Day 2 (Friday – late afternoon) Temperature: 8 degrees
Weather: blue sky, cool breeze
The streets were very much alive and action was all around us. People of various age groups were walking in numerous directions while vehicle horns sounded loudly in heavy traffic. It felt quite comfortable as we blended well and were not bothered by the fact that we looked like tourists….well…me anyway with my big SLR camera around my neck snapping pictures every few steps of the way!
Close to the hotel, an old abandoned house with dead vines clinging to its wooden frame stood mysteriously with its broken windows and deserted ground. It was quite big and a very high white iron fence surrounded it. Taking the time to admire it, yes admire it because it had character, I could only imagine how charming and beautiful it probably was a century ago!
Continuing down the street, many westernized restaurants such as McDonald, Pizza Hut and even KFC looked quite inviting. Several little cafes were dispersed here and there with many people eating on patio terraces. Everyone was warmly dressed with their jackets and coats on but spring was in the air, we could feel it, smell it and let me tell you, it was quite a nice feeling comparing it with the slushy weather I left back home just 24 hours ago!
We made our way down a small alley that led to an outside fish market. Just the smell of it made me keep my distance. Several clothing and jewellery boutiques made browsing quite fun and at least, no one was there to hassle us to death as in Egypt.
The street bordering the Bosphorus Strait led us to the guarded Imperial Palace Gate. I later learned that it was the gate of the famous Dolmabahce Palace. Being opened to the public, we decided to come back at the later time to visit its gigantic structure and beautiful surrounding manicured gardens.
We then passed in front of a clock tower, a four storey tower 27m (90feet) high structure apparently added to the palace in 1890 during the reign of the Sultan. The clock still kept its time. The Turkish flag was everywhere. Its dominant red colour with half of a white coloured moon and star flew endlessly in the sky thanks to the blowing wind.
Looking at the strait, Turkey's famous Bosphorus Strait, the world’s narrowest strait used for international navigation that connects the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara and then going to the Aegean Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, all of these seas being connected together by this strait, well, here I was happily standing in front of it and feeling its cool breeze on my face. The water was of a beautiful clear turquoise colour where numerous boats of many sizes navigated in various directions.
On the other side of the Strait, the Asian continent stood quite welcoming. You see, the Bosphorus Strait forms part of the boundary between Europe and Asia. I was presently standing on the 5% of Turkey’s territory being in Europe, the rest of Turkey being in Asia.
Still looking straight ahead of me, the shores of the strait were heavily populated by beautiful luxurious homes....Istanbul, one of the greatest cities in the world, a metropolitan city in excess of 13 million people with history dating back to 5000 years ago! Quite an historic picturesque lovable city was what I was seeing!
Retrieving back our steps, we eventually landed at Pizza Hut....yes, of all restaurants! We had a nice cozy dinner and were lucky to get an English speaking waiter, one of the few ones working there. Otherwise, it would have been choose and point from just looking at the menu’s pictures!
By the time we made it back to the Conrad Hotel, twilight had settled in, but the evening was still very young and more was yet to come!