Tuesday, 11 September 2012

A quick update

We have had a couple of full days sightseeing and orienting ourselves in istanbul. We are staying in the Sultanhmet, the old part of the city and not surprising also the tourist part, within walking distance of many of the major attractions. On arrival, armed with maps and information from a very helpful Yusef (hotel manager) we walked the local area, had an early dinner in a restaurant opposite the hotel and managed to stay awake until a respectable 8.30pm when we collapsed into bed - a glorious feeling.

The first day we were suitably impressed with the Hagia Sophia, originally built as a church. Johanna had her first experience of being in a building over a thousand years old. The beauty and majesty of the building amazed us all. The Topkapi Palace paled a bit in comparison and the queues were enormous so we didn't stay all that long. We walked back to our local shopping strip, had some ordinary kebabs for lunch and Colin finally managed to organize internet. Johanna got her wish when we stopped for some Turkish delight for afternoon tea, one of each of the many flavours! Johanna and I have also discovered apple tea, a very sweet tea served in a small glass cup.

Yesterday we braved the packed tram and headed further afield, once again following the suggestions of Yusuf. The walk up a hill, with a palace and view from the top, was a very long one. We weren't really interested in the palace and didn't want to pay for a view which  wasn't immediately obvious. We settled for morning tea instead to rest our weary feet and tired bodies. The area was some kind of park and there were lots of locals enjoying Sunday afternoon with their families, also lots of wedding photographs being taken. Another long walk saw us near the Bosphorus bridge, by the river, where a Sunday market was in full swing. We partook of what was essentially a baked potatoe with lots of stuff on top - obviously what you do here as every second person was eating one.

We caught the bus to Taksim, promptly walked in the opposite direction to where we were supposed to and to make matters worse when we went to pay to use the toilet Colin couldn't find the money he had in his pocket! We were thinking that the boy who tapped Colin on the shoulder on the bus to offer him a seat may well have picked his pocket in the process. Oh dear, lesson learned. When we finally realized we were going in the wrong direction and Colin pulled out his map to consult, there was his money caught in the middle of it!

So money in hand and walking in the right direction we joined the throng and were blown away with the main street in Taksim. Kind of like a mall, but a very long one with literally hundreds, actually, probably thousands of people walking along it. At first we thought something must be happening but apparently not, perhaps shopping on Sunday is what you do here. It was unlike anything we had ever seen before. We ventured off Into some side streets and were rewarded with lots of eating and drinking places and lots of locals. We laughed at ourselves being so obviously tourists. Of all these thousands of people Colin was the only person wearing a hat, plus we had on our comfortable walking shoes, backpacks and camera etc... We stuck out like a sore thumb. But we enjoyed ourselves immensely and plonked ourselves down to have apple tea (me and Johanna) and beer (Colin) we ended up staying and ordering some meze late in the afternoon, one of which turned out to be one of the Best things we have eaten so far, a kind of shrimp casserole.

So a couple of days in, we are loving the food, enjoying the experience, muddling our way around and trying to be patient with each other when we are tired, stressed and like doing different things - which we are managing quite well. Johanna has been a trooper.