How bazaar!October 17, 2018 in Turkey ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C
Today we travelled over 2000 years in less than a day as we toured the ancient and contemporary city of Istanbul. There are a few mega-cities on the planet and Istanbul is certainly one of them. With over 15 million people living in this bustling metropolis you certainly notice that number when you hit the road. That's when it seems that every resident owns a car and all of them are heading exactly where you want to go. In Auckland this would cause complete gridlock, but here the drivers just get on with it and wriggle and swerve into spaces you'd swear they'd never fit, but the end result is the flow of traffic continues.
After 45 minutes we arrived in the centre of old Istanbul and began our walking tour of this ancient place. We began with the Blue mosque, a massive holy building that is over 400 years old. Just next door is the Topkapi Palace, former home to the Ottoman Sultans who ruled their empire from this seat of power starting in the 15th century. Next was the Sultan Ahmed mosque, another ancient holy building, but one which is still used as a place of worship. This means that all women must wear a headscarf to enter, which Jean was pretty excited about. To a westerner this seems a little old-fashioned, but on the same notice was a rule I can get on board with, no leggings or yoga pants are permitted in the building. Now, can we just export this rule to New Zealand please.
After our dose of culture we headed to Istanbul's most famous shopping centre. In Istanbul even this has a historical twist, as the shopping centre in question was the Grand Bazaar, the world's largest covered market, which has been in continual operation since 1455. Over 90 million people visit this market every year and from the hustle and bustle when we visited it seemed they might have all arrived on the one day. The bazaar is a great place to get a bargain, if you are practiced in the ancient sport of haggling. Half the stalls seem to be selling counterfeit handbags, shirts or football shirts but there are also plenty of Turkish specialties such as rugs, gold and of course Turkish Delight and Baklava. Even before we were within a kilometre of the bazaar we were propositioned by numerous guys trying to sell us their traditional hand knotted rugs. They were persistent and had all the answers to natural objections such as price or no way to get it home. I resorted to telling them that I was violently allergic to any kind of hand made textiles. This eventually did the trick and we carried on unmolested.
We continued wandering the old cobbled lanes of central Istanbul and made our way down to the impressive waterfront, where you can look from Europe across to Asia. Two continents in one photo, now that's priceless. After admiring the serenity we caught our last taxi ride of this trip back to our hotel. Maybe fate knew this was our last ride because he sent us a doozy. Our driver spoke no English, which is fair enough as I speak bugger all Turkish, but this did make explaining our destination challenging. I bring up the photo and address of our hotel on my phone and point to it in a friendly manner. Normally this works, not today. There are two hotels in Istanbul with names that are very similar. They are in the same hotel chain. Even after reading my phone screen our driver took us to the wrong one. But at least we rode the wrong way at hyper speed. I swear he hit 150kms in some stretches, which was exhilarating. If Formula 1 is ever short of drivers just pick any 5 Istanbul taxi drivers and they'll have their guys. After the wrong hotel we eventually arrived at our correct destination, paid the driver and went upstairs to chillax in our room. Tomorrow we begin the long haul home. Aotearoa we're on our way!Read more