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13th March

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Edited by Cathy Winsor, Tuesday, 13 Mar 2012, 15:35

It’s now our second day in Istanbul, we are taking a break at the guest house and drinking a beer after a morning of exploring and sightseeing. We are staying in a wonderful Turkish run guest house which does the most delicious Turkish breakfast with a huge array of fruit, bread, cheese, yoghurt, freshly squeezed orange juice etc. Yesterday was wet and cold; it didn’t stop raining all day. There was a big supply of umbrellas for guest house residents which we took advantage of. Our first sight seeing stop was the Top Kapi Palace, the buildings were around a series of court yards. Lots of very impressive exhibits inside and groups of wet shivering hooded tourists wandering between them. There was a brisk trade in umbrellas and plastic raincoats near the gates.

We walked on to the Grand bazaar (in the rain) we were happy to discover it was a covered market, so could fold up the umbrellas. (I managed to forget both my umbrella and gloves in the first shop where we made a purchase; the storekeeper retrieved them from behind the counter when we went back a few hours later). We had a superlative lunch at the Havuzlu restaurant, which features in all the guide books and is as much a favourite with the locals as with tourists. We shared our table with a maths professor from the University, who was still giving lectures at 70. We learned all about his family of whom he was justly proud, his wife a retired dentist, daughter a surgeon, and son an engineer in Sudan who spoke five languages fluently. I enjoyed getting a glimpse into a Turkish family’s life. Daughter and I had intended to do lots of shopping, but in the end we just made a few modest purchases. We did look at wall hangings for the conservatory, but it would require too much bargaining to get down to ebay prices and there was just too much choice.

Istanbul is full of surprises and contrasts. High rise blocks, tall elegant buildings, wide streets in some areas and then other areas of narrow alleyways lined with small shops. The shops are zoned into different areas; today we walked along a street that sold nothing but belt buckles, another that just sold polyester lace curtains, a crockery street and so on. The tram and metro system is so clean and efficient. The pelican crossings have a wonderful countdown system so you know how many seconds you have to wait or to cross. There are public loos all over the place. Everywhere monuments are being carefully renovated and streets lain, constructed of granite bricks. The food is wonderful, though we did make a mistake last night for supper, an expensive second rate pide (Turkish pizza) in a touristy restaurant. For the rest of our holiday we won’t go in a restaurant unless it is busy with Turkish people. Lunch today was fun, a fish sandwich sitting on stools at a stall by the Bosporus, we watched the cooks prepare it on their boat which was rocking to and fro; the wind had whipped up quite a swell.

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