Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul was Constantinople
Now it’s Istanbul, not Constantinople
Been a long time gone, Constantinople
Why did Constantinople get the works?
That’s nobody’s business but the Turks

Does anyone remember this song, or is it just me? Sarah thinks I am making it up.

Anyway, it didn’t start well in Constantinople Istanbul. A week earlier we had cancelled one extra day as we were stuck in Kos due to bad weather. However, when we arrived, the owner of Cheers Midtown Hostel said we still had to pay for the extra night. After an hour long argument, we won. Us-1 Jerk-0. We dropped our clothes off to a laundry and wandered across Galata Bruke to check out the Spice Bazaar. We were told it was open until 8 or 9pm, but today, it was shut at 6pm. From what we could see, only 10% of the shops actullay sold some form of spice or tea or Turkish Delights, while rest only sold tacky souvenirs. All the other sites were closed so we wandered back along the bottom section of the bridge lined with restaurants where we grabbed a quick beer. A screen was rolled up as we took our first sip to reveal a spectacular view of the sun setting over the Golden Horn. Maybe that’s how it got its name?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur walk back to the hostel was up a hill, so by the time we arrived back, we had worked up a bit of hunger. We were staying in the Beyoglu district which, just like us, was hip and happening. We had spotted a small restaurant earlier in the day called Solera on the same street as our hostel that had some familier and enticing words on the wall – ‘Wine Bar’. So we had to go. We shared a delicious meal and an even better bottle of Turkish Red.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Red & Brown Breakfast. When fruit just isn’t enough!

Day two and we were going to be proper tourists. If we had a bum bag, it would have been clicked on. But we didn’t. So, instead we just went and visited all the mian sites of Istanbul. First up we Topkapi Palace, the former home of the Sultans of the Ottoman Empire. It is quite a place, but we guess you would need a fare amount of space with all those wives and concubines… The extra money paid to get into the Harem was worth it, but once all the renovations are completed and the scaffolding is removed, it would be even more spectactular. From there we walked to along to Hagia Sofia. It is now a museum but, it isn’t often you enter a mosque to find images of Jesus, so all in all it was quite cool. It was nearing 1pm on a Friday, which, if you ever read a guide book, it would say, avoid going to the Blue Mosque. The guide book remained un-read so as we walked up at 1pm, on a Friday and during Ramadan, we were politely refused entry. That called for only one thing… Kebab!

We wandered through the back streets past all the restaurant hawkers biding for our attention when we spotted a restaurant simply called Barbeque. The owner sat in in his chair having a smoke. He looked at us casually and said “There’s a seat, if you want it, cool, if you don’t, no worries” Baffled by his amazing sales skills, we sat down. A couple of beers and a deliciously barbequed chicken kebab later, (maybe that’s how it got its name) we were content. From there we wandered towards the Grand Bazaar to investigate the Turkish rugs. Or as they call them in Turkey – rugs.

One shop on the way had a nice Kilim rug in the window to which we enquired about. The price was mentioned and our faces went whiter than usual and we scurried away. Nope – we would never buy a rug for that much. We still went to the bazaar to see what we could find and we were amazed at how beautiful the massive building is. Amongst the beauty were sections for leather, pottery, and glass and of course, rugs. We peered in and out of various stores until we decided just to go into one. The owner started throwing rug after rug on the floor.

“You Like?”

“No”

“You Like?”

“No”

“You Like?”

“No”

“You Like?”

“No”

This went on for a while until eventually we spotted one that was okay. He told us the price and our reply was a laugh and a comment about it being worth a quarter of the original price. As we started to leave the price went down until he reached what we had mentioned but the whole time, we kept saying it was worth that but we were not buying it. As we walked out the door, he cracked the biggest man tantrum that we have ever witnessed and said we did not know how to do business and we were rude. We were definitely ruder with our final words as we left the shop and wandered back through the bazaar. As we walked past Recep Karaduman, we saw a Kilim hanging on the wall and at the same time looked at each other with a look to say That One!. We walked in and asked the price. Before starting our new friend, Hikmet, avoided the Usual Bullshit as he called it and just said, “Prices are on the rugs and there is no haggling.” He told us the price of our rug and we sighed. It was more than the first one we had seen. It was a no go, but we chatted to him for a while. He asked us to join him for some tea, Oregano, not the bullshit Apple, and he spoke about different rugs they sell and that they only choose handmade ones they like rather than manufactured ones. He then got excited and started showing us his favourites and why he liked them, all even more expensive than the one we liked. He said he would save us money by not selling us a rug and we should just buy some pottery which is cheaper.

We parted ways and headed back to see the Blue Mosque. Should have read that guide book, as it had just shut for prayer again. Would we ever see the inside of this building? We sighed, looked at eacher and laughed. We both knew what each other was thinking? Lets go buy a rug! As we walked back into Recep Karaduman, Hikmet looked at us puzzled and asked what we were doing back. We called him a liar for saying he would save us money and that we came back to blow our budget. He ordered more tea and said he would give us 10% off if we wanted it as Sarah worked for an artist. He laid it on the floor and said look at it for ten minutes and he will be outside while we decided if we wanted it or not. As he walked out, we had already decided. So when he came back we said we would take it. So he said, “Okay 15% off.” Sweet! Before it was packed, the other ownwer found out which one we bought and got really excited and even wanted our photo with it. We now had a Turkish Kilim rug and an extra 5kg to my backpack. Whoops! We wandered back home justifying the spend with things like “Well we didn’t get each other a 1 year anniversary present!” and “Who cares if technically we don’t have a home for 12 months, we still have a rug!” We celebrated our purchase back at Solera with a delicious pasta and two one bottle of red.

Day three and we had one goal. Get inside the Blue Mosque. We read the guide book and checked the times online. We set our watches and made the arduous trek back into the old town. We arrived and it was open. The only problem, the line ran the entire way around the courtyard. Not to worry, we heard it moved quickly. By the time we made it the last stretch we were told it was shutting in 5 minutes. By the look of the distance remaining we had about 10 minutes worth of waiting. Again, will we ever get in this building? As the time ticked down, the plied us in at once to make the cut off and we finally walked in. It was big. It was nice. There were blue elements. (Maybe thats how it got its name) But to be perfectly honest… we got more out of sitting and chatting with Hikmet in the carpet shop than particularly anything else in Istanbul.

We had two more stops before we got the metro to the Airport. First was at a restaurant where amongst an array of dishes, there was really only one choice for us – A Turkish Pizza. And two, we stopped in the Spice Bazaar to spend the last of our Lira on Turkish delights.

Here it goes. From what we tried, Bosnia does a better Turkish delight than Turkey. Controversial

Stage One of the World Trip was complete. We said goodbye to Europe (and a little bit of Asia) on our flight to Cairo.

One thought on “Istanbul, Turkey

  1. Pingback: Beijing, China | Paper Planes & Rickety Trains

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