The World is an amazing place .... go and be in it

Thursday, 8 May 2014

So cold, even the dummies are feeling it...

Come rain, hail or shine, we were going to do a cruise of the Bosphorous. That it would all come on one day was neither here nor there, It was our last full day in Istanbul and I felt as if I’d hardly seen any on the ‘must see’ sights, we hadn’t been to the Topkapi Palace, we hadn’t gone up Galatla Tower, we hadn’t seen the magnificent Süleymaniye mosque, nor the Dolmabahce Palace with its crystal baby grand and chair and as for visiting a Hamam, I hang my head in shame and think, “How can I even say I’ve visited Istanbul”. I thought having six full days to dive in to this enormous city would be enough but I’ve barely scratched the surface. So we were determine not to miss a full cruise up and down the most important thoroughfare of Turkey.
Rising early to catch the ferry at Eminonu the sun was belting down and scathingly hot. We were going to be in for a brilliant day, perfect to click away whilst bobbing along the silver waters that flow between the Black Sea and the Maramara. The ferry terminal was packed and nobody was going to take their place in line, seats on the ferry were at a premium and everyone wanted to score a good one with the best views. I made comment about the free-for-all to M when a couple blended into my space and joined me at the hip. The chap heard me, laughed and said in a distinctive aussie drawl “Yep we’ve got the jump move down pact”. As the ‘where ya froms’ were exchanged we were pushed forwarded onto the ferry and found ourselves manoeuvred into the inner sanctum. The outside decks were already full, but at least we found seats. As the cruise progressed, we found we would have to form a tag team to ensure we kept said seats as move one butt-cheek off the board saw another butt swiftly take your place.
The Ferry steamed across the Golden Horn, past the luxury cruise ship terminal, of which there were three massive cruise ships (one with a ‘clear view’ enclosed water slide that came way out over the ships side – looked pretty impressive and I’m sure gave plenty of heart stopping moments!) and up past the stunning Dolmabahçe Palace with its impressive façade and beautiful grounds, along with a row of beautiful white and cream mansions lining the rivers edge. M and I took turns popping out to the open deck to get photos until M decided to not come back from one of his ‘turns’ which left me to chat with our new found aussie mates and watch the Asian side of Istanbul from the windows. This turned out to be the better deal for me as the weather suddenly turned with storm clouds threatening and a cold wind billowing in from the Bosphorous. The trip up the Bosphorous takes one and half hours but with so many sights to see the time disappears very quickly.
As the ferry slips under the Bosphorus Bridge, which is a magnificent structure in itself, a beautiful old timber ottoman house comes into to view. Of mansion portions, it is currently being renovated and covered in scaffolding, but this doesn’t hide it’s intricate features and I’m particularly taken with the carved timber braiding and barley twist scrolls that front the eaves.
A pair of wings attached to what looks like a gargoyle face hug a shield with a perfect star above. With so many stunning homes and buildings on the Bosphorus, I have trouble working out from the rough guide map we get at the terminal, which home it is. Next door to it, is a not so stunning building, a drab grey breezeblock square. The contrast between elegance and practical, yesteryear and modern is extreme and very obvious, even despite the major renovations.
Another two buildings that scream opposites to me is a beautiful little mosque with Victorian era features and a the massive steel and glass tower block that looks like a recent addition to the landscape. It speaks volumes for what Istanbul stands for, a city on the move, a city of contrasts and a city of unity. The ferry dips under another great bridge and docks at Kanlica, a sweet little ‘village’ on the Asian side. Quaint leisure launches with polished hulls and painted cabins bob in a row near the equally quaint timber wharf of Kanlica and as the bowman throws the rope to steady the ferry, a chap carrying a basket of Kanlica’s famous yoghurt comes aboard.
I buy a tub and savour the thick creamy texture, so rich and deliciously sweet. We sail on, zig zaging across the Bosphorous, and arrive at the second last ferry stop, Rumeli Kavagi, and M and I debate whether we should alight here. It doesn’t look very inviting despite what the guide book says. A lot of the buildings look worn and in need to desperate repairs and the wharf is littered with old fishing vessels. Along with our new ‘best mates’ we join the hoards and disembark at the end of the line, Anadolu Kavagi. I’m glad we do, as it’s lovely and I go into high tourist clicking mode. Unfortunately for the other couple their camera has died but as they have the same SD card as us we lend them one of ours. Also unfortunately for them, M forgets to tell them the camera is set to video and they spend the next three hours taking three second videos of each other.
