Published: September 24th 2009September 15th 2009
This is going to be a curtailed version, our flight leaves in a few hours and I haven't started packing yet!
Our final day required another early (for us) rise and twenty minute walk to the waterfront. We were taking a Bosphorus Cruise, laid on by the Turkish government and thus quite reasonable. It leaves at 1030, but you have to get there earlier to get decent seats- don't want to be wedged between the dunny and the boiler room with nothing but a skanky porthole to look out of. I thought I knew where I was going, and didn't want to ask directions, so of course we got a bit lost. What is it with us chaps and not asking the way? However, we were still early enough to bag outdoor seats with a view. The trip takes about 90 minutes one way, and the scenes from the river are quite something. There is plenty of waterfront property in Istanbul, and much if it is high class- during Ottoman times, the most well-to-do had big houses on the water. Many of these are still standing, in various states of dis/repair, and were briliant to look at. There's
plenty of life on the water, too, fishing boats, ocean-going ships heading from the Med to the Black Sea (or vice versa), Istanbul Ferries etc etc. In the water, there are dophins, which we saw on the way there and back. Magic! The final destination is the end of the strait, where it meets the Black Sea. There's a small village there with pushy restaurant staff, a castle and heaps of stray animals. We headed for the castle- quite a steep climb- which has great views and must have been of significant strategic importance. Lunch and a walk back down later, we were almost the first back on the boat (for prime seats), and traced our way back to where we'd started from. We were on the same side of the boat as before (and therefore the other side of the river, going the other way), so managed to get a good look at the side we'd missed on the way. Well worth it, a great way to get an idea of the size, shape and scope of the city.
We got back at around 1630, and had a smidgin of time to kill. Over the Galata Bridge, which
At the end of the boat trip.
means you cross from Europe to Asia, into Galata und up a tunnel-cable-car to the Galata Tower. This thing is ancient and the viewing platform round the edge is about two people wide, but it commands incredible views. If I knew how to do panorama shots on this blog, I'd wow you all, but you'll just have to take my word for it. Fantastic. A walk back down the hill and over the bridge was interesting- the streets are full of character- narrow, scruffy, lined with music shops and cafes, old buildings and a cool vibe. More time is required in this area- next time. We had time for a quick grilled fish sandwich (these are justifiably famous), and scooted back to the hotel to be picked up and taken to the airport. Besiktas were playing a game, it was Ramazan and rush hour- traffic mayhem. It took over an hour to move about 5km, and our driver thought we might miss our flight. However, once he cleared the jams, he floored it and it we made it in plenty of time. The flight was delayed by 90 minutes, too, so we needn't have worried.
The thing about the
city which stands out the most are the people. Other than being very friendly, there’s a real variety. Modern Turkey is still enormous, and the different sizes and colours of its peoples is staggering. Hair shades from ginger to black, eye colours from pale blue to darkest black, skin hues of all possible varieties. Istanbul is pretty modern compared with some of the more remote parts of the country (from what I can gather), so you have varying degrees of religious conservatism. On the fairer side, you get bright headscraves, no headscarves, the odd hajib, some girls exposing greater degrees of flesh, smoking or not smoking, wearing jeans, voluminous skirts…the whole gamut. Guys are more of a muchness- jeans and a shirt seems to be an informal uniform, but you still get the bestubbled, dusty-jacketed, flat-capped rural types, too. Most enormous cities are multicultural and international in terms of their inhabitants, Istanbul appears to be multicultural but largely Turkish.
Overall, Istanbul is BLOODY BRILLIANT! Anybody who has any interest in travel, history, culture or food must, must, must go there. We'll be repeat visitors, that's for certain. Wicked.
There are more photos below