy mosque had several domes and circles of hanging lamps. I spent a while photographing a hooded crow, later to realise this was one of the most common birds around. But the most surprising things were the interior of the loos. Yes I checked out the gents as well! All the cement around the breeze blocks was painted bright pink, real and imitation flowers and trailing plants over the walls and ceilings, music played and birdsong was piped over the top of this, gaudy pictures on the walls, one in the gents was a moving waterfall. The actual facilities were clean with some English and some squat type. It was well worth the 20 entry fee.
A visit to a cemetery where goats were for sale (to be sacrificed and cooked for weddings etc. any over was given to the poor). They were bought in by the flock and sold by the kilo. A nice little earner.
Some of the party succumbed to a carpet seller, I took the free cup of apple tea, but did not pay hundreds of pounds for a carpet to hang on the wall.
The Monastery Church of St Saviour is now a museum, good this means I can keep
my shoes on. Really beautiful, 700 year old mosaics, telling many bible stories (some slightly different to my recollections). Was Jesus really there to save Adam and Eve?
Quite a busy day, not over yet, long walk to find post office for stamps so thought I would take a tram to hotel. I had money but tickets can only be bought from main stops. No time to learn Turkish so mimed my predicament to man in charge of tram stop, who literally pushed me into next tram, we were packed liked sardines, and I spent rest of journey wondering what would happen when I got off. No ticket collector !!! But I spent a few coins on some tokens for future use.
Another early start, into the bus and over a few bridges to the Asian part of the city. Both sides have the same laws and taxes (seemed very high, lots of which paid for the armed forces - 18 months military service for men of 20. No social security here (if you need money you must work) so lots of 'shoe shine' men - tip..If you wear open toed sandals you are not bothered.. No mortgages so most people rented.
We were taken to the top of a hill that overlooked the new suspension bridge and the 5,000 minarets of the European side. I particularly liked the cream, stone/concrete benches with writing on the seat and back, and the author's picture and details on the reverse.
Back to Europe, and Hagia Sophia, a large complex where the Sultan and his wives and mothers-in-law and families used to live. Thousands lived here so there was a kitchen block, jewel house, swimming pool, a very large grassed area, poor house, metal hospital, school, baths, shops and a splendid mausoleum. Of course there was a 'take your shoes off' mosque. A fascinating pavilion jutted out on the west side, for the sultan to stand in and be the first to see the sun set, and be the first to break the day's fasting.
At the end of a long day we went down into the cisterns (clean water) for an upmarket meal, while a harpist plucked away we ate five courses including stuffed aubergine, salad, beef and mushrooms, and flaky pastries filled with honey and crushed nuts.
The rest of the group have gone home and I am on my own !!!!! I will celebrate with a Turkish Bath. The cheapest way to pay was in Euro. Euro18 for a bath and body scrub (and an unique experience). First remove all my clothes, then lay on a 20 ft diameter hot marble slab, (with other females), gazing at the 450 year old ceiling, when I was roasted on both sides, a semi naked lady covered me with foam and scrubbed me nearly all over, washed my hair, and threw buckets of warm rinsing water over me. I could the stay as long as I liked, but there was much more to explore.
Off to the station (made famous by Agatha Christies 'Orient Express') to check train times for tomorrow, but, an English speaker was found who explained that, to go, and return from any where in Turkey by train, from this station, in one day was impossible!
Visited the bazaars and did my Christmas shopping, spices, herb teas, wind up torches and Turkish delight. Time to try out sauna, jacuzzi and steam room in hotel (I will not need a shower tonight).
Scrambled eggs, fruit juice and coffee for breakfast and then caught the tram to the docks (mostly men on tram, and they said to a person who was seated, "stand up and let this grey haired old lady sit down") I was not offended as I do not speak Turkish. I found a ferry to Princes Islands. Paid 30p for an hour and a half journey on the Mamara sea. I had been told that 50 years ago there was no traffic on these Islands, and it was still the same - bicycles and horse and carts. I took a ride in a trap and pleased the driver by showing an interest in his horses. They were shod with pieces of car tyre, so they did not go clip clop, but a soft clud, clud.
Problem of where I should eat lunch was solved when I saw a gang of workmen barbequing anchovies in the middle of the road, I was beckoned over, and given a lump of bread, I took one fish, not good enough, a hole was made in my bread and a handful of anchovies pushed in. They tasted good, but what should I do with the heads? Luckily I found a passing cat. The men seemed very pleased when I smiled and gave a 'thumbs up' sign.
Return ferry was taking school children from Island to Island, Oh No! I am on a school bus! But they were quiet and well behaved, and the journey was a pleasure. Fruit from a barrow and Turkish Delight rounded off my day.
'Miniaturk' sounded good so hopped onto a tram to bus station, wrote down my destination to show to ticket seller and he sold me a ticket and wrote down bus number. After a long and interesting ride through the back streets, the passengers told me where to get off.
A grassed area of 40,000 sq m contained 1/12th scale models of all the notable buildings in the country. As I entered I was asked where I came from and then given an English ticket! Odd. Then I discovered all the models had a box with a slot into which one fed one's ticket, and a commentary was provided in the appropriate language. There were also real looking plastic stones playing music.
I paid about £2.50 for lunch, not much choice as it was out of season, but the pasta and meat balls went down a treat.
Then to see the models of the Victory Museum, battles, soldiers and the home front. Once out side I was surrounded by local six year olds, who all wished to practice their English. "My name is, what is your name?" (luckily only thirty in the class), and they took photos, with their mobile phones, of me with them. What it is to be famous!
Called in at a handbag shop, and negotiated a really good deal on a leather bag, then renegotiated when I discovered they dealt in US$, then I was asked how many I required, strange I thought, nice man used broken English to say this was a wholesale shop. I smiled and said 'just one, and at the wholesale price please' how they must love the English! I left clutching my bargain.
Next morning, 10am and time to leave. I showed my papers to the doorman who found me a taxi and I checked it would take me to the Asian airport. On the journey calls were made to and from the driver's mobile phone. Then it was handed to me, my holiday company did not use this taxi firm! No time to return and get the correct one, so I showed the driver I had some money and said just carry on, making sure he gave me a receipt, and thinking what a good start to my birthday.
To sum up....great people, ...great city...great time.
Part Time Post Mistress
Stoke Ferry Post office