The good news is our luggage arrived at the hotel first thing this morning. Not bad for what looked like a second-world lost luggage organisation at Istanbul airport which, on the face of it, seemed more likely to sell your luggage to the highest bidder than dispatch it to your hotel. Well done them and sorry for any aspersions cast.
We wandered round last night and found a two-course meal (no alcohol – our choice) for £12. And very nice it was too. Actually, on inspection today, with the Turkish Lira at about 4:1 (surprising considering Boris’ efforts), it looks like we will get away with that every evening. Add a couple of £s if we have a beer each.
Istanbul is as you’d expect it to be. Mystic, hot, slightly dusty, welcoming but not in an open way (as opposed to Greece, which we really loved), Islamic – with more mosques than you can shake a minaret at but still with its fair share of western-dressed women (short shorts and made up to kill) but with none of them actually working anywhere that I could see, even as waitresses – and colours and smells, and shapes and silhouettes which you only get the further east and south you go.
We did much of the left-hand bit of the city (Sultanahmet) and walked across the bridge over the Golden Horn to the middle bit (Beyolglu) before getting the tram back home. The Sultanahmet is the bit with the Blue Mosque (did that, it’s free and very impressive) and Topkapi (that’s for tomorrow). We ambled everywhere including, by chance, walking through the Grand Bizarre – think a couple of covered football pitches selling every exotic thing you can think of and then turn up the senses volume – which we were and are leaving for Tuesday morning before we fly back. We walked along the seafront at the entrance to the Bosporus and admired the view across to Asia (for Monday?), before stopping for a cup of tea on the double-height bridge with its many posh (but inexpensive) cafes underneath.
We ate a simple picnic lunch on the other side of the bridge and scaled the hill up to Galata Tower (the oldest in the world, so it says?) before – you’ll be pleased – trudging through quite hot heat now to the Pera Palace Hotel where Agatha Christie is thought to have written Murder on the Orient Express. We then ambled some more before eventually catching the tram back. By the way, public transport, which includes metro and tram from the airport, is simple, efficient and air conditioned. Every time you use it it costs 1.5 TL (about 30p) and you can buy an Oyster card (all done by a simple top-up machine) for 6 TL. Taxi transfer from the airport is in the region of £30. We did it for £1.20 and got so much more from the experience. For the record our hotel (via Expedia) is, wait for it, £70 for four nights B&B. (The second B is perfectly adequate, but don’t expect full-English.). And we have a pool on the roof…fab.
To finish for today I’d just like to add to yesterday’s diatribe (thanks for the comments). When asked today “where ‘you from?”, which is normally a precursor to “and would you like to buy my carpet?”, I really struggled with English. I am, sadly, ashamed of where I come from at the moment. I struggled with ‘British’ as well. A couple of men said something along the lines of ‘big problem’ and one said ‘I will pray for you.’ Bless them. Now I don’t want to stereotype people, but I’m guessing the loud group of men drinking pints of beer at Wetherspoons at 4am Friday morning at Birmingham airport, probably took some delight in declaring their nationality as they got off the plane in Majorca a couple of sozzled hours later. But it didn’t work for me today. And I’m sorry – that says more about me than it does about them, I guess.
And finally, (other than, ‘Go for it Nicola S, we’re coming to join you’), if you’ve not seen the BBC chart about voting ages, have a look at the one below. What have we done?