Published: June 6th 2012June 1st 2012
Saturday May 26
was a day spent wandering with map in hand negotiating the streets leading eventually to roman aqueducts ... that fed the cisterns!
First passed thru the Grand Bazaar in the search of knitting needles and to peruse the choice of wool in the Bazaar. No such luck ... the Han described as the one with sewing goods was not found but I did encounter numerous underwear stalls with every kind of under wear except the ones I during trips ... Silly's grandma pants! There were long underwear pants, but to the knee is a bit too far and they were not quick dry anyway.
So goodby bazaar hello the meandering streets towards the aqueduct.
There are two major obstructions in the street system ...the government buildings and the University grounds. If a mosque appears there are usually gates at the four corners of the grounds.
My wander took up a street that comprised of one wedding invitation and paraphernalia store after another. This street then turned into a street laden with bookstores. Once thru the grounds of the Sehzade Mosque I discovered junk sellers ... a little bit of this a little bit
of that and masses of those beads that men are always fingering. I did find a bronze disk with interesting inscription that so far I have not deciphered. Toothpaste was not enough to clean of the patina ... probably looks better tattered as it is. There was also a man selling apples and cukes? I bought an apple and he right away peeled and cut it into a spring ... seems he was selling the gadget not the apples ...took the money for the apple anyway.
There is no avoiding the tourists and the hotels. As I approached the aqueducts more expensive hotels were encountered. Having the need for a WC, I entered the most snazzy hotel and went to the toilet. Also took pictures of what I could not afford. There was a shark in the aquarium in the foyer!
After an overpriced undersized Turkish coffee I walked down the street thru a park and came upon the aqueduct. Supposedly the remaining structure is under 900 m long. The end I encountered had housing on the other side, garbage under the arches and a man setting up a shooting gallery with balloons, bottles and GUNS.
north six lanes of heavy traffic went thru six arches on the way to the port and the bridges across the Bosphorus. But the construct stands. As in Segovia in Spain the thought that men put down these stones 2000 years ago is phenomenal!
Had another pee in a different hotel ... the stair well down to the WC was being painted ... the fumes were overwhelming and the painter had no mask.
The wander continued back to the hotel ... its not that I am too cheap to spend the 2TL for the tram ...its just that you never know what will be encountered.
In the English book store I had bought the book 'My Name Is Red' by Orhan Pamuk. There was the novel from the hotel foyer to finish and an English woman had left me a light novel. Did not finish the foyer book ... about the Civil War in USA ... and the light novel was written in first person singular. Left both behind ... had my Red book ... while in Holland had listened to thew first part of a German radio drama based on this book.
The day ended
with my making a concerted effort to finish the Civil War book but to no avail ... sleep overtook this diligent traveller.
Sunday May 27
Everything is packed up. My bill has been paid. I deposit my backpack into a storage locker at the train station. And now I find the place that sells the 25TL tickets for a cruise up the Bosphurus to the mouth of the Black Sea. Leaving at 13:35 I was happy to be early in the line and to have a chance at a seat outside with a foot rest ... no less. I have chronicled the whole trip on the back of my Michelin Istanbul map ... much too much to re-record. Suffice it to say .. saw a lot of buildings, had a GPS and supply details and saw the backs of a lot of asses as people crowded to the rail to photograph the shore.
At the last stop, Anadoli Kavagi, everybody got off and was reminded more than once about the 'fabulous,famous, not to be missed ' fish dishes available in this small town. One could also walk up to the fortifications.
I walked as
fear away fro m the restaurants and the hoards of people as possible, found a bench, ate my Doener, drank my yogurt and shot lots of garden and private home shots.
On the way back to the lineup for the journey back I found a bake shop with piles of egg white macaroons, almond macaroons and coconut macaroons. I had a glass of tea and an almond macaroon.
I spoke to a couple who had driven to the town for the week end ... they live on the Anatolian side. I also visited the Anatolian, Asian Continent ... not by walking across the Bosphorus Bridge (it has been forbidden for ages and the only time pedestrian traffic is allowed is during the annual marathon) but on a ferry to visit the Hayderpasa Train Station.
There were not as many people on the boat for the return trip. Could be they were also spending the weekend. On the way out from this small harbour the highway along the south shore of the Bopherous could be plainly seen. Along part of it one car was parked behind the other. On closer inspection it became obvious that people were camping
along the road.
