Istanbul

Trip Start Nov 01, 2006
1
107
168
Trip End Oct 15, 2008


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Thursday, July 3, 2008

3/7-6/7

Crossing the border into turkey was definitely the most troublesome we have had. Not because of the border guards, they were quite nice and understanding, but it was because we had no idea what we were doing. After first trying to just drive trough we got redirected to the visa area, where we had to buy a visa. We then had to register our car and after abut 5 stamps we were able to go through. We were greeted with a road in the middle of reconstruction, and hence no tarmac. But after a bumpy start, turkey has been nothing but fabulous.

We decided to take the Toll way as it was a long drive and they were only asking 2euros. We arrived in Istanbul at about 5pm and were faced with trying to find the camp site. The Belgium Couple had told us how to get to the only camp site that was in Istanbul, it sounded more like a construction site, but was somewhere safe to stay.

Well the sat nav doesn't have a map for turkey, so it is up to me and the maps, I don't think I was quiet up to the challenge........ We got lost. After about half an hr we did find the place, only to be told that they were now closed and we couldn't stay! Well we were a little put out, we didn't know where we were going to go, and it was getting later. Just as we were about to leave a whole heap of Italian people came past and asked why we weren't going in. It turned out they were staying there, and couldn't understand why we couldn't. In the end a big boss guy said we could stay for the night but that was it. They were starting work in there the next day, so we all had to go. Well at least we had somewhere to stay.

The next day we left bright and early to find some more accommodation. The plan was to go to tourist info and find a hostel that had parking. After yet again getting a bit lost (it is hard to navigate in a big city!) We ended up finding a parking place by the Marmara sea and very close to Sultanahmet (main tourist area). The parking guy didn't speak much English and in the end we had paid for overnight parking when we only wanted a few hrs. It ended up being 20 YTL (10 Euros) and when they didn't seem to have any objections to us sleeping there so we decided to stay. In the end we had found accommodation with sea views and close to town all for a measly 10 Euros a night! Just missing the showers.

Istanbul is a great city, there is so much to see and do here you could spend a month just exploring. We were going to be here for three days though, so it was just sticking to the touristy stuff. We started with a visit to the blue mosque. Now this is a stunning building, it is so large and intricate; you can see it from all over Istanbul. The line up to get in was quiet large so we waited, behind a huge bunch of young loud aussies and Kiwis, for our turn. We had to take our shoes off and I needed a scarf to put around my shoulders before we could enter. I knew I had to be covered, but I wasn't wearing a long sleeve shirt around the city in 30 degree heat. Some people must have had no idea, there was one girl wearing the smallest shorts I have ever seen and a short skimpy top to match!

Inside the mosque was very nice, but very crowded. The floor was covered in carpet, which was just very different compared to a church and instead of having the alter at the front it was over to one side, where Mecca would be. It was quiet interesting and the ceiling was painted in intricate patterns.

Next we checked out the Aya Sofia. This place is so vey old, it was first built as a church in 500 AD and later (though not too much) converted to a Mosque. It is now a museum, so the Muslim principals aren't adhered to. The outside of this building isn't as spectacular as the Blue Mosque but inside it really does take your breath away. First you walk into a hall type area, with a huge big door way in front of you. There are amazing mosaics above this from the Christian church, and then you walk in to the domed area..... It just soars above your head, truly great. It was slightly spoiled as there was scaffolding inside, but it was still a sight. We wandered around the equally crowed site and passed an American tour group just in time to hear the guide say "In this area you will also find the McDonalds and Starbucks"........... It took a good while to take it all in; so far Istanbul is nothing like what we had seen in Europe.

One of the stranger things we had heard were the prayer calls. As we had arrived on a Friday (this being like the Christian Sunday) they seemed to be happening every 3 hrs or so (including one at 3 am!). It is something you have to witness for yourself. You will be walking around the city, and next thing this loud speaker will start blearing out a man singing prayer hymns, in a wavering Arabic manner. The best bit about being in a large city is that you will be able to hear three or so at once so there is this echo like siren going off around you.

We next looked at the Basilica Cistern which is an underground water area. It was amazing, not to mention cold. It really felt like I was stepping back in time, and if it hadn't been for the crowds, I would have felt like I was in another time, it looked so roman and secret. It was made up of pillars all lined up exactly, holding up the vaulted ceiling. The water was about 1 meter deep, and there were carp swimming around. This place was very old as well (AD 532), and had been forgotten and rediscovered 3 times over. Worth the entry fee.

