Week 30 – Our last destination – Turkey

  • After a brilliant run of weather during our gap year we finally ran out of luck on Saturday and it was cold and raining in Marbella. I reviewed matters for our return to the “normal world”, while Adrienne sat in bed trying to work out what she could leave behind to make room for handbags and shoes ….

    These are just the new shoes – Can I pack my clothes in your suitcase??
  • On Sunday we really came to the conclusion that our time away was done – Adrienne ran out of vegemite …. there could be no greater sign!

    Tourists are gone, pop-up restaurants are gone, sun is gone, time for us to be gone
  • We had a few walks and managed to get wet, but on Tuesday we packed up our lovely house in Benehavis and headed for our last stop in Turkey.
  • The flight over to Istanbul on Turkish Air went without a hitch, (new aeroplane, excellent service), but then we got to Immigration at Istanbul airport – what a circus – the queue must have been 1.5 km long, and took 1.5 hours in a hot, confined space. But with the exception of four chaps from India who made the mistake of trying to push in front of Adrienne, (and were chastised severely and sent packing), most folks were well humoured and stoic.
We became BFF’s with other people in the queue – I’m expecting Christmas cards
  • The hotel is right in the heart of all the major sights – the Blue Mosque is right outside the restaurant window, spectacular viewing.
  • Wednesday morning we headed straight up the hill for the Hagia Sophia Cathedral / Mosque, (and now museum), and straight into the clutches of Sonny, (our new BFF and would be tour guide and carpet seller). We were ushered straight past the ticket queue, (Sonny knows people), and into the largest free-standing dome in the world, (prior to St. Paul’s cathedral in London). It was built by the roman emperor Justinian of solid stone sourced from all around the Mediterranean, (no expense spared),  and opened in 537 AD as a cathedral, having taken only 5 years to build. It was refurbished as a mosque in 1453 AD by Fatih Sultan Mehmedand, (having conquered this part of the Ottoman Empire), but still has many Christian mosaics. It is staggeringly huge and beautiful – a wonder of the world still.

    The Hagia Sophia from the massive square between it and the Blue Mosque
Adrienne and Grant in Hagia Sophia
The scaffolding is to facilitate preservation and restoration works – there is work going on everywhere in Istanbul – most impressed
Carafe carved from a single piece of marble, (I almost got the Chinese tourist out of the frame, but she is a good measure of the size)
Christian mosaics in a Muslim mosque – exquisite and so thankful the transformation from cathedral to mosque did not result in total destruction of the past
This photo really shows the enormity of the Hagia Sophia – all under one stone dome
  • But Sonny was on a mission – he had carpets to sell, so we were guided to his shop with promises of “best prices in Istanbul”. Try about 4 times what we would pay in Sydney, so after much negotiation and apple tea Adrienne settled on a silk scarf, (probably still $20 too much), and we headed to the nearest cafe for a few wines and a regroup. It is probably worth noting here that the shop and restaurant touts are ubiquitous – you cannot move 10 metres without at least one harassing you and wanting to be your new friend. Adrienne is now afraid to even stop and look, and will leave Turkey with almost no new acquisitions!! What riches are they loosing by being so in your face??
  • We then headed for the Topkapi Palace complex, (right next to Hagia Sophia). In the 15th century, it served as the main residence and administrative headquarters of the Ottoman sultans. It is a huge complex, the kitchens had to feed about 5000 people who lived in the complex, so they were impressive in their own right.
    Topkapi Palace front entrance
    I could fit in these pots – cooking on an industrial scale
    Adrienne in front of one of the many museums in the complex
    The pain and suffering this room must have seen ….
    Offset perhaps by the pleasures of this place nearby
    The Harem was a large complex on it’s own. This is the main room where the Queen held court – sumptuously decorated

    Typical in every room – large fire places and tiles from floor to domed ceilings
  • After these two complexes we were in need of food and drink, so retired to one of the dozens of restaurants on our little street.
Duvares was so good we went back 4 nights running – we even had our “own table” and no harassment!
  • Thursday was cold and wet, but there were things to see, and places to go, so we headed for the Blue Mosque, and straight into Sonny …. but we extracted ourselves with a few white lies and instead headed for the Basilica Cistern – a huge underground Roman water source held up with 336 marble columns covering 9,800 sq. metres, made even more famous in the James Bond movie “Skyfall”. This cistern held over 100,000 tonnes of water when full – it is staggering to think it was built in the 6th Century, but it was noted that many hundreds of workers lost their lives during the construction.
For all you James Bond fans
  • We then headed back to the Blue Mosque, (keeping an eye out for Sonny) – one of the largest mosques on earth, capable of holding 10,000 people, and called “Blue” due to the colour of most of the tiles on the inside. Outside it is a dull grey!
The courtyard in the Blue Mosque
Inside the Blue Mosque. It was packed so don’t quite know how I got a photo with so few people.
I got the head spins from looking up in these buildings, but what can you do!!
  • But the day was not done – next stop The Grand Bazaar – and I have to say “Why did we do that?”. It is the largest covered bazaar in the world with over 4000 shops peddling just about everything from gold to spices to leather goods to slaves. It was chaotic and has something like 300,000 visitors every day – it took us about 10 minutes of having every shopkeeper’s tout harass us to want out. Nothing has a price on it – everything is a haggle – we were not buying anything here.
Not for the fainthearted
The guard standing in the doorway with an Uzi sub-machine gun said this was real gold. I was not about to dwell!!
  • We headed back to Duvares for dinner – and a very nice Turkish red wine. Friday I headed for Gallipoli, but that is a blog on it’s own.



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