The GSP was good at explaining the buildings we past. The wind from the Black Sea was strong and cold. Lots of people had coats on ... not me ... so I persevered ... I was not giving up my seat. But it must be confessed on the return trip I had forsaken the GSP and the outside seat. Instead I sat inside, exposed my ears to the constant and less than pleasurable noise of a hundred people talking about having a nice trip. The same beautiful renovated wooden houses, the newly plastered and painted villas and the brilliant presidential residence were seen on the shore one more time. The Bosphorus Bridge was gone under and the Galata Bridge was seen in the distance from the final docking.
My only regret is that I did not stay long enough in Istanbul. I would like to have done the sea journey into the Black Sea and to The Crimea or even Odessa. Next time!
Once back in the city I headed to the Hamam a) to see the place inside and b) to have a shower, change my clothes and get a massage. The Grand
Bazaar gates were closed but around the Mosque innumerable entrepreneurs had spread their blankets, tarps and cardboard to display scarves, shoes, bags, watches, socks, gadgets, whatever you wanted you found it there! There was even a garden centre selling it all; fertilizer, earth and every plant necessary for a good garden. Only because time was ticking did I not stop to admire all the goods.
Only cash was accepted at the Hamam(Turkish bath) and the works cost 150TL. I had 120TL and the woman was kind and let me in.
So here's the procedure. You get a key to a room in the upper tier. In the room you take off all your clothes and wrap around yourself a red checkered cloth. The door is locked and in wooden flip flops you go down the carpeted stairs and into the central marbled room which is heavy with steam. In the centre of the room is a round platform with naked women lying head to toe around the perimeter of this marble dare I say alter to womanly nakedness in the search of relief from stress and tension. Sitting at the foot of a fountain whose spout continuously flowed
with warm to hot water the wait for an attendant began.
The women administering the exfoliation and soap massage are dressed in black suits like the men's bathing suits from the 1890's ... pants down to the thighs and straps over the shoulder with no brassiere underneath. Each suit had a white number. My attendant's number was 17. She has been working here for five years and hers is not an easy job. Besides working on naked women in all shapes and sizes from perfectly thin to perfectly obese, she has to work in hot steam every day.
The woman's hands were fantastic. The exfoliation was very strong and I am glad I have all three layers of skin still intact. Front, back both sides, face, feet, hands and thong area were scrubbed scrubbed scrubbed. Then the foam massage began and covered the same area including the scalp. Walking in the wooden shoes was precarious on the marble floor. Bring rubber flip flops if you go. After the massage a return trip to the warm fountain for a shampoo and a thorough rinse.
Took the opportunity to address those important areas that the woman was not responsible
Now two huge towels were provided and some time was spent in an anteroom for cooling down. This is a Hamam that appears in the book “1000 things do visit before you die”. A man on the street who helped me find the place suggested I go to a different place which he said was cheaper and the massage time was longer. OK so next time I'll go there but this time I had to visit Galagolu because it has been in existance for hundreds of years.
There was enough time to get a meal, walk to the train station, retrieve my pack and get on the 22:00 bus. To the man in seat 61 ... the train no longer goes from Istanbul to the Bulgarian border ...its the bus; a very smelly bus...so bad the olfactories went into absolute shock! The stinky air freshener did desapate but it was real bad there for a while!
A recount in much greater detail has been previously written but of course I lost it everything by a flick of a key with my left hand ... no idea which key .... it happens frequently!
Suffice it to say that it took 40 minutes to get out of the city and the same amount of time to reach the rough road. In 90 min we had a rest ... that is to say smoke ... stop. It was a huge truck stop store and I had no liras left .. not even for a nestles something or other ... and there were masses of nestles products from chocolates, to buisquits, to coffee drinks, to bottle water.
By 01:30 we were at the border and were waiting ... no toilet paper ....no coffee ... no water.... just a bare room with bared doors.
My passport was handled eight times before I finally reached Bucharest 18 hours later. The train just stopped ...an hour here ...two hours there... another hour and half someplace else ... and all this without food or drink. The man in seat 61 (its a website)did say bring food!
In one place where the train had already been stopped two hours i finally asked the conductor if I had time to get out and get something to eat. He had a schedule that told him when the stopped train was going to move again and he showed it to me at this point we are talking around twelve.
Left the train. He locked up the compartment. I bought two sandwiches because the woman had no change and I was giving her an American five dollar bill. Also bought an orange drink like Fanta ... produced by ... who else ... PEPSI.
Finally reached Bucharest in Roumania two hours too late. The man in Istanbul actually spoke as if I was going to make the connection to Budapest ... and more fool me i believed him instead of Mr. Seat 61
Went to the IBIS hotel, had a good shower, soup and beer in the restaurant and finally slept to the sounds of Romanian TV, in readiness for a day in Bucharest.