Sunday, April 24, 2011

Istanbul Day 2

This morning I woke up to the sound of ezan, the call to prayer. I'm back in Turkey. I love this sound called five times a day, even the early morning one! I know I am somewhere totally different from home. I roll over to catch a little more sleep.

Last night, talking to the night receptionist in the hotel, we changed our plans for today.  Because the weather forecast for Monday and Tuesday was not good. I planned to take the ladies on the ordinary ferry to the last stop on the Bosphorus, to Anadolu Kavağı. We would see the Black Sea and have lunch by the waterside.However, our hotel receptionist recommended an organised tour, which included a trip as far as the second bridge across the Bosphorus, then a visit by bus to Pierre Loti . After lunch we would visit the Dolmabahce Palace. Normally the price for this is €65 but because there were four of us, and this is Turkey we could have all this for the special price of €50....lunch included.

The ladies preferred this option and so four places were booked, with a pick up time of 08.45.  An early start! But who could complain? A buffet breakfast, cereals, dried fruit, fresh fruit, meats, cheeses, tomatoes, eggs and oh heaven, sigara boreği, one of my favourites- deep fried cheese rolls. All thoughts of Julie waiting at home for me with her weighing scales slipped from my mind! Mum and Breda were already there. They had struggled a little to work out what was what, in particular, how to work the tea maker. But by the look of their plates there was no fear of them going hungry. And all of this looking out on the Sea of Marmara.

After breakfast we were picked up and driven to Eminonu  for our boat trip. We immediately headed up on deck to find seats. This was a little difficult. Everyone else had the same idea! Five minutes out, we had our choice of seats. The wind as too much for most. But we were travelling with two hardy women!
The journey took us from the Golden Horn to the Bosphorus. We travelled up the European side and back on the Asian side. It was much warmer coming back. The wind was no longer in our faces.
I will let the photos tell the story. Some of them were a little off kilter, but then so was I!

On our return we were picked up by bus and brought to Pier Loti Cemetery in Eyup for views of the city from the European side. This is a huge cemetery built on the side of a hill. The story is that the Prophet Mohammad's standard bearer, Abu Ayyub  was killed in battle during the first attempted Muslim conquest of Constantinople and at his own request was buried here.  Later, after the conquest of the city, his tomb was discovered and Sultan Mehmet ordered a tomb built on his resting place and a mosque built. From this time Eyup became a sacred place and everyone wanted to be buried here. The cemetery is huge and we are assured that to find a burial place in Istanbul is very difficult and very expensive. Cremation is forbidden in the Muslim religion, as is tattooing, body piercing, taking drugs or alcohol.  Muslims believe our bodies are given to us by Allah and we must not do anything to harm them.

We descended by cable car, a short  two minute ride.
 Next came the part of the tour they forgot to mention. I should have been prepared. A trip to the leather showrooms. Lambs to the slaughter. We were herded into the pen, sorry the showrooms, and shown to our seats. Hot apple tea was next. Then the models began to strut their stuff. They didn't have a hope. If you put three of the models together I still don't think you would have had a normal size, let alone my size. Now a few plus size models, looking good would have advanced their case a lot. I will have to admit, some of the coats were absolutely gorgeous, some made of a new product they have made, silk leather. The prices were in the thousands.. It was the export price. We are in Turkey, so yes, you guessed, for us a special price, half the displayed price. Unfortunately for them, I did not see anyone getting back on the bus carrying a shopping bag.

Lunch was fun. I practised my Turkish every chance I got. No point in going to lessons and then being shy. And it is so easy there. People are amazed and helpful, encouraging to the point of disbelief. But a little flattery goes a long way. Now how could I believe them when they tell me I speak better Turkish that they do. But it is fun! Our drinks waiter, a Kurd, immediately identifies with us, Irish, as we had difficulties in the past with being allowed to speak our own languages. He was amazed that I spoke Irish. I didn't tell him that now I try to speak Irish but it is Turkish that comes out. I use it more frequently. and so it is at the tip of  my tongue.
After lunch we visited the Dolmabahce (Filled Garden)Palace, so called because it was once a bay but they filled it in to make the garden. Here, we had to wait a little. It was Sunday, the locals were out in addition to the "yabanci" tourists.

We waited in a queue for our turn. We weren't the only ones waiting!

Only guided tours are allowed and unfortunately no photographs may be taken inside the palace.

Sultan Abdulmecid 1 had this palace built in the 1840's when Topkapi was no longer considered modern enough. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the Turkish Republic, used it as a Presidential Palace for his  visits to Istanbul and spent his last days here.  The Palace is more European in style and14 tonnes of gold leaf were used to decorate the ceilings. There is also many crystal chandeliers, the largest of which was a gift from Queen Victoria of England. It is made of Bohemian crystal, has 750 lamps and weighs 4.5 tonnes.

After this we drove over the First Bosphorus Bridge. It was the 4th longest suspension bridge when it was built in the seventies. It is now the sixteenth. It seemed strange when our tour guide said we will now cross into Asia and vice versa to Europe on the way back. The bus climbs Camlica hill to view Istanbul from the Asian side. More photo opportunities. But the ladies are beginning to tire and Sean, at my suggestion, takes them inside for a coffee to warm up while I take my last few snaps of the day.

