14. Apr, 2016


SUNDAY 26-4-15

I awoke to the sound of rain on the roof at about 07:00, climbed out of bed and put the boiler on.

There's that song called something like 'New York, New York' by Frank Sinatra, in it there's a line about 'the city that never sleeps'. Well I think Istanbul must be twinned with New York because nobody sleeps much here either. It's not of their choosing, it's just so bl**dy noisy you don't get much chance. Parked-cum-camping here there's been a gap between the end of football playing at about 02:30, yup, 02:30, they must have several Leagues of 7-A-Side here, like the 'Rise-Early-And-Play-Before-Breakfast League,  the 'Have-Breakfast-Then-Play-On-The-Way-To-Work' League, the 'Have-A-Lie-In-Then-Have-Breakfast-Then-Watch-Jeremy-Kyle-Before-Playing' League, then the evening and night time leagues. All that finishes about 02:30 before 'Call to Prayers' starts wailing at about 05:10.

This morning we had very, very, loud amplified music and voices, and after we got up (no point in trying to lie in) we noticed lots of people about 300 yards away making their way to the nearby public park. Clearly there was something going on. We scrubbed up and just before setting out for the Galata Bridge area for a tour boat ride along the Bosphorus Strait, thousands of runners came past the campsite. It was some kind of marathon or half marathon, or maybe just a race to the newsagents for their Sunday paper.

Fortunately it had stopped raining before we made our way to the tube station and were soon at the harbour area, arriving about 09:45. On the way to the harbour we saw the road blocked off and all the runners passing by.

We were given the name of the tour boat company we should use and made our way to their pier. Two tickets for 5 Euros, to the gate, tickets checked and onboard we went. This was about 09:55. Our boat tour was to be up the Bosphorus Strait to the entrance to the Black Sea, three hours to look around and then the trip back arriving back here at 15:00. Sailing time was to be 10:30. So when the boat pulled out at 10:00 on the dot we guessed something was wrong -yup we were on the wrong boat, with the wrong ticket. Never mind, instead we had a one hour trip up the Strait before turning round and coming back again. Fortunately the sun finally came out whilst cruising, giving us a rare opportunity to take pictures in bright sunshine.  It was a little disappointing that we wouldn't be eating Rosina's picnic lunch at the Black Sea. Never mind, I have to be honest I was finding it all a bit boring and a whole day of it would have been torturous, although to have reached the Black Sea would have been nice.

On our return we decided to cross the Galata Bridge and have our lunch over on the other side of the river where we could sit munching away and watch the world go by. From there we decided to take a walk to the Galata Tower from which we should get good views of the city and a photo opportunity. Up through the narrow backstreets we climbed until we finally found it, as had hundreds before us. The Chef wasn't going up as she's already done it, and having seen the length of the queue neither was I. She then remarked how amazed she was at how much things had changed since her last visit. Thirty years ago she just walked up to the attractions and walked in, no queues, no hassle (ok don't rub it in). Back down the hill we went.

The city was heaving with people, mainly locals, young courting couples, parents with young children, groups of friends. It was really nice to see everyone enjoying themselves; it was almost as if the locals reclaimed their city back from the tourists at the weekends. Since we were in the area The Chef fancied a look in the 'New Mosque', so shoes off and in we went. We couldn't go too far forward as folk at the front were praying.

A few photographs later we were walking down the road when I spotted a restaurant selling kebabs. One for me then and none for the lady, costing the equivalent of three pounds fifty - robbing sods. The one big difference between kebabs here and those back home is that these can be eaten sober. Then off to the Blue Mosque in the hope the queues would be much shorter given the lack of tourists about, and certainly no 'Follow-my- Leader' tour groups.

On our approach to the mosque area it was easy to see why we hadn't seen groups out and about - they were all here, this time more than ever. It was heaving. It's the huge numbers of flag-or-umbrella-following-spoon-fed groups that really spoil it for everyone else. So that was it then, no Blue Mosque. I reckon if a couple joined the back of the queue with a baby it would be old enough to go to school by the time they reached the front.

We popped next door again and sat around the Hippodrome area watching the world go by. Rosina observed that children here are much better behaved than back home, they don't seem as naughty. I for one had noticed the number of women wearing the Burka, not as many as I had expected, but for me too many. I think it does nothing for women's self esteem, but in a man's world here, perhaps that's the idea.

Back home I think they should be banned completely. They're not a religious thing, they're cultural, and since we should expect them to embrace our culture - off with them.

Today we had managed to spend the whole day out visiting all sorts of places and had done it all without using a map. This tells us it's time to be moving on.