Jensen Monday Club
Top Touring Tip 4: Don't Buy Carpets Just After Falling out of the Pub...
We surfaced sometime in the afternoon on day 4. We had been absolutely knackered after the 3 day, 2500 mile drive, and living off caffeine drinks and crisps for 3 days. We needed a proper feed.
We headed out of the hotel, checked the car was ok
and went into the first bar come restaurant we found.
Unbeknownst to us, this place would be central to our stay in Istanbul, and the reason for many of our adventures, but more of that later...
The head waiter, Antonio, or as he became know to us "Brother", ushered us in. We ordered a couple of the very good local beers, and a meal. A big meal. With starters, and main courses, and puddings, and all sorts of things on the side. And the back. And the front. And just about anywhere you can fit food.
Then we ordered more beer, then brandy, then coffee, then more beer, then more brandy.
This was more like it.
After declining Brothers offer of hashish or Romanian prostitutes, we had another beer. Then another beer to be sure. Then some more dessert.
Well, we hadn't eaten for 3 day!
Brother mentioned his mate ran the carpet shop next door, and if we just went in for a quick look, we would get a very good price...
Unquotable Quotes: "...on the horns of a dilemma"
**** Euros later...
We wobbled off up the road, the proud owners of 2 very fine carpets.
We now decided to explore Istanbul, and have a car free day. As the Blue mosque was just behind us, it seemed the logical place to start.
We headed through the Arasta bazaar, which was impressive, but no where near as impressive as the Grand bazaar we went to later...
We stopped at a shop to buy a street map, and we were assured by the proprietor that is was "Asda Price" and "As Cheap as Chips". British readers will recognise these well known catch phrases, and it gave us a good laugh to hear it coming from a Turk in a bazaar!
The Blue Mosque was eye popping in every sense. The sheer scale of the building is lost in mere photographs, and the exquisite decoration again becomes subdued even in hi- resolution digital photography.
You can just make out in this shot the lighting strung across the minaret towers. This was lit up at night with the name of the imam who was preaching that day. It must be like Frank Sinatra playing Las Vegas.
I remember thinking it was the oddest thing I had seen in Christendom, then like Dorothy and Toto realising they weren't in Kansas any more, I remembered we weren't in Christendom any more...
The town centre is full of huge mosques, and less than 100 yards from the Blue Mosque is this equally impressive mosque.
You can see in the foreground women wearing traditional hijab headscarves. Turkey is a secular Muslim country, and very cosmopolitan, with some women wearing full traditional burka's, and other wearing western fashion clothes. Alcohol is freely on sale, but Brother and his friend in carpet shop were celebrating Ramadan and declined alcohol (well, Brother had the odd one or two!). Turkey is hoping to join the EU soon, and after the friendly reception from the people, and the thriving, vibrant feel of Istanbul, it would make an excellent contribution.
Istanbul is an old fortified walled city, and builders had took advantage of the by building houses using the fortified walls as the rear wall of the house.
This whole street is built this way.
Everywhere you looked there were amazing sites, and the Imam's call to prayer was broadcast overloud speakers. It seemed odd for a while, but in the end you got used to and an we actually missed it when we left.
Except for the morning at 5am when they had a "Spinal Tap" moment and turned the amplifier upto "11". I wasn't quite so keen then...
This was the big one for the day, the Grand Bazaar. If they ain't got it, you don't actually want it!
It was an absolute maze, a rabbit warren of alleys and corridors full of everything you could think of, but especially Turkish Delight!
Evening was drawing in, and we headed back towards the hotel.
We stopped of for a quick beer at a bar, which became 2, which became the cheese board, which became a bottle of wine as well. Well, we hadn't eaten since lunchtime, and you shouldn't eat on an empty stomach.
A few more beers at brothers bar, and we were done. We went back to the digs, and found a parcel waiting for us. When the aircon belt had broken in Serbia we had asked Steve Payne to send some in the post. They arrived 2 days later!
Now that's service!
In the next thrilling instalment:
Day 5: Mehmet!