Saturday, 15 March 2008


Before I start to tell you the story that is Istanbul I feel a flashback coming on…

On my penultimate day in Canakkale I walked the 800 metres to the bus station to purchase a ticket for the following morning on the 10am bus. So, there I was the next day having walked what felt more like a kilometre, arriving with 20 minutes or so in hand. Half an hour later when no bus had turned up I went to the ticket office. Turns out the bus for Istanbul leaves from the ferry terminal only 100m from the hotel door!!!
I caught the 11am bus instead and arrived in Istanbul at the end of the “working day”. Good thing everyone was heading out of the centre and I was heading in!

Saturday 15th

It’s my 1st large city since I left London over ten months ago. Did I ever mention the fact that I am not the biggest fan of large cites.

The journey from the bus station to the hostel was easy. Tube (from the centre of the bus station) followed by tram. Now that’s an integrated transport system!

I arrived in the early evening, checked in at reception and then went up to my 5th floor room, slowly I might add. The hostel doesn’t have a lift. After a quick shower and of course a little lie down I was out bimbling.
The hostel is located in the oldest part of Istanbul so it’s close to all the main tourist sites. I’ll list them once I’ve been to them otherwise I will just end up repeating myself.

I did come across a book shop that sold lonely planet guides in English. Now there is one thing that I have learnt so far on this trip, if you need something, buy it at the 1st opportunity you have. (Cause you might not get another one) Out came the plastic and 190ylt later I was the proud owner of a guide book to India, South East Asia and the Middle East. The last one was a compromise. I needed a book for Iran and the only one they had left included the rest of the Middle East as well. So, it’s not too in depth with regards to Iran but it does have Turkey in it, which is nice but mostly pointless!

Sunday 16th

I was up early and out hitting the mean streets before 9am. After several meanders around back streets and alleyways I ended up on the seafront. So, why not walk around the Golden Horn? Damn good idea! Two hours later I stumbled across the city’s archaeology museum. Nice!…no really it was.

Following all that excitement I just had to have another lie down…afterwards, it was time to sort out all my lovely photos and upload the best ones. Now we are only at the halfway point of the month and so far, my pictures of Turkey have been looked at over 1000 times, shouldn’t you all be busy working when you’re in the office!

Monday 17th

Today was meant to be a day for sorting out my visas (for Iran and India). All went well at the Iranian consulate until the very nice man said I could pick up my visa enriched passport the in the morning.

Good news: I have a visa for Iran
Bad news: the Indian consulate will have to wait till tomorrow.

I’ve been told that it usually takes 3 to 5 working days from application to issue. So at the latest it will be next Tuesday (unless the have an express service!). The thing is I’m only booked in at this hotel till Friday, could be an issue, as they may not have any spare rooms after that day.
If this is the case I’ll be forced to changed hostels and sleep in a “dorm room” and I bloody hate dorm rooms!

Due to the fact that I had the rest of the day free I went tourist.

The 1st spot to visit was the Basilica Cistern built in the 5th century AD.

I) it’s underground
II) It stores water
III) Its 140m long
IV) Its 70m wide
V) Loads of columns
VI) Oh yeah…it has fish in it!

Once you go down the steps the levels of temperature and light decrease. The lighting is spot on for “atmosphere” and “ambience”. Sadly quite a few pictures suffered from me not having a tripod (i.e. fuzzy from the long exposure and my inability to hold the camera rock steady) and the fact that using a flash just didn’t do the place justice.

Once I had finished underground, I checked the time and saw that the midday prayers had ended…off to the blue mosque!
Now it’s called the blue mosque because it’s blue but only on the inside. With the shoes off everyone shuffled in. The 1st thing we all did was look up. All the domes, pillars and arches are tiled. If I was going to get picky I thought the most dominant visual colour was red and not blue. However, that’s just my opinion and I can’t see anyone calling it the red mosque on my say so.
A mosque, unlike a church is a big square but just like a church it has a pulpit. There isn’t an isle just a huge sea of carpet and at the rear is the women’s section (welcome to the cheap seats). The interior vista has been ruined by the 100’s of chains dangling from the ceilings which are used to support the lights.

The rest of the day was spent doing almost nothing…which I can easily do all day!

