Inspirational Istanbul

Trip Start Aug 12, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Mavi Onur Guesthouse

Flag of Turkey  ,
Sunday, August 16, 2009

Wow, what an incredible city! We stayed just around the corner from the Blue Mosque and right from the start something that has really stood out is how friendly everyone is!

Before we tell you more, for those who entered the guess the weight of the baggage competition, Tania's backpack came in at 15.7 kilos and Steve's at 13.7. The most annoying thing is that Tania guessed closest in both cases, sorry all.

What quickly became apparent is that crossing the road in Istanbul is rather like Strictly Come Dancing as one pirouettes between rapidly approaching trucks, insane cab drivers, ballistic bus drivers and mopeds that make Neapolitan kids look like utter wimps....

Away from the traffic, the sounds and scents of the city are incredible. The call to prayer intermingling with the clacking of dice as seemingly thousands of people of all ages compete intensely over Backgammon boards. On our first night, Ilker, our guesthouse manager gave us an express coaching session in what can only be described as the strongest religion of all, Tavla aka Backgammon and now we are addicted too.

Cay/Tea is also a national obsession. Even our friend Clare who drinks more tea than anyone else we know would not be able to compete at this level.

Sadly, Turks also appear to simply adore sweetcorn and there are stalls everywhere selling corn on the cob. I say sadly because Steve is allergic to the stuff and even the smell of it sends him loopy. That said, the kebabs are monumental, so much so that they will get there own entry at a later date.

However, the winning prize for Istanbul cuisine goes to the entrepreneurs down by the Galata bridge who sell marvellous fish sandwiches. Half a baguette stuffed with mackerel fillets and salad, all fresh and yours for four lira, about 1.60. The guys in Padstow are missing a trick.

Having done the usual sites, Blue Mosque, Aya Sofia (incredible 1,400 year old mosque), a cruise down the Bosphorous and so on, it was time to enter the Bazaars. The good news is that we managed to escape without buying any carpets, no mean feat. The confusion that enabled us to achieve this was that everyone insisted on trying to speak to us in Spanish so we kept figuring they were talking to other people. Eventually someone asked Steve if he was from Uruguay and we realised, if you wear a tee-shirt with Uruguay plastered all over it, they naturally assume you are a Spanish speaker. He's now desperately trying to find a tee-shirt from Burkina Faso.

Best question so far: "How can I help you spend your money?"

Next stop, the Black Sea.....
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