Saturday, 5 June 2010

Sunday - Istanbul


Up, not particularly early (9am) and down to a wonderful breakfast on the terrace. Lots of cheeses, breads, tomatoes, cucumber and freshly squeezed OJ. Yummy!! The terrace was on the Bosphorous and if I walked out to the edge of it the Mosque in Ortakoy Sq was visible. A wonderful first breakfast :)


Ortakoy Mosque

While in Istanbul breakfast was to be my favourite meal - bread and cheese, tomatoes, cucumber. That is, the only one not dominated by meat and containing some of my favourite foods... bread and cheese :)

We checked out about 11:30 and jumped in a taxi down to the tram station (~7TL or 3.50 euros). While we were waiting for the tram to leave Dave realised that he'd left his camera back at the hotel so we quickly jumped off. I reckon we were pretty lucky that he realised this at this point rather than later in the day when there'd have been a lot more retracing of steps involved! We were due to get the Ankara Express at 22:30 that night so our plan for the day was to get the ferry across to the Asian side of Istanbul to the train station and to leave our bags in the luggage lockers there. The ferry crossing across was lovely - lovely to see some of the sites that we would be visiting later in the week... like the Tokapi Palace below.

Topkapi Palace Museum from a Boat

Then back to the ferry to the European side on to tram and off to the New Town. The trams in Istanbul are great; I don't think we waited more than 2 mins (literally) at any point during the whole week for a tram. But then, I guess in a city with a population of 14 million people I guess the transport has to keep running very frequently. The other thing that Istanbul has alot of is cats. Many many cats...
Regal Setting for a Cat

We wandered around there for a bit, some less than exciting lunch and at 5pm we saw a whirling Dervish ceremony in the cultural centre. We had been planning to see a ceremony performed by monks in the monastary but it's closed for renovations. It seems that whirling dervish dancing is 2 a penny in Istanbul and the idea is to look for the authentic thing. We tried but didn't succeed so whether or not what we saw was the real thing or not I don't know but even if not it was very interesting to observe it. What i wasn't expected is that the first 15 minutes or so is just instrumental with some wonderful male chanting by 2 or 3 men. One of them at least had a wonderful voice; quite hypnotic to listen to.

Dervish Ceremony I

Dervish Footwork

Later, we wandered very slowly across the Galata Bridge where there were 100s of men fishing over the edge! Seriously it was the weirdest thing... and considering how busy a shipping strait the Bosphorous is, I'm not sure that I'd want to eat fish out of it (then again that's probably where the fish for my fish sandiwch later on came from!).

Bridge Fishing

We headed in to The New Mosque (only about 400 years old :) ). Outside there were hundreds of people still milling around but the minute you walk in to the courtyard of the mosque a feeling of a quiet descends.

Peace & Quiet

And the interior mosque itselfwas of course very very beautiful! The tiling, the carpets, the light... all very beautiful.

"New Mosque" Interior I

After that we we headed down to get a ferry back across to the Asian side. When we'd wandered along there earlier in the day we'd decided that my best bet for food that evening was one of the famous fish sandwiches that seems to be more than common in Turkey. Effectively it's a mackrel stuck between in a dry bread roll with some parsley/lettuce and maybe some tomato. I mean it was grand but a little on the dry side? I mean I know I can be a little fussy when it comes to what i eat but I don't really understand how this is such a popular meal! Did get a lovely view of the train station that we'd be continuing on to though :)

Haydarpasa Station

After that we wandered up to the train station (Haydarpasa Station) which is the station where all the trains from Asia and within Turkey arrive in to. The train station across the Strait is in Europe and is where all the trains from Europe arrive from. We were booked on the Ankara Express which is all sleepers. Our compartment was surprising spacious, or at least more spacious than I expected. It even included a little fridge containing some crackers, chocolate, water, and sour cheery juice! I do like sleeping on trains... admittedly it's never as sound a sleep as you get in a stationary bed but it was still a good night :)

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