I am brimming with impressions of colourful Turkey.
After a full day in Turkey, I am now feeling the culture shock I missed when first arriving in Europe. Istanbul is overwhelming. The buildings, clothes and furnishings are brightly patterned; the streets are thick with scents of food and smoke and incense; and there are so many people, loud, expressive, engaged people.
After a rooftop breakfast this morning, I walked the edge of the Sea of Marmara into Istanbul’s port of Eminonu where I took a a cruise along the Bosphorus Straight. With Europe on my left and Asia on my right, the view of this inter-continental city was stunning: pastel unit buildings jammed along the ridges as far as the eye could see and mosque minarets piercing the skyline. The modest ferry plodded it’s way under epic bridges and between container ships, submarines and cruise liners, past many of Istanbul’s famous sights, to a village called Anoadolu Kavagi near the entrance to the Black Sea.
The village streets were flipping with fresh fish and excitable waiters as tourists flooded off the ferry. There was no tourist information and limited advise in my guidebook, so I started heading for some cliff-top ruins I spotted on the cruise in. It was two hours until the return ferry and I was keen for a hike.
Somehow, I became a leader for a large group of confused tourists, so in my ignorance and lust of adventure, willed them to come explore the ‘castle’ with me. The climb left my claves and lungs burning and my brow thick with sweat but after only 10 minutes, through cafes and stalls, we reached the summit. But it seems Turkey has a sense of humour that many of my fellow tourists did not share: a big red sign sitting at the summit read ‘castle closed for excavation’. I had to laugh out loud, hysterically, as I gasped for breath. I did eventually find the castle peak after taking an alternate route (and disturbing a happy pen of geese, ducks and chooks).
Returning to Istanbul by 5pm, I decided to explore the New Mosque and Spice Bizarre neat the port. The mosque interior was decorated with elaborate blue tiles that paved the eye’s way to grand arches and golden spires. Wow!
The Spice Bizarre was a hot and humid tangle of people, all pushing their way through the arched halls to sample colourful powders piled in dramatic rows.
And of course on my walk home I did get desperately lost. Like I should be blind lost. Like I can’t recognise letters or symbols (arrows) lost. But that is all part of the fun…even after 2 hours of disappointing turns and map-reviewing.
To end the day, I explored some of the markets closer to my hotel and was amused by the comments as I passed by carpet vendors: ‘Welcome Miss Lady, I think you want to know me’; ‘Hello you are looking for me’; ‘Where you from? France?’ (times five); ‘Oh you are so cute’ (which just made me feel like one of the kittens in the street). Then, I took myself out for a traditional chicken casserole (cheesy, tomatoey goodness), apple tea and chocolate and pistachio ice-cream. Mmmm!
I think I like Istanbul!