Monday, 12 May 2008

24 hours in Istanbul

Yea! a lay over of 24 hours in Istanbul... a city at the top of the to-go-to list. First stop on the mad schedule was the Roman underground cisterns, which was awesome! spoilt only by my pet hate - piped music. Next, it was across the road to Hagia Sophia, unfortunately the dome was under scaffolding so the full impression was lost, but was still impressive. I wasn't sure why I walked up to the upper gallery as I'm still getting back to fitness from the op., but it was worth it. I didn't go to the Blue mosque this trip, but it provided the background to many of my photos. From Hagia Sophia I went to Topaki Palace, via a welcomed sit in an outside cafe - bit chilly, but then anywhere is compared to Muscat's 42c and it started to rain just after I left, but that didn't dampen the excitment... However, the fact that all the school children in the city were in the palace on a school trip did, the noise was incredible, as were the queues for the treasury rooms. However, paying a 2nd entry fee in order to get into the Hareem put the smile back. It's unmissable! Beautiful, peaceful... so many positive adjectives can be used; I loved the whole Hareem complex.

Got lost in the winding streets going back to the hotel to check in, then it was off out to the Grand Bazaar. It took great willpower not to buy any ceramics, definately a weakness of mine. Back at the hotel, they have a fabulous rooftop bar/restaurant were I had to have a small gin & tonic in order to enjoy the views across the city and Bospherous. I finished off my Istanbul experience with a show of traditional Sufi music complete with whirling Dervish. The music I found quite haunting, whilst the whirling Dervish I wouldn't describe as mystic, partly because it's a tourist exhibition I guess, but it was definately calming to watch.

The next morning my taxi driver thought he was in the F1, which was to be held that weekend there.. gulp. Then, when I was in the airport waiting to fly to Italy, half an hour sooner than expected, I picked up Orhan Pamuk's The White Castle. It's his 1st novel about an Italian captured by pirates to be a slave in Istanbul - seemed appropriate reading for this trip. It's beautifully written, no wonder he's a Nobel prize winner. I'll write about my time here in Italy later in the week.