If one had but a single glance...

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April 11th 2018
Published: April 25th 2018
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'If one had but a single glance to give the world, one should gaze on Istanbul' Alphonse de Lamarine

Today we are heading back to the exuberant, ancient, 'in your face' capital of Turkey, Istanbul, but first we have a bit of a drive through the mountainous countryside of eastern Turkey. We are the closest we've been to the Syrian border, just 58 miles away according to someone's Google maps app. We have seen nothing that would indicate there is a major conflict raging just across the border. The closest we get is meeting a couple of soldiers who are resting up at a gas station we stop at for a break. They are eating ice-creams and even let some of our group pose for photos with them. Apparently they are patrolling the roads around here. We reach Adiyaman airport in plenty of time and go through about 3 security, check-in points. A few of our group have their luggage thoroughly frisked over. I always seem to set off the machine when I walk through, something making me beep loudly. The women aren't shy about feeling you up! The flight isn't too long, only about 3 hours, but we have some food and drinks as part of the deal which keeps us entertained for a little while. The rest of the time I read or listen to music. We touch down at Istanbul and within minutes of collecting our luggage we are out of the airport and in our shuttle bus - slight contrast with my first attempt to get to the Golden Horn hotel which took hours due to cock ups with my transfer.

After settling back into our hotel we are taken for a walk to the Taksim district starting by going across the Galata Bridge which spans the Golden Horn after which our hotel is named. This is the bridge with the sea food restaurants underneath and fisherman with their rods on the road/tramway above. Every so often one of them catches a fish and it is reeled up past the diners to the waiting keep buckets. Once over the bridge we board one of the world's oldest subterranean funicular railways, the Tunel. Officially opened in 1875 this 573m long underground railway was built by French engineer Eugene-Henri Gavand who spent decades getting together plans, finance backing and the final go ahead to build the funicular railway. Strangely, after all this hard work he wasn't even at the open ceremony. There are only two stops, one at the bottom near the Galata Bridge and one at the top of the hill opening out onto the famous Istiklal Caddasi street. The whole area up here is known as the Taksim district. It's the more modern part of Istanbul with a pedestrian street with a very European feel to it. There are so many shops I recognise the names of. There are also lots of take away style food outlets, some selling the local 'delicacy' wet burgers. They sound horrible and look pretty horrible too. I'm glad I'm a vegetarian and spared having to try burgers with the whole thing, bun and all, soaked in a wet, sloppy tomato sauce. We take a peek at a church, but I'm afraid I'm all churched out so wait while the others take a look inside. This atheist has had her fill of religion this trip.

We take a left off the main street and find ourselves in an alley way with loads of coffee shops. Outside are low tables and chairs and crowds of people enjoying a drink with their friends. Burak says this is where him and his mates like to meet up. We settle into one guy's place and have tea brought out to us on hanging trays in the little glass cups. Others have real Turkish coffee which comes with a little pot of water. I have my favourite Ayran yoghurt drink. It's starting to get dark so when we go back onto the main street its buzzing with people all enjoying strolling, people watching, eating food from the stalls and generally having a good time with their friends. Our group has a last meal together then some of us head back to the hotel via the Galata Tower lit up with flood lights. It looks like Rapunzel's tower and I quite expect a maiden to lean over the balcony at the top and let down her long hair for us to climb up.

This is the official end of our tour. I just have one last day in Istanbul until 2pm when my taxi will be whisking me off to the airport and home. Can't believe it's all nearly over. What an amazing tour around Turkey. It's been incredible to see the history, the people and the amazing natural wonders of Pamukkale and Cappadocia. Truly memories to treasure, a Turkish Delight.

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