Published: July 24th 2012July 21st 2012
Tastes & Sights of Turkey
This exhibition was in the square where we got off the tram. Stalls displayed crafts and food.
Thursday 19th July 2012
The first thing we did this morning was to go looking for somewhere else to have our breakfast, the hotel's not being anything to write home about. After spending half an hour walking up and down the mall we came to the realisation that Bulgarians do not have breakfast, not even MacDonalds! Anyone sitting at a cafe was drinking one of those very small cups of coffee and smoking. Back at the hotel we did try again, at least we managed to get fairly hot cups of tea and coffee this time to wash down the dry bread.
As usual we were early so we had a drink at a cafe to kill some time before boarding our bus that was to take us to Istanbul. The bus was packed, we appeared to be the only English-speaking people on board. As soon as we were off we were offered water and a packet of salted biscuits each, a nice touch repeated several times on what was to be an 8 hour trip. The trip by water only takes just over an hour but for some reason this wasn't running.
At the Turkish
Another sight from the square
border all our nightmares came true. We were aware that we had to pay US$20 or 15 euros each to get a visa into the country so we ensured we had this. Imagine our dilemma when told the cost was now 45 euros each, we only had 40 in total, they wouldn't accept a credit card and there were no ATMs at the border post! The threefold increase had commenced on the 15th May, which was after we had left Australia, and there hadn't been any indication anywhere that we had seen that it was about to change.
The bus people didn't seem to care, they suggested we send a taxi driver to the next town with our credit card and password to get the cash. We couldn't go with him. As if you would do that! We were both starting to panic, didn't know what to do, no-one seemed able/wanted to help. Judy, in desperation, asked a couple of men at the Duty Free if they could do something. One, whose name was Nejat, had a heated talk with the bus assistant, who then spoke to the Border police. Turkish lira would now be accepted and Nejat paid
Wouldn't I look good in a pair of these?
them for us.
Hurrying to the border crossing we just made it to the bus as they were unloading our cases. Once in Turkey we continued for about 20kms until reaching Kirklareli where the bus stopped outside a shopping centre which had an ATM, Nejat and Rags racing in to get some cash. Rags offered extra to Nejat who refused to take any more than we owed saying he wasn't out to make a “commission”. Lovely man.
Nejat's kindness continued when we reached the bus terminal in Istanbul, firstly showing us where to catch the Metro, then joining us saying he would get a taxi from the other end. On reaching our stop he then took us to the tram stop, paid our fare and came with us to the stop nearest our hotel before continuing on. We could have done this without help (hopefully), we had all the directions written down from our research, but it did make life easier.Our trusty iPad led us the last kilometre or so to our hotel, and we both heaved a sigh of relief when we got there.
The Sultan's Hotel was a lovely place, clean and modern, and not
A huge array of thing you don't really need.
far from the Blue Mosque and other sights. For dinner we went around the corner to a cafe, Koy Sofrasi, for a Turkish meal and this was an experience in itself. We were given our drinks after we had put in our order and then had to wait for over an hour for the meal. During this time, the table next to ours, French people, argued about their bill. Then a group outside argued about theirs, they warning us to check before we paid. Sure enough, our bill was on two scrappy pieces of paper, we couldn't decipher it, and when asked what we had to pay the amount was less than we had worked out, so we didn't argue! Strange way to do business.
From here we retraced our steps to the long alleyway of lights we had seen earlier and here we found all sorts of wonderful tastes and crafts to view. By the time we left here it was almos midnight so it was quite late by the time we swiched out the lights and caled it a night!
Friday 20th July 2012
We organised an airport transfer on the suttle through
Judy hates bargaining but did here.
the hotel, leaving at 1245, so after an excellent breakfast on the rooftop of the hotel we set off to the Spice Markets. As we have done so many times in the past, we changed our minds and headed for the Grand Bazaar instead, this allegedly closer.
The bazaar is set on a hill, we entered it eventually from the opposite side we thought we were heading. Inside it is honeycombed with lanes and passages, each lane with stalls specialising in a similar item viz gold and silver, clothing, fabrics, leather, household goods, and so on. Judy bought a scarf, Rags a wallet before it was time to head back. “Down hill” was the call, unfortunately we headed in the wrong direction and had to retrace our steps. A few more wrong calls and a few harsh words and we returned to the hotel.
Once we were seated in the departure lounge awaiting our flight we both relaxed, for the rest of our journey everything was organised and pre-booked.....
There are more photos below