Thursday, 23 October 2014

Istanbul - by Polka

Entering Turkey wasn't as bad as we'd expected, although it was quite a sight to see a few kilometers long line of trucks awaiting to cross the border. Our crossing was much quicker fortunately; however we didn't avoid getting ripped off just at the start when purchasing car insurance and paying a road tax. Not a huge amount though so we weren't really bothered to do anything about it.

Glad to be on the other lane

After days of driving on small country roads where we could hardly cover 200km in a day, it was such a pleasure to drive on the motorway leading to Istanbul. I think, though, that it only made a difference to us for the kids seem to cope with long drives pretty well. Beany sometimes complains his bum hurts but otherwise he's happy to watch his DVDs or have a nap. Micky usually catches up on her sleep. She's developed a coping method: She goes to bed late and gets up early and hence uses the time in the car to sleep. When she's awake, she reads her touchy-feely book or cuddles her dolly. She's developed a lot since we left London and she enjoys watching cartoons more now and engages in games with Beany or us. She loves attention! She'll do anything for you to look at her. She makes faces, funny noises just to get a smile from us. She's a little joker and she copies a lot, too. She's been trying to copy words as well so by the time we get to New Zealand she may be quite a talker. What's more, she's very sociable. She says and waves 'hello' and 'bye' to everybody and makes friends everywhere we go. She's an absolute delight even when she dismantles Beany's Lego car or my phone.

Not only were we pleasantly surprised with the condition of the motorway but also as we were approaching Istanbul the city sight that was ravelling in front of us was bright and colourful whilst I imagined a dirty concrete jungle. It will be interesting to see the city in daylight.
                                                                                Hold tight! Micky and her photo smile
The first morning in Istanbul welcomed us with a bright sun. After a few days of rain and cold it was exactly what we needed. We set off to see the Grand bazaar first which was only a few stops away by tram  from the hotel. Trams turned out to be a pleasant surprise: modern, clean and air-conditioned. Later on we had a chance to try Istanbul metro and we loved it too. It was actually an overground train but of the same standard as trams. The only drawback we found was that they both got overcrowded at certain times. In spite of it Aaron found using Istanbul public transport a pleasant experience (he dislikes London tube and avoids it as much as possible; I'm neutral). 

As one could imagine, Grand Bazaar was an amazing place. The building itself as well as the products sold there. So bright and colourful. And also very clean! I especially liked lamps and chandeliers. Big, colourful platters drew my attention, too. We got interested in a man walking around with a tray full of teas and some coffees. After some observation it turned out he was delivering the beverages to the little shops. In one of them I spotted a designated place with empty tea cups and a few coins next to them. The tea man walked into the shop, picked up the empty cups and a coin and left a a cup of fresh tea. I guess that's what do when there is no Starbucks around.                                                  


Some of my favourite items from the Grand Bazaar.

   The tea man!

Our next stop was mosque: Suleymaniye Mosque and then we went to Spice Bazaar. It's not just spices that were sold there but also sweets, dry fruit and some other products that we'd seen at Grand Bazaar, although on a much smaller scale. That was enough for us for one day so we returned to the hotel for a swim.

Suleymaniye Mosque

As much as we were admiring the markets, Turks were admiring our Micky Moo and her backpack. She was smiled at, cooed at, had her cheeks and hands stroked by young men, women, men, young women, in a shop, on a street, in a queue to a museum. She was constantly getting attention. Sometimes she reciprocated with a smile or wave but with time she just ignored people. As if that wasn't enough, she had photos taken of her by strangers, was given sweets on a tram, chips in a kebab shop and chocolates at the hotel. Micky, the queen of Turks.

Some of Anastazja's admirers at Grand Bazaar.

Istanbul has so many museums and interesting sites on offer you could spend lots of time trying to visit them so we stuck to the not to miss ones. Hagia Sophia at first, then Sultanahmet (Blue) Mosque followed by Basilica Cistern and we finished off with Topkapi Palace. We loved them all, maybe apart from the mosque as we found that after having seen a few we found them a bit boring as they're very similar. And obviously they don't have any religious value to us. It is an impressive and beautiful building but the other three were of more interest to us. 

Hagia Sophia: first church, then mosque, and now a museum

Having a little rest after visiting Hagia Sophia

A photo taken by our very own photographer - Marcel

Sultanahmet (Blue) Mosque - the name Blue comes from the tiles inside the Mosque, although there are tiles of various colours, not just blue

Ready to visit the Blue Mosque...
And so is Aaron

Enjoying ice cream before visiting Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern

It was an amasing building, an underground water storage built in VI century with 4-metres thick brick walls filled with special, waterproof mortar.  

Upside down head of a Medusa, still not clear why

Off to Topkapi Palace

 View from one of many courtyards in the palace

 These are concubines's apartments. Although it isn't easily noticeable, they were built under Mother Queen's and Sultan's apartments.

Below: a swimming pool for the concubines to enjoy

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