Tavla, sheesha and bazaars, how much more Turkish could it get?!
Istanbul Travel Blog› entry 491 of 658 › view all entries
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.....