Istanbul 2

Rob and Jacky Black
Tue 31 May 2011 18:54
Lord Anthony (EMYR) with Lynne and Tony on board arrived around 0930 and we agreed to see them later for pre-dinner drinks.
Rob decided to have a day on the boat so after a lazy start (up at 0900 for a change) Jacky headed off to the city on her own!
The plan was to do a trip up the Bosphorus and then the Grand Bazaar. The buses and trams were quieter and the journey into the
ferry terminal at Eminomu only took 20 minutes - I was therefore able to catch the first ferry tour boat of the day at 1200. It was rather misty and overcast so not so good
for taking pictures, and the NE wind was blowing at around F4 which led to a chilly passage. Despite this I sat on the top deck and marveled at the water front mansions
and palaces we passed. Observing the very strong current made me glad we have decided not to take the boat through this channel! The waiter regularly brought a tray of Cay
(tea) and various other cold drinks and light snacks were also available. The tour took us to the second of the huge suspension bridges that cross the Bosphorous and then it was time
to turn around - the journey back took half the time and we sailed on the Asian side where even more glamorous and luxurious homes abounded many with their own small docks.
As always local fishermen lined the embankments where there was access and I saw many pulling out lines with 6 or 8 small fish attached each time - must have been a good day.
After returning to the ferry port I walked through the underpass to the New Mosque and then on to the Spice Bazaar as I decided to try lunch in the fabulous Deli I had found the day before.
It was great you have a choice of having half a bread loaf filled with your choice of items and taking it up stairs to the cafe or choosing from the self-service display up stairs. I went for the latter
and enjoyed a hot chicken and vegetable casserole with two bread rolls and a bottle of water. This cafe was popular with Turkish people - I was the only foreigner there! The toilets were clean and bright too!
I decided to walk across from the Spice bazaar to the tram line and investigate a restaurant that we had decided to visit the following day (found on the internet). My route led me through a maze of shopping streets
where categories of products seem to be grouped together. One lane was all button shops and another men's tailoring! I eventually found the tramway and then the hotel The Orient Express where the restaurant is housed
on the top floor with views across the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus. The hotel must have been named after the fact that it is near to the main railway station from where the original Orient Express ran.
I was escourted to the top floor by a waiter whom I had stopped in the street to ask for directions to the hotel - he duly sat me down with at a window table and brought me a complimentary coffee while I had a look at the menu.
It was a lovely peaceful setting and having changed our booking to a late lunch reservation instead of evening I was refreshed enough to tackle the next item on the agenda - the Grand bazaar!
A short tram ride (all journey's cost 1.75TL) I disembarked and headed for the bazaar. It is a veritable maze and I was completely stunned by the masses of shops, alleyways and range of products available. My intention
was to find a  new leather rucksack type handbag. So with that in mind I spend at least an hour visiting various shops and getting an idea of prices. Not being very experienced at the concept of bargaining I had read up a bit
on tips of what to do. I finally returned to the first shop I had visited and bought a lovely black bag with tan trimming (original asking price 160TL) which cost me 60TL. I then had to find my way back out of the place - no easy feat! I finally got back to one of the main avenues in the bazaar and then had to ask which way to go for the tram line as I was completely disorientated. By this time it was 1700 so transport was busy and it took me over an hour to make my way back
to the marina. I had to stand for most of the bus journey but the time passed quickly as I had met a very pleasant young woman who is studying post graduate medicine and spoke good English. I established that she intended to travel to the Uk in August for a language course and to my amazement her plan was to come to Brighton of all places! What a small world. Needless to say I took her email address and have promised to help her find accommodation options for her stay.
I am passing that on to our son Robbie and his girlfriend Amy (who is a medical student at Sussex) in the hope they can come up with some good ideas.
Today we visited the Aye Sophya, The Blue Mosque and the Byzantine Cistern as well as a stroll through the Arasta bazaar and had a leisurely lunch at the Imbat restaurant in the Orient Express hotel.
Being Saturday we found the roads less busy and the bus less full. We arrived at the ticket booth for the Aye Sophya just after 0900 and were soon inside this most amazing building. We first went to the galleries where the famous
mosaics can be seen. Built in the 6th century AD it was originally a great church, then converted to a mosque in the 15th century and finally designated as a monument and museum in 1935. The mosaics are beautiful and in surprisingly good condition considering their age. The interior of the building is an astonishing feat of building engineering there is a huge dome in the centre which appears to have no supports - these are cleverly disguised in the structure of the walls. The space of the main  nave is massive without the intrusion of columns - quite remarkable.
Next we visited the cistern which was constructed to supply water to the great palace of Emperor Justinian during his reign (527 -565 AD). It was certainly built to last and is in amazing condition. It was forgotten for centuries and only re-discovered in 1545 but was not used for water but rather as a convenient dumping ground for rubbish. Fortunately the main structure survived and has now been restored. It consists of  336 - 9 metre high marble columns arranged in 12 rows. Much of the structure was built using - re-cycled items so the pillars have a variety of decorations and the capitals (top bits that attach to the roof) are also from various periods of ancient Greek and Roman architecture. (Who said re-cycling was a modern concept?) A cay stop was next on the agenda and then we strolled through the ancient Hippodrome area (not much to see just a few odd pieces of stone) and approached the Blue Mosque which is a stunning building. Before going in we stopped to admire the oldest relic in the city the Obelisk of Theodosius - carved in Egypt during the reign of Thutmose 3rd 1549-1503 BC, it stood at a temple in Karnac and was then dismantled and brought to Constantinople on the orders of the Emperor Theodosius in 390 AD. The Egyptian hieroglyphics are clearly visible and it sits on a newer heavily carved marble base commissioned by Theodosius, part of which shows how it was transported from Egypt.
Having queued up in the rain for some 20 minutes we finally got inside the Blue Mosque (having removed our shoes)and we were most impressed by the lovely colours and feeling of tranquility inside. Almost the whole interior is covered in tiles specially made for the mosque. There are some beautiful arched windows with stained glass (originally Venetian but now restored) and an enormous floor space for worship. The whole floor is covered in a beautiful terracotta carpet which was in immaculate condition -obviously fairly new!
We took the tram down to the restaurant situated conveniently on the tram route heading towards Eminomu where we get the bus back to the boat. The lunch was delicious, service impeccable and it was delightful sitting looking out over the
Golden Horn and the entrance to the Bosphorus even though it was raining and a bit misty.
The meal was all we had hoped for - not the usual Turkish tourist food and probably the best we have had since getting to Turkey. We returned to the boat for a late siesta and then had drinks on board Lord Anthony before turning in around 1100 p.m.
We left the following morning and headed for the Prince's islands some 12 miles to the SE of the marina.