Wednesday 19th

Yesterday I went to the Iranian embassy nice and early as it was the 1st of 3 consulate visits planned for the day. I picked up my visa but the smile slowly turned to a slight frown as I saw that I had only been given a 20 day visa. So, I’ve got 3 weeks to see an entire country. Hopefully I’ll be able to get an extension when I’m there (if I want one).
From there I crossed the river and headed up the step hill on the other side, towards the Galata tower and the British consulate. Did I mention that it was only 11oc and raining! Going up that hill via mostly step, was like walking upriver over waterfalls.
After some confusion I found the British consulate. Would having a sign larger than a piece of A4 paper be too hard or expensive to do? Once there I gave them 150ytl and was given a letter of recommendation in return (well I suppose they have to try and make a profit somehow). I left that little piece of England behind (f.y.i consulate: buy a new flag the one you have looks like a rag) and headed to the Indian consulate a mile or so away.
I got there 15 minutes to late (the visa office shuts at 11:30 …which I could work those hours). With the rest of the day free I went back to the hotel because I was cold, tired and wet.

Today, Indian consulate take two.
It opens for business at 09:30 and I was there at 09:28. I was 3rd in the queue. All my paper work was in order.

• Application form filled out - check
• Two recent passport size photographs - check
• Passport - check
• Photocopy of passport - check
• Letter of recommendation - check

So I was confident there would be no problems.

Man…was I wrong!
Now a British passport holder can apply for a 6 month visa. Turns out that is correct…in England! In Turkey all I would be able to get is a 3 month visa… bugger
So, I now have 3 options

1. Apply for a 3 month visa now
2. Apply for a 3 month visa in Ian
3. Go back to England and apply for a 6 month visa

I should at this point let you know dear reader that the visa starts from the date of issue and not from the date of entry into India. Also I’m pretty sure that you can’t get an extension for the visa in India

So. What to do. 3 months in India really isn’t enough time and as I am at this point both time and cash rich I want the 6 month one. All I have to do now is choose

1. Go to Iran, then England, then India
2. Go to England, then Iran, then India

As option 2 involves less time stuck on an airplane…yep, you’ve guessed what I’m going to do. (I’ve already emailed my sister to warn her and request a pickup from the airport)

Now, As you know I’m booked into the hostel till Friday. As I am no longer having to wait around for my Indian visa I engaged “tourist top gear”

The 1st place to visit was the Dolmabahce Palace down by the river it cost 20ytl to enter and an extra 6ytl to take pictures. Worth every penny!
The sultans sure knew how to live in style. As I and the rest of the tour group followed the guide through room after sumptuous room each one making you look up to the gold leafed covered ceilings and gazing at chandelier after chandelier. The tour starts with the formal “state rooms” before going into the more private areas. There was a surprise at the end. We entered a huge hall (2000 sq metres) with a chandelier weighing in at 4.5tons hanging in the middle. This was the place where big impressions were made.
The second half of the tour took place in the harem. Very disappointing…it wasn’t at all sleazy

Once I had left one palace I walked along, across and along the river to another one.

The Topkapi Palace was the original palace of the Sultans. The Dolmabahce one was built in the 1800’s whilst the Topkapi started out in the 1400’s/
You 1st walk through an imposing gatehouse and into the 1st of 3 courtyards. In each of them are housed various exhibitions ranging from arms, pictures, clothing and religious artefacts. In the latter you have some items from the prophet (p.b.u.h) including his sword, bits of his beard and part of his tooth. Also there was the Rod of Moses, used to part the red sea! I took a picture even though that’s not allowed.

Personally I found it amusing:

• Moses crossed the “reed sea” not the red sea
• He must have been 5ft high on a tall day!
• Charlton Heston?

My last port of call was the Ayasofya. It started out as a church, then a mosque and after Ataturk had a quiet word it was secularised and turned into a museum. It’s the second Sofya on the site, the 1st having burnt down in the 4th century AD. This one was built in the 5th century by the Romans, 1100 years before St. Paul’s in London and it only took 5 years!
When I walked into the building I realized that I really needed a wide angled lens to do it justice. The dome reaches up to nearly 60m. The place is just awesome…look at my pictures or better yet come yourself.

Tomorrow, book a bus for Friday.

This evening I’m in a bar along the main “Backpackers Street” just behind the blue mosque. The beer is cold, wet and cheap. On the downside I can’t help but overhear 3 young backpackers talking about the quality of drugs across Europe. Personally I can’t stand backpackers, I’m a silver haired (if I had hair it would be silver) traveller, mature and cultured!? Plus listening to people go on about where they have been, what they saw and did is Soooooo boring!!!

Why are YOU reading this!

Go and ask your mum if you can go outside and play!

No comments:

Post a Comment