Opening Leg of `Where's Olly Tour 2006`
Istanbul Travel Blog› entry 1 of 36 › view all entries
March 20th, 2006 – by: oferguson
İstanbul - 20 March 2006
I arrived at Istanbl airport early evening and headed into town using the excellent public transport. Lonely Planet (LP - the backpacker's bible) had recommended the Hostel Istanbul in Sultanhamet. The Blue Mosque was the first thing that İ saw on hitting the city centre, a site for sore eyes definately, especially as my hostel was only 100 yards from it! Once booked in and showered I headed for the bar to find a mixed group of people relaxing over a few beers, which suited me fine. Very easy to speak to people as we were all pretty much in the same boat not many were travelling other than solo.
The first day proper and I headed for the sites - the Blue Mosqe, Aya Sofya and the Grand Bazaar to begin with. The locals were friendly, sometimes overly so! It was a national holiday, due to the arrival of the spring, but equally a big day for the Kurds - there was much dancing in ojne of the main squares with stands set up and several dignatories in attendance.
On the way to the Grand Bazaar I was selected by a local carpet seller as his target for the day. I had no interest in making a purchase but he stayed with me for the next 2 hours and kept offering me apple chi. In the end he proved a useful guide to the Bazaar, an enormous place.
We bumped into some Aussies that he had met the previous day, and they rescued me, taking me for a kebab and providing some English conversation which I was grateful for. We bantered over the sport and they told me that they were off to the SoulClipse festival near Antalya for the eclipse. They were surprised that I was unaware of this, and in subsequent days I figured that it was to be largely an Aussie/Kiwi/Israeli and Turk affair, along with a few others. However, it was pure trance for 7 days and therefore definately not my cup of chi! Trance, I would soon learn was the staple of Turkish youth, blaring out of most of the bars at intolerable volume on very poor soundsystems - thank heavens for MP3 players and earplugs.
Some more exploring took me to TopKapi Palace, the Basillica Cistern (fantastic if a little pricey - very atmospheric with carp swimming in the water), and eventually across the Goldern Horn. Fener were playing Galatasry on the evening of my trip so flags were to be seen everywhere.
Later in my stay I was to take a ferry down the Bosphorus to Besiktas and drink chi in a mausoleum. The city is a beautiful place, the areas that I visited very clean despite the lack of bins! I would perhaps discover the reason for this later in my trip. Disturbingly I did hear of a road accident which appeared to kill the victim. The body was apparently bundled into the van that knocked him over, driven away, the street cleansed with water all before an ambulance had had the chance to arrive.
I stayed there from Monday to Friday when I caught the overland coach down to Antalya on the south coast (725 km). I was really impressed when I saw the coach, and this was improved further when I realised that there were two coach stewards serving tea, coffee, coke, water and cakes throughout the journey (gratis)! The coach left at around 10 pm and was to take around 12 hours, not bad for about 15 quid. However, the coach broke down in the middle of Turkey and we had to wait 2 hrs for a replacement. The new coach was smaller than the first. Us westerner's tooke our time transferring, but the locals, particularly the men, obviously realised this and steamed for the seats. I therefore ended up standing for a couple of hours before some seats became free as people were dropped off - I would have similar experiences again.
Central Turkey is quite barren - save the heaps of rubbish along the road (see earlier) - the bus drivers (and everyone else) just chuck their rubbish, even if the nearest town is only 15 mins away, despite the protestations of all of the western (me, a few aussies, kiwis, the odd yank and japanese) travellers.
We passed through many ghost towns of unfinished buildıngs that could not be much more than 10 years old. Huge places, apparently no tax is payable on a building until it is completed so they just dont bother - but why start in the first place? The road itself was something akin to the A6, in that it went through every town and therefore there was much stop-starting. This made sleep very difficult, although Jon Ronson's "Men Who Stare At Goats" was well attacked - if you are interested in conspiracy theories then this is a must read from a fantastic author who can be funny yet serious at the same time.
I generally got the impression that Turkey, while in many parts very beautiful, is as much under-developed as developed. The attitudes of the people need to change if they are to maintain the beauty as developments seem to be going up with little thought.
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