Body hair and baclava

Trip Start Jul 01, 1997
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Trip End Oct 29, 1997


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Flag of Turkey  ,
Wednesday, July 9, 1997

Had the luxury of a bit of a lie in this morning. This was good as I had a slight hangover after drinking Efes beer and Jack Daniels last night (not together!). Managed to get some washing done at last. The kitten from last night was still around at breakfast so Lisa fed it some milk.

Mid-morning the five passengers walked out of the campsite and down the side of a very busy road to the railway station. Not very pleasant having trucks thundering past that close. Boarded a crowded train which was very hot. Ashley's hangover was much worse than mine and we had to get off the train at one point when he was feeling sick. He seemed to recover pretty quickly after drinking some water so we continued on the train to the end of the line in the city.

I'd visited Istanbul before so I was quite happy to go wherever the others wanted. From the station we started walking towards the centre of town. It took me some time to recognise the road we were on as the route I used to take into town on my previous trip. It looked totally different as there are now trams running down the middle of the road. These are huge industrial-looking affairs and looked even more packed than the train we had been on. I knew where we were once we reached the university.

Had a look for the Tourist Information Centre marked on the map we found, but with no luck. Wandered over to the Blue Mosque. Visitors now have to enter from the back and no-one is allowed to sit on the floor now. Still an impressive sight. As we walked through the gardens to Hagia Sofia we spotted a guy with a huge handlebar moustache and chest hair so thick it looked like a beard where it emerged at his throat. Each end of the moustache was about a foot long. We couldn't work out if all that body hair was real. Would've liked to have taken a photo, but he was charging people to do that. Later in the day we saw him again having his photo taken with a Turkish tourist.

Hagia Sofia was as impressive as ever, although there was scaffolding inside going all the way up inside the main dome. After looking around here we found a bank where it took ages to change money. After this we headed towards Topkapi Palace via Gulhane Gardens. These were full of people, mostly Turkish, and had a holiday atmosphere. There were lots of stalls, mainly food stalls. From one of these we bought pide, yummy pizza like creations on Turkish bread. At various intervals through the gardens there were TVs on stands showing football games or people singing. Spotted several groups of Turkish sailors wandering around. It was all a bit bizarre.

As we entered Topkapi there was a procession underway with some impressive-looking men marching around. Once we'd seen this we split up. I'd been around Topkapi before, so I went with Jane to a great cafe overlooking the Bosphorus. Here I had some Ayram, a yogurty drink, and baclava. Sat here for some time chatting and taking in the view. Before we met up with the others I had a quick look around my favourite room, the manuscript room.

Next we walked down to Sirkesi, near the Galata Bridge where men were fishing. We had decided to take a Bosphorus cruise tomorrow and wanted to know where they went from. Here I had a rather unpleasant experience. An old woman came up to me for no apparent reason and started haranguing me vociferously. I had no idea what I'd done. She kept pointing to my t shirt. Everyone was wearing t shirts so it can't be that she thought it indecent. It was a souvenir from the Tour de Mont Blanc with the flags of France, Italy and Switzerland on it so perhaps she had a beef with one of those countries. Not understanding any Turkish, I have no idea.

I was glad to make my escape as we wandered back towards the post office. We stopped off for a drink in a cafe along the way where we discovered that all the pepsi cans here have pictures of the Spice Girls on them. Eventually we found the post office and I was pleased to see I had two letters. Also managed to listen to my voicemail and leave a message on it. I'll have to prepare next time before I do it. My mind just went blank talking cold.

We next walked up to and through the Grand Bazaar. Here I bought a painting of whirling dervishes done with a lot of gold leaf. It looks like it's been torn from a book, but I really like it and it was only five pounds.

Found a restaurant down a side street to have dinner in. It was one where you choose a selection from different dishes in bain maries. They were nearly all meaty and not very hot.

Thankfully the train wasn't crowded on our return to the campsite, but was still very hot. Back here we found Euan and Lisa having a game of badminton. Euan has shaved his head.
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