I also head in for a coffee.  There is a collective sigh of  relief as I arrive. They have forgotten how to ask for coffee with "milk on the side" Usually Nescafe comes "sade" black or "sutlu" made on milk. I immediately swing into action and tell them the ladies want nescafe, sut ayri. Immediately, some of the other waiters turn to smile at me. I'm surprised in Istanbul. I thought they would be used to foreigners in the city speaking Turkish. It's a great conversation opener, am I living here, where am I learning turkish, oh your pronunciation is so good. It is so good for my ego! Head is now very swollen and my Mum relaxes in the reflected glory......."This is my daughter, isn't she wonderful, well until the next time she p***es me off anyway!"

Finally, we are back at our hotel. After the friendly greetings and enquiries for our day I send the ladies aloft in the lift while I climb the stairs. I have to pay for breakfast and lunch and the evening meal still to come. Thank God we were only on the third floor.

I sank onto the bed, took off my shoes and then my phone rang! It was Leyla, a friend who lives and works in Istanbul. She has come to meet me. Down the stairs, then back up to the roof terrace. She will kill me if I take the lift. Leyla is wonderful. A few years ago she was seriously ill. Now she is training to run her first marathon.She had run 20km that day, and I'm out of breathe climbing a few stairs.

I have brought her two Easter Eggs at her request. Last year I brought one as a gift, now I'm filling orders. I wonder is there an alternate career there for me somehow, one that would cause me to travel back and forth to Turkey on business:-)

She has also come to meet my Mum. She loves her indomitable spirit and reckoned this is where I get my craziness from. God help me!! We sit first and have a chat. she has just come back from a weeks holiday and is full of plans for her holiday home. She also tells me how far she has run. I am full of admiration. Whatever about walking I would never manage running. Later, I knock on Mum's door and find the two ladies in their dressing gowns. They have been relaxing and are about to get ready to go out. I introduce Leyla  and act as interpreter. Then she must go but so pleased to have met someone Mum's age and with Mum's spirit.

We also head out for a meal. Something light will do as we ate a good lunch. Was that only a few hours ago? It seems like ages. We have seen and done so much. After all, today we have been to Asia and back twice!

As usual, there is someone outside the restaurants, to call us in. I have decided to introduce the ladies to Pide. Turkish pizza, thin based and shaped like a boat. There are various toppings, including my favourite, kiymali, which is finely minced meat, onions peppers, tomatoes parsley, salt and pepper.
We stopped outside one restaurant and asked them did they serve pide, Maalasef, only pizza. Not the same!!! The guy tried to entice us in, his food is very tasty. It would want to have been I saw his prices.

Having Turkish is great, I could use Mum as an excuse without her knowing what I was saying. On this occasion I declined their invitation to done with the explanation that my mum was old and didn't want to eat much because it was after eight. I told him I as looking for  pide salonu. He took me to one side and told me where to find Karadeniz  Pide Salonu. It was a "halk restoran" a restaurant for local people and not too dear.

Once again, my Turkish was greeted with smiles, hopefully with me not at me:-) We were seated and proceeded to have a lovely meal, followed by Baklava (I'm going to have to get a photo of Julie and her scales, to stay out of mischief) On leaving the owner kissed my hand, a token of respect for those older than you,( he is definitely older than me) and then he wrapped himself around Mum.
Her friendliness and willingness to talk to everyone, makes her harder to mind that an 18 year old Barbie lookalike. Maybe it is the white hair.

Home, back up the stairs again. Is that the equivalent of walking off a single piece of baklava?  Ah, who cares? I'm on holiday. Off to bed. It was a long day. Is it only yesterday we left Ireland?


  1. Turkey is rightly said the poor brother of Europe

  2. In what sense? Turkey has a fast growing economy. It is among the world's leading producers of agricultural products, textiles, motor vehicles etc. It has the 16th largest GDP in the world. It is a founding member of the OCED. Because of separation of mosque and state it is uniquely poised to arbitrate in political differences in its neighbouring countries.
    In addition to this it has a rich and varied cultural heritage, and the people are warm and welcoming. As with any emerging economy, the country faces many challenges, but I don't agree it is the poor brother of Europe. If we in Ireland had the public transport system available in Turkey, I would never use my car!

  3. It is an amazing city. For me, even the sheer size of it is mind blowing. It covers over 5000 sq hectares and takes 4 1/2 hours to get from one side of it to the other. Population is almost 4 times that of Ireland.

  4. What a lovely stay you had !
    I was in Istambul in June 2007 and I loved the city so much, that's why this time I will stay there for 10 days together with a girlfriend. I had made a roundtrip through the big cities and we stopped in Istambul for 1 night but two days was not enough. I don't know what happened to my post about my second trip to Turkey, on my travel blog only the trip of 2006 is there. Really annoying ! I had never noticed before.
    Thanks for the link !
    Did you learn Turkish for some reason or just for fun ?

  5. @Gattina I will be waiting for your diary of your upcoming trip. I love to hear other peoples impressions. We have a holiday home on the Bodrum peninsula. Turkish is not necessary as any people speak english, but I think for respect, understanding culture and most of all to be able to chat to all my neighbours I decided to learn the language.


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