Published: June 2nd 2008June 2nd 2008
Turkey (Istanbul Day -1)
We were staying in the ‘downtown’, a highly touristy area and so, on the same day that we landed, we went to the Galata bridge by tram from Sultanahmet, to take a ferry boat on the Bosphorus because the ferryboat is a much cheaper, but equally enjoyable alternative to a private cruise.
I had planned the cruise carefully. The guidebook had advised to take Turyol boat and so we searched for Turyol docks near the Galata bridge. However ‘left side of the bridge’ is confusing terminology. I mean, ‘left’ when you are standing on the bridge facing upstream or ‘left’ when you are facing downstream or ‘left’ as you face the bridge?
As we were searching, a tout pounced on us and offered to take us on the ‘Bosphorus cruise’ for 30 lira each. (Guidebook had mentioned a ticket of 3 lira.) When we told him that we wanted a ‘Turyol’ boat he insisted that his boat company ‘Yoltur’ was the same Turyol that we were searching for.
We might be gullible but we were not ready to believe that Yoltur is the exactly the same word as Turyol.
We wandered halfway
across the bridge and saw a ‘Turyol’ boat going under the bridge to the other side and docking.
Now we knew what the ‘left side’ of the bridge was.
We went there and took the Bosphorus cruise by Turyol boat for 7 lira each. The boat goes upstream up to the second bridge and returns.
It was a very enjoyable cruise. There were prominent landmarks on both sides of the straits. In fact, everywhere you look, Istanbul skyline is dominated by big domes and minarets of famous mosques.
The ferry makes only one stop - at Iskudar a.k.a. Scutari. The word ‘Scutari’ evoked memories of half-forgotten history of the Crimean war and Florence Nightingale, ‘the lady of the lamp’ who nursed many a wounded soldier back to health.
The very sounds of certain words have some strong association. ‘Crimea’ is one such word. Despite of what I have read about the horrors of Crimean war, this word ‘Crimea’ always projects a land of milk and honey before my mind’s eye. Maybe it is because of the word ‘cream’.
Please google the Internet if you want to know more about Crimea, Scutari, Florence Nightingale or
Crimean war. I was forced to read about these in the school textbook, but now I refuse to read anything about it.
So, even though we knew about Florence Nightingale museum at Iskudar, we decided not to visit it.
The cruise was enjoyable but soon it became too windy and cold to be on the deck so all of us crowded in the ‘salon’ of the boat.
We were prepared for the cold because we had our woolen gear with us and some extra warm clothing, because my daughter insisted that I should take her coat with me. However, there was a couple from Australia, whom we met later and who had not expected Istanbul to be so cold during the Spring. They had to buy leather jackets as soon as they landed at the Istanbul airport.
The Eminonu docks, where the cruise ends, has anchored boats, where fish-sandwiches are cooked and sold to the consumers at the sidewalk cafes. From the Galata bridge we had a unique view when a strong wave sent the fried fish flying and the cooks after them. It was hilarious.
I had read in the flight magazine that the
Turkish people migrated from their homeland in Central Asia where fish was hard to come by and their staple diet consisted of meat from land animals and even now they prefer meat to fish, even though Turkey’s three seas are full of fish. The magazine claimed that food habits persist even when people have migrated.
Judging by the number of Turks and tourists alike enjoying the fish sandwiches, it was obvious that there was a fallacy in the magazine’s claims.
We took the tram from Eminonu to Gulhane, and the walked from there to the hotel, passing some time in the lovely Gulhane garden. We also ate roasted chestnuts while walking.
The hotel was centrally located, and very near the Hagia Sophia Mosque and the Blue Mosque and the Hippodrome. (All these places are nearby) However, that area of small alleys and carpet-shops is so confusing that we got lost and could find our hotel only after we asked several people for directions. Later we discovered that we were only circling our hotel without finding its hideout.
Avi’s friend Koya and his wife took us out to dinner that day and we had
a very enjoyable time.
We admired the superb ambience of the hotel and said that it must have been a palace once upon a time whereupon Koya told us that actually it was a jail for ‘unsuitable’ or dethroned princes and later converted into a posh hotel.
The next day we proceeded on our tour of Turkey.