Guess what??? It snowed again yesterday so between the fact that my daughter is presently in Florida as well as another friend of mine I boarded a flight down memory lane back to November , 2010 and got the heck out of Dodge,,,,to Istanbul. Care to join me?
We arrive in Istanbul, (The Cradle of Civilization) first inhabited 400,000 years ago!!!!!!!!!!!!!For 1,500 years Istanbul was the capital of first the Byzantine Empire and then the Ottoman Empire.
The weather is warm and sunny and there are throngs of people everywhere and that is to be expected as there are 15 million people in Istanbul!!!!! Our first smile occurs when we see literally hundreds and hundreds of people all lined up side by side on the bridge on the Bospherous…..they are all leaning over the railing on either side of the bridge fishing below. Such a crowd fishing you would be hard pressed to find an opening . Apparently people arrive early in the morning to acquire their spot.
There are a number of people from the hotel waiting to greet us as we get out of the hired car. We waste no time after check-in as we go immediately to the outdoor swimming pool to catch some rays before lunch. After lunch we take a tour bus to the Spice Market. Every food imaginable –clothing-alcohol-fruit-spices-leather-carpets-it is enough to make your head spin . And speaking of spinning; there are so many people it is almost impossible to walk in any direction without being picked up by the crowd. As this is the eve of Eid (Muslim Religious Holiday) everyone is out and about.
After an almost scary crowd encounter we make our way back to the tour bus and go for a cruise on the Bospherous….there are ancient Ottoman Palaces and Mosques aplenty and just about where the Bospherous meets the Black Sea we see the bridge that links Europe and Asia. Apparently there are a number of people who work in Istanbul and live on the Asia side. Our guide “Aziz” is as these people often are; quite comical and we have some giggles at the way he pronounces certain English words.
After we disembark the tour bus driver drops us off in Istiklal Caddesi street one of the liveliest streets of Istanbul. There are many dogs and cats throughout not only Istanbul but Izmir as well and even more cats ! cats EVERYWHERE!! Caddesi street is a pedestrian street and a sea of people. We find the perfect place for dinner, we drink Grand Efes Pilsner (Beer) and walk a little further for gelato for desert! M-m-m-mm now we Taxi home .(or Taksi as it is called here)
In the morning we hit the Grand Bazaar where we have lunch. After lunch finds us roaming in the Grand Bazaar where the vendors live to haggle, delight in telling us we are “breaking their hearts” by not purchasing their goods and try to convince us their prices are especially “for us”! Good fun and a few souvenirs picked up along the way.
We leave the gigantic-maze like Bazaar and walk to Yerebatan Cistern a cistern under a cathedral that dates to the Byzantine Era. Once containing the entire water supply for Istanbul. The highlight of the cistern visit is are the Medusa heads which were used as the base of the columns and supposedly put there to protect the city from evil.
Following the Cisterns we walk to the Blue Mosque. An architectural delight with many Minarets. I am able to visit the interior providing my head is covered and my feet are bare. It is just as beautiful on the inside and awe inspiring.
Only 1 hour later we land in Izmir. We all see the humour in the fact that we are served a Turkey Sandwich on our way to well……Turkey!
İt is raining when we come out of the airport, it is mild and wet and we are reminded of Cairo as all of us and a load of luggage pile in to one Taksi. I almost lose a suitcase as I see the Taksi driver behind us taking my suitcase and putting it in his Taksi. Our Taksi driver who does not speak one word of English takes back roads in order to get us out of the tremendous traffic. We are laughing and feeling quite giddy and none too fresh….as we pull up to our hotel and tumble out of the Taksi. The entire hotel team are waiting for us in a sort of receiving line to welcome us ! They are all resplendent and beautifully groomed and we are quite dishevelled.
We are immediately served a welcome drink. The staff have all stayed late to wait for us as it is the eve of Eid and all are about to begin a week holiday.
We are accorded 15 minutes to dash to our beautiful rooms overlooking Grand Efes River and “dress up” for dinner.
Dinner is lovely and we eat and drink and spend time with our hosts until well after 10pm.
On the following day we have great luck as the weather is beautiful sun and 21 degrees. We enjoy a buffet breakfast outside on the terrace. Following that; we take a bus to Kemeralti – Old Bazar – Clock Tower; and to the “Agora” old city which is a tour of some ruins left over from the Byzantine Era about 4,000 Years BC!! We have traditional Turkish Coffee along with “Turkish Delights” ( a candy) at Kizlaragasi Han. The crowded, aromatic and colourful streets remind us of Europe on the one hand and Middle East on the other hand,
Lunch time finds us dining outdoors again and having traditional donair cuisine which is a little different than what we know as donair at home but quite yummy and a fantastic Turkish Desert.
We are transported to dinner in a horse-drawn buggy….and ride along the waterfront (Kordon tour) and alight at Konak Pier which was originally a trading centre and one of the oldest which was redesigned by the same architect as the Eifel Tower. We dine outside yet again at Adabeyi. A Beautiful sea food restaurant on the waterfront. A delicious pre-set dinner with Turkish wine and Turkish “Raki” which is an Anise based liqueur. A delightful evening in a beautiful setting….we walk along the water back to the hotel where we pass dozens of short tables and stools where people are drinking beer, playing backgammon and smoking Shisha. There are also many vendors cooking chestnuts and muscles cooked with rice.
We say good night to our hosts and a somewhat sad farewell to a new friend who has resigned from the hotel to go into the army. As Turkey has mandatory military service his time has come and he is hopeful that as he is a university graduate and speaks several languages he will only have to serve for 6 months.
At 11pm we reach our beautiful bedrooms and for at least three of us the jacuzzi begs to see us and take care of our leg muscles,…..we are off to bed as in a few hours we are off to the airport to continue our adventure…
Thanks for coming along with me….we will see a new destination within the next few weeks.. Travel safe!