Tag Archives: Turkey

Minarets and Mosques

As the call to prayer rang out over the evening skies of Istanbul I had a serious case of goose-bumps.  Here I was in Constantinople – the ancient city that featured in ALL my history books, the gateway to the East, the Guardian of the Bosphorus. Wow.   

Mosques line the Bosphorus

 What did I expect in Istanbul?  After reading online travel blogs I was a bit worried about getting a taxi.  Horror stories crop up on every Google about having to haggle about the fare after the fact.  Dire warnings pop up about not taking public transport and Western women being harassed by fundamental “policemen”.  Instead I stepped off my amazing Olympic Airlines flights (there’s another blog all of its own) into a very modern, clean, bright airport terminal.  Passport control and my visa purchase were quick and easy procedures.  Outside the arrivals hall a line of well-kept looking yellow taxis were waiting to whisk us away to our hotel.  No hassles, no haggles, no bargaining.  So far so good.

 It is such a beautiful city but I couldn’t decide which was more fun – sightseeing or people watching.  I was fascinated by the variety of tourists there.  Many tourists from Arab countries such as Qatar or UAE visiting and doing just the same things as I was doing –  cruising on the Bosphoros, eating hot roasted chestnuts in the park, visiting the Blue Mosque.  I was struck by how beautiful and mysterious many of the Muslim women looked with their beautiful scarves and dark exotic eyes.

Now why can't I look like that?

 

As a woman one of the highlights was visiting the Grand Bazaar.  Oh my – I even saw people with wheelie suitcases going shopping.  Well why not – with over 4000 shops in this centuries old bazaar you could “shop till you drop”.  Dotted around the Bazaar are numerous places to rest a while and enjoy Turkish coffee.  Mmm – well I am not that sure about Turkish coffee.  I think I still prefer my Americano.  However Starbucks never serves coffee in cute little brass coffee cups so that wins hands down.

This ain't no Americano baby

 And the food – the food – the food – fish so fresh it was practically dancing on the plate, tiny tomatoes as sweet as grapes, light fruity wines from Antalya,  the biggest stuffed baked potatoes I have ever seen.  This seemed to be a big favourite “fast food” in the markets.  Take one giant baked potato, scrape out a bit of the inside and then choose your toppings from chopped olives, fresh yoghurt, chopped herbs and goodness knows what else until it is piled high into a heavenly potato mountain.  Did you notice I liked the food?

 Public transit – fabulous!  We took the tram which was really easy and quick because the traffic is awful in Istanbul.  It was brand new, clean, air conditioned and cheap – about a dollar a trip.  We got lost a couple of times and wandered into some really strange areas of the cities.  One street was Plumbing Street – every shop had a selection of toilets, sinks and taps spilling out onto the narrow cobbled streets.  The next street was Electric Avenue – every conceivable wire, cable, electrical connection that you could think of.  We got some strange looks from the tradesmen sitting in their doorways – and jeez I thought I was blending in.  I did feel perfectly safe however.

 Would I go back to Turkey?  In a heartbeat.  It’s exotic, cosmopolitan, exciting and refreshing.  They say East meets West in Istanbul.  They do more than that – they embrace!

Still dreaming of Istanbul

Flying carpets and Genuine Fake watches in Kusadasi

  “As you walk down these streets remember that you are walking the same streets as St Paul, St John and probably Mary, the mother of Jesus,” our guide told us as we walked into the ancient city of Ephesus. 

Just go and immerse yourself in history

It was also the honeymoon choice for Cleopatra and Marc Anthony.  Imagine that!  Excavations continue on an ongoing basis as and when funding is available and only about 10% of the city has been excavated so far.   If you do have Kusadasi on your itinerary a tour of Ephesus is a must.  Our guide (a high school teacher) made the place come alive for us so please don’t feel that this is just another tour of ancient ruins. 

Inevitably as part of our tour we ended up at a carpet weaving demonstration.  Our guide joked that this was part of the tour and assured us that the proprietor was not his cousin and he wasn’t getting a commission. 

Honestly - they flew - they really did!

It certainly was interesting learning how the carpets were made and we were served with refreshments of our choice while a whole team of robust looking Turks rolled out carpet after carpet on the floor.  When they got down to the smaller ones they skilfully spun them up in the air so we could truly say we had been to Turkey and seen a flying carpet. 

When the demonstration was over however the skilful carpet spinners honed in to see if they could spin a sale.  Don’t get me wrong – they were quite pleasant and polite when we declined to purchase.  Some of our group did indeed buy rugs and came home with some delightful examples of extremely skilful work from the carpet co-operative.

Kusadasi was really not what I had expected.  It is very Western in feel.  The people are sophisticated, friendly and speak English quite well.

Genuine Fake Watches - gee what a find!

  Shopping in Kusadasi was a treat.  Great silver, leather, silks and ceramics and even some Genuine Fake watches.  I had to keep in mind that I was planning to return to Turkey later in my trip and the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul was calling my name.  I did however make a very small contribution to the economy with the purchase of a silver necklace.  Well really – I like to do my part!