June 15, 2007

Istanbul on a Thursday

We really needed a sleep in, so it was a slow start to our second day in Istanbul. Natalia, Ange and I left the house around 2pm. Izzet wasn't with us as he had flown to Pamukkale early in the morning for a concert. We took a bus across the water, and Natalia helped us find a ferry that would take us up the Bosphorus, before leaving us to it. It was a lovely ride, and we saw many beautiful, huge mansions lining the water on the Asian side, as well as affluent houses with their own private marinas. Not to mention many mosques, and the odd castle.

Although it was approaching 5pm when we disembarked, we went to get some lunch - the light here is different, and the days are much longer. I guess that's daylight savings for you. Next we visited the Blue Mosque in the Sultanahmet district. Once we'd gotten past a tout beside the door, who was nice enough until we explained that we actually didn't want to come to his shop to see his wares, we made our way into the large interior. It was breathtaking. Every surface is decorated, and all the pillars and walls have beautiful mosaic tiles. Although the place was buzzing with tourists, Ange and I were both awed upon entering - the sense that this is a holy place was so strong.

We walked back to Eminönü and caught a cab, aiming for the ancient Galata tower (built in 653). However we had some communication problems with the driver, who simply had no english. Our Turkish now extends to hello, thank-you, counting one to five, ordering beer or water, declining the attentions of touts and friend-seekers alike, and saying 'how much?'. Luckily he was such a mad driver that we enjoyed ourselves all the same, even though we didn't manage to get him to take us up the hill that we were trying to avoid. What a ride! Imagine a three lane road, them forget that there are lanes, and just think of a mass of cars and buses all weaving in and out, braking and accelerating, tooting all the time. Eventually I got the language section of the guide book, trying to find the word for 'right' (sağ). That didn't help, so I found 'I don't understand' and showed him that. Final straw. He pulled over and gestured that we should walk!

The tower was a great experience. We had really good views around and could pick out all the places we've visited so far. Great to peek into the roof top terraces all around, too. We headed up towards Tünel and found a little store Natalia had mentioned, where we bought some cool head scarves, then continued on to our local. It was closed, but the one next door was just as good, so we sat and reflected and wrote postcards.

Best line of the day goes to a cafe hawker who ran after us calling, "Here I am!" Close runner up to Ange, who at my suggestion said, "Shooma!" to the hundredth sleazy man to say, "Sexy ladies!" to us as we walked by. I couldn't quite remember where I'd read it, but apparently this is the ultimate put down as it is a public statement of "shame on you" which makes the shoomee lose face. It seemed to work, at least another gentleman walking towards us approved. We were also impressed with the policeman who went out of his way to get us into a random building foyer so that I could use a telephone.

Today we will walk to Taksim, then return to the other side to see Aya Sophia, the Basilica Cistern and Topkapı Palace.

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1 Comments:

Blogger ANNA said...

Wow what a great time you are having! So far away from this cold NZ winter - I love to read your tales of sleazy men and beautiful mosques. Wish I were there but happy to dream for now.

x

7:56 PM  

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