Blogs from Marmara, Turkey, Middle East


Middle East » Turkey » Marmara » Istanbul » Sultanahmet September 4th 2018

Turkey, December 2012 - January 2013 Day 1 We have arrived, probably yesterday evening? I’m writing this based on my handwritten notes in 2018, five years later so… The first full day goes by wandering around Old Town, hoods of Sultan Ahmed mosque or Blue Mosque as it’s also known as. This area is quite touristy but necessary to appreciate the heritage and history. We end up visiting Blue Mosque twice because the visiting hours are unknown to us. Suppose checking timetables prior to visiting wouldn’t be such a bad idea. It is closed for prayers in between as it is still functioning as a mosque and not just as a tourist attraction. It has continued serving as a mosque from the beginning of 17th century. Details and the building itself is fascinating. Hagia Sofia is ... read more
pamukkale limestone 2
pamukkale guard

Middle East » Turkey » Marmara » Istanbul June 3rd 2018

So here I am back on the road again, taking in three days in Istanbul en route to a guided tour of the three Caucasus countries. This is in fact my first visit to Turkey in 44 years, the last visit being as an irresponsible young backpacker and sadly, given that I got completely inebriated my first night in Istanbul then, I have no real memory of the place and thus no point of comparison. This time I’m travelling with my mate Bruce and I’m pleased to report he took better care of me than my travel companions clearly did all those years ago! I was amazed to hear that Istanbul, which of course is partially situated in each of Europe ... read more
Suleymaniye Mosque
The Blue Mosque
Pillars in the Basilica Cistern

Middle East » Turkey » Marmara » Istanbul » Sultanahmet May 18th 2018

Arriving back from Egypt meant a trip to the cinema with the Movie group we have all been waiting for the release of Infinity Wars which in my opinion was brilliant. A few days later we went out for after work drinks, I don’t do it often because it is expense here, I left early because I am going kayaking in the morning. I left early the next morning picking Chris, Rina and Arthur up as we made our way to Abu Dhabi’s Mangroves National Park. Today we would Kayak about seven kilometres through the mangrove canals and it is damn hot for early May. I love kayaking and the others seemed to enjoy paddling through the park as much as I did, a bit more wildlife would have been good though. A few days later ... read more
City wall
City wall

Middle East » Turkey » Marmara » Istanbul April 12th 2018

Having said goodbye to most of my group yesterday - lots of them left early this morning and I'm not getting up that early for breakfast - I am now on my own in Istanbul for a few hours to look around places I'd missed on my first day of the tour. First off on my wish list is a visit to the Topkapi Palace. This sumptuous residence was built in 1459 for the Ottoman Sultans to swan around in. Over the centuries it was added to and improved. Earthquakes and fires took their toll but it was renovated and redecorated to within an inch of its life. The life of a Sultan in the Topkapi Palace was that of a spoilt little rich kid getting whatever he wanted. He had his very own harem of ... read more
Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
Basilica Cistern, Istanbul

Middle East » Turkey » Marmara » Istanbul April 11th 2018

'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. ... read more
Fishermen on the Galata Bridge, Istanbul
Proper Turkish coffee
Turkish coffee bar

Middle East » Turkey » Marmara » Troy March 29th 2018

Gunyden - good morning. Another day in Turkey and it’s looking a little brighter. No rain. We are on our travels again; this time from Canukkale to Selcuk. We have our own little bus and our driver Ali welcomes us on board. As we are leaving Canukkale we pass a mosque and Burak explains that it is a relatively new building known as a foundation mosque - the Government pays for the foundations of the building and donations have to be raised to pay for the rest. Now to the cats… well Troy really, but it's all about the cats. We are met at the entrance gate by a hoard of fluffy lovelies. Some are happy to be fussed over so I get a little distracted by cat cuteness and fall behind with my usual notebook ... read more
Map showing the different phases of buildings at Troy
Troy remains
Troy remains

Middle East » Turkey » Marmara » Canakkale March 28th 2018

Today we are on the move, leaving Istanbul behind. The open road for me is a time for reflection and resolution. We are due to visit the Anzac landings at Gallipoli, a place of war and the tragic deaths of hundreds of thousands of young men caught up in battles not of their making. I'd mentioned to our tour leader that I'd prefer not to go on the tour here and could I be dropped off somewhere to wait until the group finished looking around Gallipoli. I really didn't want to spend part of my holiday going to a place that represents how crap human beings are, showing how little they've learnt from history and how a few men in power make decisions that destroy so many young men's lives and those of their families. As ... read more
Cafe time in rainy Canukkale
The Trojan Horse used in the film 'Troy'
Taking the ferry to Canukkale

Middle East » Turkey » Marmara » Istanbul March 27th 2018

It's been raining heavily over night leaving a fresh feel to the air as we set off on a guided tour of the main sights of Istanbul. We start in Gülhane Park just near our hotel and I'm surprised to see green parakeets flying around the tops of the tall plane trees. There are also a few storks building precarious stick nests in the highest branches. The Park is heaving with perfect pink and white tulips painted with drops of water, the after effects of the night's deluge. I'm so caught up with watching the bird life I almost miss the tulip story. Tulips first came to Istanbul from Kashmir as bulbs. At first people thought they were some kind of root vegetable and tried to eat them. A few conversations along the lines of 'What ... read more
Tulips being tended in Gülhane Park, Istanbul
Tulips from Istanbul
Tulips from Istanbul

Middle East » Turkey » Marmara » Istanbul March 27th 2018

Being taken around the ancient sites of Istanbul my imagination transports me back in history - they do things differently there you know! I feel the weight of privilege as a woman today able to stand in these places denied to so many women of times past. I mentally stick my middle finger up on their behalf! We are standing in the grounds of what used to be the Sultan's Topkapi Palace (now Gülhane Park). Here egotistical men claimed themselves superior amongst all men (women didn't count for much in those days) and took on the role of leader, top dog, head honcho (or in my considered opinion - asshole extremist) living in opulant luxury while 'their people’ lived in abject poverty. These Sultan's felt the need to bolster their fragile masculinity by keeping up to ... read more
Gülhane Park, Istanbul
Haghia Sophia (Aya Sofya)
Obelisks, Istanbul

Middle East » Turkey » Marmara » Istanbul March 27th 2018

Enter Istanbul's Grand Bazaar at your own peril, for those who are not quick of wit and sound of mind may find themselves trapped in the labyrinth of criss crossing alleys and walkways forever doomed to wander past shops of gold! Dazed shoppers can be seen at various gateways exiting with a mixture of relief and confusion. 'Where the f am I?', they ask random strangers still clutching onto their redundant street maps as if their life depended on it. As our group braves the Bazaar (safety in numbers we kid ourselves) we are dazzled by gold jewellery, brashly and unashamedly begging us to buy. Here gold is king, the stuff of dowries and bridal dreams. There are colourful ceramics, plates, bowls, lanterns and sumptuous patterns on material fit for a Sultan. There's Turkish delight and ... read more
Inside the Grand Bazaar, Istanbul
Inside the Süleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul

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