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Published: September 4th 2011
Apologies for not having updated this for a while, theres no big excuse for anything. So since I last updated we have said goodbye to England for the last time. The ship wont be back in southampton now untill march of next year. We now use Venice, Rome, Istanbul and Athens as our turnaround ports. I do have to say that the port for Athens (Piraeus) is abit of a craphole, so the turnaround day there isnt going to be a highlight.
We've also said goodbye to afew friends, Pato, Laura, Alice and Chris have gone either for vacations, college or Uni. Hopefully we'll see them all soon.
Anyway, back to whats been going on. The highlights have definatley been Venice and Istanbul for me. We've been to Venice twice so far, one of which was an overnight. We arrived and docked next to St Marks square, so from one of the crew decks we could see all across Venice and its exactly like I imagined it, as is most of the city. Alot of places we went to on previous voyages had citys that claimed to be 'the venice of the something or other' so it had alot to live up to and for me it kicked the crap out of all of them.
The canals really are a maze, with hundreds of tiny bridges and houses going out onto them. People own boats not cars, which once you realise they have police and fire boats leads to questions like 'do they have a bin boat or a removals boat....man with a white boat' etc. For the overnight section we moved down to the cruise terminal, which was the shortest voyage ever in that it lasted a good 20 minutes from let go all lines to ship secure. Once we had all finished work we headed out to try to find a club.
Now, the night started with a group of 25 of us going out, before we had even got out of the port this had been halfed as some people needed to wait for others to get off. We all agreed to meet up at a bar called the orange bar. To give you an idea of how succesful we were at finding it, our group was being navigated by Jorge the production manager, who had got off 4 days before and left rough directions with Erin. 1 hour and lots of bridges/walking in circles later and we managed to find it at 11.55pm, only to be told that there is a new law in force in Venice that says that all bars must shut at midnight. We were told that the only place that would still be open was a nightclub that was 5 minutes away.
An hour later we managed to find it, tucked away in a backstreet. By this point I was nackered, then when I found out it was 10 Euros to get in with one free drink then 10 Euros a drink after that I decided to call it a night. The sports director rach felt the same, so we decided to find some pizza and head back to the ship. We did quite well, we found some Pizza and wandered round Venice by night. Its weird seeing it in the dark and there were no people anywhere, it felt like we had the city to ourselves. One way or another we got back to the ship and waited for everyone else to come back in various states and with various amounts of money left on them.
That was what seems like a month ago (although I know it wasnt) and afew days ago I had something Iv been missing this voyage, a 'wow' moment at a city. Dont get me wrong, the places we went were fine, great weather, cheap food, some beaches, some internet etc, but there was nothing amazing. Then we pulled into Istanbul for our overnight there.
Anyone who has me on facebook will hopefully have seen my status when we arrived - 'Holy mosques Batman, we're in Istanbul!' which doesnt do it justice. They are everywhere. Call to prayer at mosques in England must be quite simple, one mosque nearby so just informing everyone its time. In Istanbul, you cant go 100m without running into another one, so call to prayer is deafening. We tried to imagine what they were saying 'come to my mosque! my mosque is better than his mosque! we have comfier caaaaaaaaaaaaaarpets'.
Over the course of our istanbul visits I have serveral things I want to do (we are there 4-5 times) go to the gran bazar and haggle for something, goto the music shop district and buy a cymbal, go into a mosque, go into a shish bar. When we got off in the afternoon we arrived we discovered it was the end of Ramadan, so hardly any shops would be open. This didnt stop me finding a sweet shop and buying 3 cartons of turkish delight. We decided just to have a walk round and see what we could find.
The street vendors will sell you anything from perfume 'is very good my friend, very cheap, make you smell' to toys to flick knifes (cue Pete saying he wanted one but then how would he get a butterfly knife back into england, then he realised how would he get it on board the ship). Once we had cleared them we came up to the bridge that spans the river. This thing is a sight to behold. Its not a tall bridge by any means, but the top level is a road, lined with hundreds of people fishing off it and the bottom level is all restruants, which means you get a massive array of smells and sights as you cross it.
On the other side are the local ferry terminals (which had all been turned into party boats) and a huge mosque. I thing it was the blue mosque, but couldnt hold that up in court. As we got there we heard a call to prayer and the place became crowded with people, all washing themselves with the taps on the shide of the building, rushing inside to pray, so we went to a restruant. We hadnt looked into prices before we got there and what with us being used to paying some ridiculus prices in some ports (if you goto norway, yes its beautiful but if you want to eat there mortgage your house first) we were shocked with how cheap it all was. Burger, fries and drink - £2. In some places you'd be looking at £15-£20 for that.
After the meal we went into the mosques. The two girls with us donned hats/scarfs so we were allowed in and all had to take our shoes off and put them in a plastic bag. Im not religious at all, but inside you have to marvel at some peoples devotion. As with the church in russia, every inch was covered in artwork, brilliantly done and gold dripping off everything.
After this it was time to head back on board as we had work to do (much thanks to a certain someone who decided 'hey, on the istanbul overnight, lets make the stage crew do the biggest build they have so they finish at stupid o'clock in the morning'😉 but afterwards it was time to head out again.
Most people had gone off the clubs but we ended up in the shish bar section of the city, beanbags as far as the eye could see and so many different smells. Each cafe had tables with gaming boards, you could see that people sat there all night in some cases. We ordered a cherry pipe and some apple tea. That was the most chilled Iv been in a port in months, just sat back passing round the pipe, drinking this amazing tea and chatting rubbish untill the early hours of the morning. Sod the nightclubs, relaxed and chatty was much more fun.
The next day was our sailaway as we headed into the Black sea. Since then we've been to the Ukraine, Yalta and Odessa. I thought Turkey was cheap, the Ukraine is something else. Mcdonalds for under £2? Yes please :D We did end up in a dvd shop, where I found a games section with one DVD containing all the grand theft auto games. Even if some of them are in Ukrainian (which they arent all the time) for £2.20 its still a good buy.
Right now we are sailing back to turkey, Dave leaves us soon but then its onto more overnights and hardly any sea days at all. Once this big section of ports is out of the way its nearly hometime for me.
Where my bed is.
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