We then went to the Grand bazaar and got lost looking for a place to eat, so we made our way out and had a kebap (our first of many). It was then time to take on the bazaar again, and I had my shopping shoes on. It was great fun and I tried my hand at bargaining. I got some money off some beautiful bowls and a long sleeve shirt (for the east) and also a scarf, it was great fun, and after wandering for about 3 hrs we thought we would go to the spice bazaar, well it seems like we got lost again, because with out even realizing it we were at the spice bizarre all the way on the other side of town! We wandered and took in the slights and sounds and smells, and tried a heap of Lokum (Turkish delight). I love the stuff and we bought some to have in the car.

By this time we were stuffed and we wandered home to lie in the park. It seems our quiet empty car park had filled up a bit. The park next to it was packed with people having BBQ's, the sea had a huge line of people fishing and the cars had people in them blasting out turkish music. It was all very atmospheric. After a bit of relaxing we got some tea on a little terraced restaurant (more kebap!) and took in the sunset. We went for a walk after tea and took some pictures of the Mosques at night and then went back to Clive and crashed. The noise continued well into the night, it seems big sound systems are quite the craze over here. It made for an interesting night anyway.

The Turkish people have to be the friendliest people we have met. So many had helped us or just wanted to say hello, and we had only been here for 2 days. Every where you go you get 'hello' 'where are you from' and when we reply Australia you generally get 'ahh, AUSSIE'. It makes us laugh. Granted most of them just wanted to get you in their shop, but once you say maybe later or no, they leave you alone. We have heard so many old Australian catch phrases too. One Kebap man came out with them all at once "Yummy Yummy for your tummy, see you later alligator, aussie aussie aussie...... It is all a bit over whelming at first but gets quite fun once you get used to it. Dave became friendly with the parking guys and the ones serving tea to the people in the park, so we got a complementary Apple tea and some bread with goats' cheese, all very tasty.

Day two saw us explore the Topkapi Palace. This place is huge and we spent all day here. This place was where the sultans used to live back in 1450 until the 19th century. There was a harem and everything so it was very interesting to read how they used to live. The harem wasn't just for the sultan to lock up his wives (which he could have 4) and concubines (as many as he wanted) but it was more of the private family residence. The only other people allowed to be in here were his guards, of which they had to be eunuchs! Everything was very hierarchical and I could just see the cat fights that would have been going on.

Now being that we were just parking in a car park we didn't actually have a shower, so we thought we would just have to go to the Hamam to have a wash. This is a Turkish bath, basically there are men and women's sections where in a hot room, not unlike a sauna you get your gear off with a bunch of other people and lay about on the marble surface having a sweat and then washing yourself at the sinks around the edges. You can also get massages or let the attendants wash you. Well we weren't going to pass up the opportunity to get washed, and after about 40mins of lying on the marble slab, my big fat semi naked Turkish lady came to do the deed. It all started with the scourer to get all the dead skin off then the lather and then the hair wash and the rinse. It was great, so relaxing, once you get over being naked with a bunch of strangers, and big fat Turkish ladies boobs hitting you every so often! Dave had a big fat hairy Turkish man, who rubbed him raw and cracked every bone in his body. We left that night feeling very refreshed and clean.

Day three saw us exploring the bosphorous, the channel that separates European turkey and Asian turkey. The water was a glorious blue colour, and the sun was shining. The ferry was going to take us up to the end near the black sea where we could have a sea food lunch before coming back. We got a fixed menu for 6 Euros and had a few beers. Everything was deep fried, but the calamari and mussels were great!

We got kept up again with lots of music and people up all night. An Italian camper was parked with us as well, and we had a chat with them through their teenage son who worked as the translator. We got given some store bought pasta which we were told was Italian and then were asked if we knew how to cook it..... yes we do cook pasta in Australia. We gave them a little kangaroo (you know the ones that the arms open and clip onto things) which they seemed quite taken with. The next morning we had a long drive to take us to Safronbolu.

Miles so far: 8075
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Comments

robynjb
robynjb on

Memories
It is interesting seeing you in places I went to soooo long ago. I didn't realise you were going so deep into asian Turkey. Ahh real Turkish delight.

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