Friday, September 7, 2012

Istanbul; Out and About

We had promised ourselves a Bosphorous Cruise, denied last year because of atrocious weather. So we decided on the full day tour and hopped a slow ferry that goes all the way up the Bosphorous, stops to allow you a leisurely lunch, and returns in the same slow fashion. By the end of the day we wanted to attach a few Evinrude motors to the back, but it was pleasant.

We took the ferry close to the Galata Tower Bridge which is double layered, with road, tramline and many fishermen along the top and multiple fish cafes underneath. Along the way we saw the graceful suspension bridges, some of the old palaces and fortifications, amazingly luxurious summer beach houses of past pashas, viziers and consulates to the small fishing villages. The water is rich with fish and amazingly clear given the amount of shipping traffic that passes through to the Black Sea.

Istanbul, Galata bridge
Galata Bridge, Galata Tower in background
Istanbul, Dolmabache
Fence of Dolmabache palace
Istanbul, bridge
Suspension Bridge
Istanbul, towers and bridge N
Fortifications and Sultan Mehmet Bridge
Istanbul, Bosphorous, summer house









Summer house

Istanbul, Anadolu Kavagi
Pretty fishing village of Anadolu Kavagi
Istanbul, fighting fish
Fish fight over our bread
Istanbul, flag2
Fort above Andolu Kavagi

While at the village of Anadolu Kavagi we ate at a seafront café (they all try to entice you in) fed bread to the fish and watched them fight for it, then wandered back, passing a string of parked, shiny, black cars and young men in suits with walkie talkie earpieces. Hmm! Seems the local governor and possibly also the president were worshipping at the local mosque. Later they walked a little, pressing the flesh of locals (we were politely ignored) while the cars followed. The most we could manage was a photograph of the VIP number plate. Then they all hopped into the cars and departed. Our brush with fame!

Istanbul, numberplate

VIP numberplate

We also took the ferry to the Asian side of Istanbul at Kadikoy, this time a fast ferry trip, but we had neglected to do our homework in advance and could find little of interest at the end of the trip. This was not helped by the fact that the map handed out by the Tourist Office has almost no street names. Our fault. We revisited places like the Grand and Spice Bazaars and also the Arasta bazaar where I found some lovely Ikat silk in cream and raspberry shades.

Istanbul, spices
Istanbul, sweetmeats
Istanbul, apricots
I think apricots
Istanbul, what is this
I have no idea. Any guesses?
Istanbul, bazaar ceiling
Ceiling of Grand Bazaar
Istanbul, bazaar, gold cuff
Detail of gold filigree cuff
Istanbul, Turkish Delight
Turkish delight (he selected far too much for us. Alas, we had to eat it)
Istanbul, fish market
The fish market

Seeing the wall of the city was quite an eye-opener. We had seen vestiges on the way to and from the airport, but further north they are very solid structures well suited to defending a city. The aqueduct, as well, is still standing in parts; the traffic even drives under it, giving witness to a history very different from ours in Australia.

Istanbul walls
The very solid walls of the city (somewhat restored)
Istanbul, aqueduct
The amazing aqueduct

A few additional sights including some of the rather nice Topaz restaurant where we ate Ottoman food with a view of some substance

Istanbul tram
Interior of tram
Istanbul, birds on a wire
Birds on a wire at Eminimou
Istanbul, blue mosque
Blue Mosque
Istanbul, university
Istanbul University
Istanbul, restaurant lights Topaz
Exotic lights at Topaz restaurant
Istanbul, Topaz view
View at Topaz restaurant
Istanbul, night cafes
More usual restaurant view
Istanbul waterfront
Istanbul waterfront

The thing we noticed most was that there were so many more tourists than on our last trip in April 2011. There were more places open, it seemed, but also huge crowds in places like the spice bazaar or walking down Istikal Street, even for entrance to Agia Sophia with queues already at 9am.

Finally, as we checked into the airport very early in the morning, we asked re the lounge we could use. Turkish Airlines were delighted to have us stop with them as a part of the Star Alliance. I have NEVER seen an airline lounge (business class) as swish and luxe as this, and wish I had taken more photos. Designed like a series of interlocking spheres, it had a lavish use of mirrors, separate areas such as a “gentleman’s club” equipped with a library of glossy books on Turkey and a billiard table, several “cafe” type areas, a curtained alcove for resting/sleeping and so on. Multiple types of food and drink as well, all part of the service. The piece de resistance was the ladies loo. Again, all mirrors, including in the cubicle (not sure re that, multiple reflections of me on the pedestal is not required) a forest of phalaenopsis orchids, waterfall taps into a granite shallow basin, stools for the kiddies to stand on and little make-up stations with places for your purse, well away from the wet area. United, please take note!

Istanbul, Turkish Air Lounge
Cafe tables in the lounge
Istanbul Turkish lounge
Sleeping alcove and transparent lockers
Istanbul, Turkish Air ladies washbasin
Washbasin area

Next stop: Toledo, Spain

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