We have arrived in Istanbul, Turkey!!
The journey consisted of an overnight train from Athens to Thessaloniki and then a 10 hour coach from Thessaloniki to Istanbul, which wasn’t as bad as I had originally imagined it would be. Actually it was pretty damn good. It had free refreshments and snacks, each seat had a screen where you could watch movies or play games and free wifi! I really can’t complain.
When we got off the coach in Istanbul we were immediately engulfed in the crazy, busy atmosphere of the city. Traffic was awful. It chaotic, dangerous and the bus we took to the centre had no seat belts. I wasn’t sure we would make it! However to distract me from the roller coast ride, I chatted with an old Turkish couple in a mix of English and French. They were so friendly and helpful. They gave us lots of advice and were very interested in our lives. We also chatted with a Turkish/German couple who were lovely too, he explained that the buses are not for those with weak bowels. Luckily that was our first and last.
We still had to get the metro to our accommodation and on the platform, we must have looked like lost puppies. A guy came over and helped us buy our tickets and explain the way – it turns out he was from Gaza, studying for his masters in Istanbul. This city is full of diverse and friendly people.
On our second day we had a walk around the old city, it’s so beautiful but so loud and busy.
We visited the Basilica Cistern upon Ernie’s insistence. I asked him what it was as I hadn’t heard of it before. He simply said it was a large underground water storage place, I shrugged and said “OK, let’s go”.
Though Ernie was right, he completely undersold the cistern. His little joke I’m sure.
I wasn’t quite prepared for what was to appear as we bought our tickets and descended the steps into the darkness below. It was breath taking. I took a few pictures down there but it is really something you must experience in person.
Over 300 columns are down here and the cistern can hold up to 100,000 tonnes of water! There are also massive fish in the water as it is only a site of interest and unused.
Outside whilst deciding where to go next, we saw a kitten being rescued from a tree, which is something I thought only happened on TV, so I couldn’t help but laugh and watch the firemen as they rescued the poor kitty at which point the entire crowd burst into applause and whistles. It was quite the spectacle.
On our second day we headed to the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, both spectacular sights, inside and out!
It’s almost like something out of a fairy tale, it is so grand.
We succumbed to Turkish delight on the way to the Grand Bazzar for yarn (it has its own post!), which was delicious, and they have so much loose leaf tea it’s incredible but I can’t really buy any to try as we still have a long journey ahead of us.
That evening Ernie had booked us a little Turkish Surprise! It was to see the Sufi whirling ceremony in an old bath house. It wasn’t a show, we were allowed to watch their ceremony, mystical and fascinating. Its split into seven parts with Whirlers, singers and musicians. Here is a photo from google! I did feel like I was intruding whilst watching this ceremony, as though I opened a door that was supposed to be locked and I couldn’t help but wonder if, despite being a ceremony (no photos, no applause ect), it had lost a little of it’s mysticism due to being performed every night at 7pm.
However despite my conflicting feeling I enjoyed and felt privileged to have seen it.
For our final day in Istanbul we walked into the new city to see the Galta tower and the Istanbul Modern. We walked across the bridge, from where we could see Asia! The bridge was rammed with fishermen all up and down both side, but I just snapped this photo of this one guy, taking a breather.
I really enjoyed the Istanbul Modern despite the ridiculously right security and the constant watchful glare of the guards who roamed the gallery.
Here are a few of my favourite pieces from the exhibition.
And to finish off this absurdly long post, a view from Galata Tower.
Thanks for reading!