Tavla, sheesha and bazaars, how much more Turkish could it get?!

Istanbul Travel Blog

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Entrance to Topkapi Palace

People i met here who contributed to, and improved my trip: Hakan (Turkey), Eric and Dave (USA)

On Monday the guys came to call for me at my hostel at lunch time and we went to eat together in the nice little eatery that i had discovered the previous day. The weather was once again miserable, but we had planned to spend the day at Topkapi Palace, which i hoped would be mostly indoors. All three of us mainly wanted to see the Harem, but when we arrived and saw that to get into this area of the Palace we would have to pay 35YTL ($23), we agreed that this was a total rip off and made a u-turn.

Eric and Dave had found a hip looking coffee shop the previous day, so we opted to return there and get out of the cold and rain. The place was really nice, but the service was rude and unfriendly and once again we weren't allowed to play cards, so after one drink we returned to Neverland Hostel.

Blue Mosque


At night we went to a very nice restaurant in Taksim, who sadly cheated us on the bill and then met up with Hakan in Beyoglu and went to a cafe to smoke sheesha and play backgammon. Three American guys joined us, one of whom had met Dave in Israel and we all spent an enjoyable evening together. Even though i had walked home the previous night, i decided to do the same again as it had been so nice and this time i had the other guys for company, which was great.

Today i really struggled to get out of bed, as i had only managed to sleep in fits and starts. The room was pretty cold and there was only one thin blanket per bed, which really was inadequate. Heaving my arse into the shower at least warmed me up a fraction, although the water was only luke warm. I guess you get what you pay for and $8 for a bed in Istanbul was kind of too good to be true.
Enjoying Tavla, sheesha and chay


Having checked out and left my baggage in reception, i was pleasantly surprised to see that the sun was trying to poke between the clouds, which at the same time were ominously black. My main aim was to buy a ticket for the night bus to Bodrum, which wasn't too hard and then grab some burek for breakfast and wait for the guys to turn up at the hostel. Bang on 10.30 they appeared, on time as usual, which kind of put my poor time keeping skills to shame.

We had a few ideas for how to spend the day, but our main objective was to visit the spice market and find a shop that Eric's Mum, Gran and Granddad had visited a few months earlier. The most obvious route took us North through Sultanahmet towards the Bosphorus and along some lovely narrow streets that were filled with shops selling all kinds of useless stuff.
Interior of Yeni Camii
Most of the foreign and local tourists appeared only too happy to snap up such items at rock bottom prices, and undoubtedly will put their new 'treasures' in a box upon returning home, never to be seen again. I've certainly been guilty of this in the past, i just hope i don't fall into the same trap again in the future.

Even though winter has deadened almost everywhere in Turkey, Istanbul is certainly an exception, as the City still pulses with life. Each and every head turn was a real feast for the eyes, both architecturally and culturally, as the fusion of East and West was visible for all to see. 15,000,000 people jostling for position amidst Islamic and European buildings, whilst the traffic was stuck nose to tail, belching out exhaust fumes.

Sadly the weather had turned miserable and drops of rain had started to fall.
Galata Bridge, Galata Tower and Beyoglu
When accompanied by the chilling wind that was ripping straight through my jeans, it was making the going tougher than it should have been. We took refuge in the striking Yeni Camii Mosque, which resembled the Blue Mosque in many ways and was arguably better due to fewer tourists cluttering the floor space. Outside the Mosque pigeons gathered around stalls that were selling bird seed, whilst a dog chased a cat up a tree and then sat patiently, waiting, looking forward to its lunch. Dave was busy doing handstands when suddenly the sun reappeared, giving us some nice views across the river, where Galata Tower dominated the skyline.

It almost seemed a shame to go back inside when the sun had so kindly volunteered to make a token appearance, but on the other hand, it was still bloody cold and the covered spice bazaar was a nice retreat for half an hour.
Pigeons mob the seed sellers outside Yeni Camii
Musing through the shops we bought some Lokum (Turkish Delight) and another type of sweet, although incredibly one owner refused to sell us the amount that we requested as he said it wasn't enough and pushed us away from his shop. His loss.

We spent a little time getting sent back and forth in search of the shop we were looking for, but finally located the correct place and got invited in for some delicious Pomegranate tea. The man we were looking for was called Mustafa and he seemed a nice guy, so Dave and Eric bought some tea from him and we stood and chatted for a little time, before Eric left some photos with him and we were on our way.

The three of us decided on lunch at the little cafe that we had been in the day before as it wasn't too far away, served reasonable food and was cheap as chips.
Spice bazaar
I took the opportunity to visit the canon camera shop to inquire about my camera and was shocked to find that it was going to be ready today at 17.00 and would only cost 65YTL ($43), as i thought it was going to cost over $100 and take a week or more! Bonus.

