A cracking day but very tiring. Spent the morning at the Topkapi palace which was a great experience but marred by the crowds. These places are in grave danger of being overwhelmed by the sheer weight of numbers and of course we are part of that problem so its no use getting all holier than thou. The Alhambra in Granada has a ticketing system, controlling the numbers by booking time slots and that seems to work so may be the way to go. Had a forgettable lunch at a Best Western hotel overlooking the Bosphorous, then the highlight was the Blue Mosque which doesn't need me to say how beautiful it is. Go see. Next on the list was the basilica cistern, a massive underground chamber built to store water for the city by the Romans, followed by the Grand Bazaar which I think is just an enormous tourist trap. It IS enormous and you can probably find anything you could imagine in it but it is mostly full of things you don't want.....
From there back to the campsite, 2 hours away. Traffic horrendous and if we get through Istanbul unscathed it will be a miracle......
I haven't mentioned the couple we came across on the campsite at Edirne, Mark Millward & Claire Rugman who are cycling from Bristol to New Zealand. They have a website www.grandbiketour.co.uk so follow their progress. They have chucked the rat race and are taking 2 years to have an adventure and are really nice people. We left them heading for Istanbul then onto Georgia to avoid Armenia , Iran, Iraq & Syria which doesn't sound like much of a choice to me. Wish them luck and follow their progress.
The long haul day...330 miles to Ankara. Left at 07.00, although several others left at 06.00 in a vain attempt to avoid heavy early morning rush hour traffic. I suspect Istanbul is always manic and hitting the main ring roads at 08.00 was no better or worse than 07.00 or 09.00. Our electronic toll transponders seem to work OK . the traffic police were everywhere and have the most amazing collection of unmarked vehicles......revealed when they turned on the red/blue lights to chase offenders ......we reckon it was like refs at a scrum-blow your whistle every time because someone would be committing an offence, and if not now, they would next time. The best ones were unmarked motorbikes that looked like off-roaders but had the red/blue lights in the rear topbox.
The route to Ankara was straightforward, mostly unremarkable but with some good scenic bits. We again travelled with ONBF and had a pleasant lunch at a service station bigger than your average Tesco superstore. Had minor problem finding the campsite as the TomTom let me down for once or they've recently moved the airport . ONBF followed the supplied route notes and we didn't , ending up in the back streets of Ankara and taking a horrendous effort to get sorted....we were not alone however as most people had an amusing tale to tell......
The campsite is basically awful , being a piece of waste ground ringed by a security fence and belonging too and adjacent too, a 5 star hotel, who's facilities we can use. Imagine 5 star hotel reception lobby with wedding guests and conference delegates into which wander bedraggled campers in t-shirts, shorts and sandals with towels over the shoulder looking for the showers. The campsite has one water point which is next to the pit for emptying chemical toilets and has 2 electric sockets for 10 units......
The showers are in the basement and basically designed for guests using the sauna or swimming pools.......weird or what.
To top it all we had a meal there in the evening which was a help yourself buffet which was OK.
Weather v.hot . Ankara is enormous and since it mainly stems from 1923, very modern. Built on a series of hills and valleys, the approach is stunning as it seems to go on forever.
Saturday, 25 May 2013
Turkey 6 - Constantinople 3