Walking the streets of an ancient city.
26.04.2013 - 26.04.2013 25 °C
After a restless sleep (overtired I think) in a brilliantly comfortable bed, we had breakfast on the 7th Level of our hotel - with a beautiful view across the Bosphorus River. Spectacular - if a little hazy. The pollution in Istanbul is quite evident - but to be honest it's part and parcel of this amazing city. We love Istanbul!
After some confusion we were finally advised where we had to meet our guide for a private walking tour. We took a taxi to Taksim Square and waited outside the Marmaris Hotel. A lovely lady called Sevilay (pronounced Sivili) introduced herself and we started off walking the streets of Istanbul with Sevilay educating us along the way. The area that we were in is known as the residential area for expatriots or non Turkish people. We met one of the male teachers at a girls highschool and were allowed in to the entry hall. This is in a building that we would normally have walked right by and not even noticed. This guy reminded me of Mandy Patinkin (Sol from Homeland). He was happy to provide some information on the history of the school. There was a statue in the entry of the benefactor of the school - his funds are still providing assistance over 100 years later.
We also visited several churches and met some very polite and informative gentlemen. A Greek Orthodox Church (Church of the Panagia), an Armenian Orthordox Church and a Latin Catholic Church. It was here that I lit a candle for my wonderful Dad - on the second anniversary of his passing.
Sevilay took us through a little market area, an area badly damaged by an earthquake back in the 90's, an Arts area (live theatre) where thespians and all the famous people hang out, a popular bar area that sits on either side of a steep set of steps, ancient arcades that we would not normally have found on our own. It was great to mix in with the local people just going about their business. There are cats and dogs everywhere! The three of us sat at a little cafe on tiny stools and had one of the local favourite drinks of the Turkish people. Tea is more popular than coffee in Istanbul - black tea of different flavours served in a small glass with perhaps a lump of sugar. Sevilay left us at the foot of the Galata Tower. This tower was built by the Genoese and is 1500 years old. It can be easily seen above the buildings of central Istanbul. We went to the top of the tower with many other tourists from around the globe and were presented with a fantastic 360 degree view of Istanbul. I counted 12 mosques in the distance - across the river in the Sultan Ahmet area. What a sight! The weather is stunning at the moment. We regularly hear the Call to Prayer - and heard it once again whilst we were looking out over the rooftops of Istanbul. I find this sound to be intriguing and peaceful - and hearing it in this special place provided me with a moment that I hope I never forget.
Once we were back on the ground we had some lunch at a little cafe in one of the little streets. A mushroom and cheese pide with salad - really nice and cheap as chips. The shop owners that we've come across so far have been really friendly - and usually with a good sense of humour.
There is basically no financial assistance from the government for the citizens of Turkey, so if you want to survive you need to work. We've not noticed many young people hanging around doing nothing.
After a visit to the Qatar Airways office to make a small change to our return flights to Perth - we walked all the way back to our hotel. We had dinner in the hotel's restaurant with a lovely evening view across the river.