In the afternoon we walked to the Suleymaniye Mosque, which had an adjoining mausoleum where Suleyman was buried. The Mausoleum was ok, but the Mosque was a waste of time as almost all of it was closed for repairs. Right next door was the Istanbul University, which had a nice garden to wander around and a statue of Ataturk, just for a change ;) Its funny how leaders like Niyazov are slated for all their statues, but Ataturk is everywhere and nothing is said. Saying that, i guess he never made the statues himself, although i am sure he wouldn't be adverse to the idea of them all - who would be!

The day was drawing on, so we headed back to the warmth of my hostel to play some cards and hang out.
Cemetery and rose, outside Suleymaniye Camii
I went to collect my camera at 17.00 and the guys headed to their hostel, with the agreement that we would meet in Bodrum the following evening. I tucked into some Dinner at the cafe where we had eaten lunch and then went back to the hostel to get my stuff together.

At 20.00 i went to catch the free shuttle to the bus station and i wasn't too thrilled to see the snow hammering down. By 21.30 when the bus was due to leave, there was already a layer of snow on the ground and i was starting to get a bit nervous after the last journey had been such a nightmare. Fingers crossed we make it there in one piece this time.....

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Entrance to Topkapi Palace
Entrance to Topkapi Palace
Blue Mosque
Blue Mosque
Enjoying Tavla, sheesha and chay
Enjoying Tavla, sheesha and chay
Interior of Yeni Camii
Interior of Yeni Camii
Galata Bridge, Galata Tower and Be…
Galata Bridge, Galata Tower and B…
Pigeons mob the seed sellers outsi…
Pigeons mob the seed sellers outs…
Spice bazaar
Spice bazaar
Cemetery and rose, outside Suleyma…
Cemetery and rose, outside Suleym…
Grand bazaar
Grand bazaar
Haghia Eirene
Haghia Eirene
Imperial Gateway at Topkapi Palace
Imperial Gateway at Topkapi Palace
Imperial gateway at Topkapi Palace
Imperial gateway at Topkapi Palace
A view through the Imperial gatewa…
A view through the Imperial gatew…
Aya Sofya
Aya Sofya
Fountain of Sultan Ahmet III
Fountain of Sultan Ahmet III
Aya Sofya
Aya Sofya
Blue Mosque
Blue Mosque
Nusretiye Camii
Nusretiye Camii
Dave and Eric on the streets of Su…
Dave and Eric on the streets of S…
Yeni Camii
Yeni Camii
Dog waits for the cat, which is hi…
Dog waits for the cat, which is h…
Interior of Yeni Camii
Interior of Yeni Camii
Interior of Yeni Camii
Interior of Yeni Camii
Interior of Yeni Camii
Interior of Yeni Camii
Interior of Yeni Camii
Interior of Yeni Camii
Interior of Yeni Camii
Interior of Yeni Camii
Interior of Yeni Camii
Interior of Yeni Camii
Yeni Camii courtyard
Yeni Camii courtyard
Yeni Camii
Yeni Camii
Yeni Camii
Yeni Camii
Yeni Camii
Yeni Camii
Pigeons mob the seed sellers outsi…
Pigeons mob the seed sellers outs…
Pigeons mob the seed sellers outsi…
Pigeons mob the seed sellers outs…
Pigeons mob the seed sellers outsi…
Pigeons mob the seed sellers outs…
Spice bazaar
Spice bazaar
Spice bazaar
Spice bazaar
Spice bazaar
Spice bazaar
Spice bazaar
Spice bazaar
Dave, Me, Mustafa and Eric at the …
Dave, Me, Mustafa and Eric at the…
Rustem Pasa Camii
Rustem Pasa Camii
Yeni Camii
Yeni Camii
Rustem Pasa Camii foreground, Sule…
Rustem Pasa Camii foreground, Sul…
Sultanahmet
Sultanahmet
Cemetery at Suleymaniye Camii
Cemetery at Suleymaniye Camii
Suleyman the greats tomb, outside …
Suleyman the greats tomb, outside…
Royal Tombs, outside Suleymaniye C…
Royal Tombs, outside Suleymaniye …
Royal Tombs, outside Suleymaniye C…
Royal Tombs, outside Suleymaniye …
Royal Tombs, outside Suleymaniye C…
Royal Tombs, outside Suleymaniye …
Royal Tombs, outside Suleymaniye C…
Royal Tombs, outside Suleymaniye …
Istanbul University
Istanbul University
Istanbul University
Istanbul University
Building at Istanbul University
Building at Istanbul University
Beyazit Camii
Beyazit Camii
Grand bazaar
Grand bazaar
Grand bazaar
Grand bazaar
Grand bazaar
Grand bazaar
Istanbul
photo by: Memo