The wharf area is full of cafes and fish BBQ’s, along with spruikers and souvenir sellers, but once we trundle past these, we find the village filled with beautiful gardens, brightly painted homes and rambling laneways. At the junction of two lanes is a real life ‘Geppetto’ and his wood carving studio, only it’s not wood he making adorable long nosed puppets from, it’s gourds. M goes into overdrive with the bad puns “Gourd look at that one” and “How Gourdegous is that?” the old craftsman joins in and together they have a whale of time joking around together. I shake my head; “Dad jokes” are obviously a universal gene in all men. I’m keen to purchase one of the whimsical ‘Pinocchio’s’ for our little Peanut, but am disappointed to discover the gourds are still full of seeds. They wouldn’t be allowed into Australia. M’s only concern was whether the nose would travel intact. They are kinda loooooong!
High above the village is a medieval castle, Anadolu Kavagi Kalesi and despite being in a crumbling condition, it is still quite impressive. Windswept and rugged, it grips the steep bluffs facing the Black Sea and still has attached to its walls intricately carved Greek inscriptions and the emblem of the Palealogus family who ruled till the end of the Byzantine era. Inside there is evidence of a recent ‘dig’ site and we are offered a ‘personal tour’ by the chap manning the gate. M however is more interested in the digging that happening at the very mouth of the Bosphorous – two large structures either side of the opening indicate a huge bridge is being built, a bypass of Istanbul of gigantic proportions.
A fierce wind is blowing in from the Black Sea, it’s absolutely freezing and I’m kicking myself for unpacking my woollies and thermals before I left home, and then leaving my only warm coat back in the guesthouse today. M also has left his one and only jumper (light weight at that) behind. He’s starting to get a sniffle. Not only that, but it’s starting to rain on us. Ice. For a few moments’ fine droplets of ice that disappears upon hitting the skin, sprinkle us. We are now freezing There’s only forty minutes left before the ferry returns to take us back and we haven’t even tried the fish grills this village is famous for.
As we head back to the village I stop and watch a glass blower create the iridescent ‘evil eye’ drop that I’m seeing everywhere, even in the roadways. M hurrys me along. . In the village we grab a plate of calamari rings and sprite and sprint for the ferry. The trip back is bitterly cold and very miserable but the sights are still fascinating. As soon as we arrive at Eminonu we head towards the Grand Bazaar area in search of jumpers, but I don’t want to buy in the Bazaar, we’ve been told we should try the ‘locals’ clothing shops in the side streets behind the bazaar.
We find the area and see shop after shop, which remind me of the factory outlet shops, selling clothes of all sorts. But no plain, ordinary, everyday jumpers. The jumpers I find are sequined or bowed or over-the-top fruffy. Others are absolutely gorgeous but not suitable for wearing as a sightseer in Istanbul. I soon forget my jumper search when I notice the Mannequins appear to be just as cold as me…. if not more so! And of course M can’t keep the quips to himself. They are so life-like, we even come across the ultimate ‘realistic’ size ‘chap’.
Giving up we head to the Bazaar and find that no-one there wants to sell me a plain ordinary jumper either. It’s all leather and suede, and very nice too - but for the cost of a small farm. I finally settle for the one fleecy line jacket I can find – neon pink. There is no way anyone will miss seeing me coming. M on the other hand picks himself up a very fashionable brown jacket with a waterproofing coating. He’s chuffed, and lets me know about it by teasing me every minute he can get about the neon beacon glow I’m now emitting.
Leaving the bazaar area we pass Beyazit Square where a second-hand market is being set up; everything from well worn shoes… on even one shoe… to old phones, books, clothes and radio sets that I haven’t seen since I was a child are being sold – I even have a quick look here to see if I can find a fleecy jacket that's not so pink (none), and head over to the Roman Aqueduct we’d seen from the Golden Horn ferry trip we’d taken earlier.
The Aqueduct of Valens is massive and has a major six-lane thoroughfare running under it. Cars, busses and trucks thundered through it whilst tourists and daredevils ambled across it’s top and click away at the city skyline. I want to go up on top too but when I see that I’m suppose to rock-climb my way up to it, finding foot and hand holds on the ancient stone, then scramble over a barred gate to the top which doesn’t have any fencing or rail to stop one from toppling off the top, I feel my inner nanny-no-no persona pop up and decided to give it a miss. It’s our last night in Istanbul and I feel a sadness to be leaving her. She has shaken me to the core and shown me a friendship I’ve never experienced anywhere else before. The welcoming bestowed upon us has been overwhelming. As the late hours approach M and I wander up to the roof terrace for one last look of the Sultan Ahmet Mosque in its full glory. The last prayer call of the evening rings out, it echoes to the city, another call from another mosque rings out, then another, then another. A ripple effect bounces through the night air. Albatrosses and gulls circle the night sky, silhouetted against the mosques lights, shining silver in the black sky. The calls continue bouncing over each other. It’s the most beautiful unison ripple we’ve ever heard. Thank you Istanbul, for your all encompassing embrace.

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