Istanbul, city of lost people and canoe pizzas

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August 25th 2014
Published: August 25th 2014
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Today I've boated along a river between two continents that are part of the same country. Is Istanbul unique for this? I don't know but it makes for a good pub quiz question.

When we planned our itinerary back in Stoke one rainy Sunday, I don't think that we really thought it through. My idea was not to waste time in Selcuk in the morning and get to Istanbul asap, so not to miss a thing. So a 7.10am flight didn't seem a bad idea until you factor in we had to get to Izmir first and all that checking in nonsense. And so we rose at 4.15am. The airport was surprisingly very busy.

After landing in a very breezy Istanbul we took an hour long bus journey to Taksim in Beyoglu, which is the area where our hostel was situated. The first thing I learned about Istanbul is that there are not many street signs. The second thing I learned was that no one seems to have a clue where anything is, that includes where they themselves are. Naturally we immediately got lost and so stopped for breakfast in the hope of asking the waiter to point to where were were on the map. He and all of his buddies spent a lot of time pointing all over the map, but were baffled and gave up. The over-priced breakfast was pretty crap too. Never mind, we wandered on until we found a large square that also wasn't marked in anyway, but it contained a tourist guy helping another lost tourist with flapping map.

After being pointed roughly in the right direction, but still no ideas as to where we were on the map, we continued luggage laden down a busy street. Some old guy complete with ciggy glued to his lips insisted on helping us even though he didn't know where we were going. He asked lots of his mates, shaking their hands as he directed us up quiet back streets and we were feeling increasingly dubious. On the plus side, we saw some interesting cobbled, quaint and run-down areas with a few gorgeous cats.

Eventually we went past a kebab/pizza place called Fratelli that also turned out to be our hostel. It's pretty cool actually with winding old steep stairs up to a spacious room and shared bathroom/kitchen. The lady who spotted our lost look as we'd almost walked past was very helpful, sat us down, gave us a decent map and advised us on things to see and the best way to get to them.

So off we trotted again, through Beyoglu which is the old touristy/hippy/quaint place to be and apparently where the nightlife is. We saw more music shops than I though possible in one area, an abundance of tat shops and various food places. Like all good cities in hot countries, there were plenty of steep hills too, the kind that have steps instead of pavements.

We crossed the bridge to The Bazaar Quarter and over to Seraglio Point where naturally there was a steep climb up cobbled streets in glaring heat to the Topkapi Palace. After queuing in the relentless sun for an eternity, we eventually got in. It was packed. There were queues to more queues and taking pictures without numpty tourists standing in front of you was impossible.

There is a lot to see in this palace, loads of sparkly stuff and clothes worn by ancient Sultans. I appreciate that these clothes were worn baggy but the width of them was immense, those Sultans must have eaten a lot of pies.

The armoury was fascinating with swords much longer than me. How can anyone fight with such a long sword? I don't think they could, I reckon that some soldiers were over-compensating... Oh and some of the swords and guns were extremely ornate and fancy, I suppose it must lessen the blow when you are killed with one of them.

After a few hours were were totally bushed and hungry. I had an icecream whilst Glyn had some type of meat thing. It was nice to sit down and there was a playful black kitten bouncing around nearby that I convinced Glyn to give some of his meat to.

Later on we had pide for our evening meal, which is a Turkish pizza shaped like a canoe. They were nice although I didn't get what I ordered, but I was too tired to care.

So we thought we'd do something a bit relaxing next and went on a boat trip along the river Bosphorus, with Europe on our left and Asia on our right. We got front seat on top deck (weh-hey!!), some young Turkish women sat by us and offered to share their bread. We headed up the river to a bridge that Glyn reckons you can stand on Asia and Europe at the same time. There was no commentary but it was cool to see the city from the river and Glyn almost dozed off. After 90 minutes we were dropped off by Rustem Pasa Mosque, having first got some sunset photos of the skyline including the four minarets of Suleymaniye Mosque. OMG and loads of tourist hopped off the boat before it was tied up an no one cared!

The area by the river was super-crowded, in fact everywhere I've seen in Istanbul is packed, you can't walk in a straight line down the streets. We walked back up to Beyoglu, past the Gelata Tower, through heaving and lively rickety streets with so many street bands, it was almost impossible to discern one tune from the next. Some were good, some interesting, others completely barking mad.

I really fancied a beer but Turkey has ridiculous tax on alcohol so I've avoided it. I've visited Muslim countries before but never been to one where alcohol was unavailable in supermarkets and local shops, but this is how it is in Turkey so far. There was a tiny shop near our hotel, but one can of beer is 5tl (Turkish Lira) there's 2.6tl to the British pound, so you can work it out. I just sussed it was too much.

Below are some of the stranger street entertainers.


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