Trip Start Apr 29, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Turkey  ,
Sunday, September 10, 2006

The following advertisement is to appear in the Quokka:

Young people, preferably female, to be part of a Harem
no experience necessary
successful candidates will demonstrate outstanding bamboo fanning and grape feeding skills and a passion for hungry, hungry hippos.
Apply in person to:
Herr Doktor and Associates
Suite 1 Herr Doktor House
Perth Western Australia

Bamboo fanning yourself is for bums. In fact, any kind of fanning. And that goes for eating grapes as well. Indeed, this is my overwhelming impression having visited the Sultan's Palace in Istanbul. I'm thinking Sultans had a decent life - no? To be honest, Topkali Palace - the Sultan's Palace - is a bit average. Now, I'm pretty sure I've covered this territory before, but if I were sultan, my palace would be silly - massive; elaborate; luxurious; full of comfort-deluxe qualities. Probably a big screen TV, a stuart and sons full grand piano and air conditioning. Topkali Palace, on the other hand, is a bit repetitive, dull and generally not much to write home about. Clearly the sultan had better things to do than worry about the extravagance of his palace, or so the fact that he had 112 children would suggest. I always expect more from palaces - but maybe that's just me. If I were sultan...

There's a part of me - quite a significant part actually - that could quite get used to living like a king. After 6 months of backpacking - 3 months after some of the indulgences of China - Istanbul has been a reminder of that. Sure there's the whole harem thing - brilliant - but then there's also the Turkish baths. Turkish baths? Decent. Whoever thought that being completely mauled by an angry Turkish man could be so good? A surreal experience but, in hindsight, probably better than the Korean baths, only by virtue of the massage. Following the bath? Jelly. Absolutely.

The most amazing sight that I've visited in my last days in Istanbul has been the basilica cistern. Built in roman times, the rugged columns and smooth arches of the cistern reflect hauntingly off the glass-like water. An almost spooky sight, like being transported back into roman times, searching for some hidden treasure indiana-jones style. This impression is strengthened by the eerie medusa-head columns threatening to turn all that look their way into stone. Basilica cistern? Brilliant.

Do you know how hard it is to explain to a Turkish guy that speaks no English that you need a single, robust needle and some extra-strength thread to sew up your backpack? Near impossible. Even when you find yourself in the middle of what seems like the sewing capital of the world. An afternoon following over-crowded winding streets in a random area of Istanbul led me to a whole suburb of dudes carrying lengths of linen up steep alleys, shops selling buttons by the thousands and thread, thread and more thread. Despite the near impossibility of the task at hand, this was one of the most exhilarating afternoons in Istanbul, mixing it with the locals around endless shopping streets, bargaining without understanding the guy you're bargaining with - the chaos; the mayhem and the excitement of the mad shopping districts of Istanbul frequented by only locals. In their thousands. My backpack is now the sight of one of the most hideous sewing attempts that this world has ever seen.

So, Istanbul? Brilliant. Quality. Especially once you get out of the regions where everyone greets you with Konichiwa. A vibrant, exhilarating and culturally fascinating city with affordability in its favour. It there were a fountain in Istanbul to throw coins into to ensure returning, I would toss them by the handful.

The Top 5. Turkish Delight? Love it. Some people hate it - and I don't know what's wrong with them. I guess it's kinda like Tequila. But I find it hard to believe that those that despise Turkish Delight would continue to do so if they saw the variety on offer in Turkey, especially when it is mixed with some of the finest nuts and herbs going around. After significant tasting and consideration, here are my Top 5 Turkish delight types:

5. Coconut and Almond
4. Rose with Almond
3. Mint and Nut
2. Rose - the original.
1. Pistachio

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