Up at the crack of dawn as our coach into the city-where we shall stay in hotel for 2 nights - leaves at 07.15 . We wondered why were leaving so early to rendezvous with guide at 09.15 when we were only travelling 48 km but we hadn't experienced the Istanbul traffic nightmare. Turkish population is 75m of whom 15m live in the city (which is not even the capital) with 3m cars, all of whom appear to be the streets at 08.00. Actually, they seem to be on the streets until midnight and might well be around later than that for all I know. Our bus driver , Nazeem, who also drove us around Edirne, is superb if not terrifying and was very unlucky to try using the hard shoulder ( like many others) to get to an exit from one carriageway only to round a bend into the waiting arms of the traffic police who were everywhere. Discussing the matter at lunch it seemed that there was a lot of sympathy for the guy and after I found out from the guide that they had relieved him of 77 TL ( about £30) it was suggested that 1 organise a whip round so we put in 7tl a unit and gave him 70 tl for which he was extremely grateful.
Istanbul is a great city. We visited the Dolmabahce Palace, the Spice Bazaar, the main Post Office in search (eventually successfull) of the elusive motorway toll stickers ( of which more later) and the Hagia Sophia. We cruised the Bosphorous for an hour which is just as congested as the roads with hundreds of ferries and pleasure steamers trying to avoid Russian oil tankers coming from the Black Sea.
Had a cracking lunch at a fish restaurant, crossed the Golden Horn by the Galata bridge and followed the old city walls which are only second to the great wall of China. Everything lives up to expectations in size and magnificence. Reached our hotel - very central, in university district- at 18.15, and after a shower and freshen up set off at 20.00 to explore at night with ONBF plus Richard & Monica. Cracked the tram system(3 tl a journey by buying a jeton to get through the turnstiles. nb £1 = 2.65 tl). Went down to the golden horn and walked along the waterfront and then walked back up to Sultanahmet square to see the Blue Mosque illuminated. Crowds everywhere and bars and many shops still open at midnight when we finally got the tram back to the hotel- only 3 stops. Great city for walking; never felt threatened; locals only too happy to help with directions and information and there is a real buzz about the place. Today we do our own thing and meet for dinner and the inevitable belly dancing show tonight.
Tuesday, 21 May 2013
Turkey 4...Constantinople 1