Saturday, March 26, 2011

Finally, a post about Turkey!

Well, finally managed to get a post written about Turkey.
I am actually in London now!
I could not post on blogger about our time in Istanbul as there was a blogger ban in Turkey.
Hopefully this will be a short term problem, I know a lot of people in Turkey with blogs were very upset about it.
Anyway on to Istanbul!
We had a very interesting time in Istanbul. Our hotel, the Ayasofya was a 2 story weatherboard building in the old part of town. We were actually located in an apartment further up the hill owned by the hotel which was great as we had a wonderful view of the surrounding area, including some of the little hotels in the area, mosques and a view over to the Sea of Marmara.
Right next to our apartment window was the Turkish equivalent of the Colosseum, the hippodrome wall, quite deteriorated and sometimes a bit of graffiti on it, but Roman and ancient it was!
The streets were old and cobblestoned and hilly, so once again I was thankful for my trusty
hiking boots.
We visited the Blue Mosque, a very large mosque with beautiful Iznik tiles inside. We took off our shoes and I covered my head with a scarf as that is the traditional religious requirement of entry.
There is one very large dome and multiple smaller domes around it and 4 minarets.
The carpet is red with aqua tulips and carnations, two traditional design elements from the Ottoman Empire.
We also went to see the Topkapi Palace, once the centre of government and the Sultan's palace.
I found the Harem area intriguing, lots of rooms for favoured concubines and their slaves, reception rooms, rooms for eunechs. I think there are over 300 rooms in the whole palace from memory.
All the rooms in the harem were large and very tall, all covered with Iznik tiles, predominantly in aqua and blue colors. All of the tiles were intricate in design, most as strong in color as when they were made.
Some rooms had tall intricate brazier type heaters and many had washing basins.
We also went to the spice bazaar, in the first photo you can see some unusual dried spices, the darker ones, I believe are dried eggplants.
We also caught a ferry across the Bosphorous to the Asian side just to say we had done that!
We tried different foods including fresh pomegranate juice ( see photo above) spiced milk drinks from a street vendor that sold it from a wonderful brass container, lovely creamy yoghurt, kebabs and quite a number of different and tasty breads. Oh of course, Turkish delight and Halva ( a desert made from pulverized sesame seeds)
Each night we wandered around finding a different restaurant, browsing around the myriad streets in our district and beyond.
Traffic in Istanbul is quite busy, the streets are narrow where we were,however,we found the drivers courteous and helpful to each other at all times. There was a lot of reversing to let other cars past etc, all with no bad temper or road rage! Traffic lights were few and far between, pedestrians would wander a lot of the time in the centre of the road and just move in time when a vehicle approached; certainly a very different way of doing things, but it all seemed to work quite well!
Anyway,time to finish now, I am in London now and have got to get a few posts done here before we head off to Hong Kong in a few days time,

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