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Published: June 27th 2022
An action-packed few days in Istanbul. Given that we had been here before (twice for me) and I thought the girls might tire of mosques and palaces, I looked into a few unique experiences to kick off the holiday. Yesterday morning started with an impressive breakfast overlooking the port (cause you can never really get away from the wonder of freight) before a stroll through Sultanahmet and a Turkish coffee to shake off the call to prayer early morning wake up.
Just next to Topkapi palace, we visited an art shop where the owner (who had a degree in Fine Arts) showed us the art of paper marbling or Ebru. She explained to us the materials and techniques involved - some stuff to make the water more jelly-like and ox bile to make the pigments more runny, or something. Perhaps we were too distracted by the thought of someone inventing an art technique using bile of an ox to really appreciate what it did.
Then it was our turn. A very hands-on activity where we all got the chance to learn how to make the background ‘peacock’ pattern and then various flower designs. I’m not sure she’d ever had
such enthusiastic students, and we filled up her entire drying rack with our masterpieces.
Some rooftop relaxation over lunch, and more grilled meat. Decided to use the credit we had built up over the very successful art class to visit the big tourist attractions with minimal whinging…with varying success. First stop was the Blue Mosque where there were lots of people, some serious foot odour and quite a lot of renovation going on, so probably didn’t see it in the best light. Next stop was Aya Sofia, which Geoff and I had remembered as a favourite location due to its fascinating history and important cultural significance in the bringing together of Christianity and Islam.
We spent the length of our visit a little confused and perplexed - the queues outside, the direct sun and the inability of some other tourists to grasp the concept of queuing was frustrating, but we passed the time by chatting to a guide and cheering on the queuing arguments. When we were allowed inside, the confusion set in - Eloise and I had to cover our heads and again the foot stench situation arose, as it had in the Blue Mosque. We couldn’t
understand how this ‘museum’ appeared to be also operating as a mosque. It wasn’t until we enlisted the trusty assistance of google that we discovered that we hadn’t actually overdosed on Efes, and it had renounced its secular museum status (decreed by Ataturk in 1934) and converted back to a mosque in 2020. Impressive structure still, but disappointing to see what it has become.
Back to the apartment to rest our weary bodies and enjoy some of the leftover meat feasts of the previous two days for dinner. And some wine on the balcony.
Another breakfast feast accompanied by seagulls on steroids on the beautiful rooftop terrace before we jumped in a cab and headed to Moda, which is a funky suburb on the Asian side of Istanbul. Very modern and not a call to prayer to be heard. We met with Burcu, our guide, who took us to the park to show us the work she and the community were doing to protect and sustain the street dogs and cats in the area. We met lots of dogs and she explained how they all got there, before continuing our walk along the seafront where we met the
‘country’ cats who live in the rock wall. Our walk continued through the suburb where we met a variety of furry residents, all after some love and attention, which was provided in abundance.
A stop for morning tea at one of the cool cafes in the area before we headed back to the tourist hot spot in the Grand Bazaar. Geoff and I had thoughts to buy a carpet while we were here and had done some research on a reputable shop. The address was only ‘in the Grand Bazaar’, but through the wonder that is google maps, we were able to find it. A few other souvenirs and a kebab for lunch before wandering back to our apartment. A long trip tomorrow to Gallipoli, so best prepare ourselves…for some whinging.
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