‘You call it Chaos we call it Home’ An age old saying in Istanbul and it does take some getting used to being in a city with over 20 million inhabitants.
While enjoying a wine on the roof top bar late in the afternoon on the 29th May, Istanbul was celebrating the day in 1453 when the Ottomans broke the city walls and conquered Constantinople – we just enjoyed the display of jet fighters from the perfect vantage point.
Walking to meet our guide at Topkapi palace and it was obvious 10 am is considered quite early as the streets were quiet and pleasant .
Serda, once again the informed, professional guide spent the next 2 1/2 hours taking my group back to the life and times of the Sultans and the 4,000 people that lived within the walls of Topkapi.
It was traditional Kofta for lunch with pickled chillies and salad. That’s all this famous restaurant serves. They proudly show photographs lining the walls of famous people along with us !!! who have also eaten here.
There are a few ‘things’ you have to do when visiting Istanbul. A couple of hours in the grand bazaar to improve your haggling skills, buying a box of Turkish delight from the spice market, eating a plate of sweet baklava pastries with the locals and having a scrub down at a Turkish bath called a Hamam.
One of New Zealand’s famous chefs Peter Gordon has a restaurant well up the Bosphorus – insight of the black Sea and another huge new suspension bridge linking European and Asian Turkey.
The setting of the restaurant’ Chenga’ is in a beautiful green garden with a stunning view of the Bosphorus and the ships constantly traveling in and out of the Black Sea. It sits beside the original family mansion which now houses contemporary art.
We traveled up the Bosphorus on one of the local ferries past a very different Istanbul from the high density city centre. Beautiful houses sitting on the edge of the water surrounded with lush gorgeous gardens .
Our bus driver for the remainder of the tour is called Hikmet.He has driven from Cappadocia to meet us in his nice Mercedes mini Van.
After a memorable gorgeous lunch we visited Dolmabache back in the city. The sultans moved here in the late 1800’s to a more modern totally Palatial Palace, dripping with crystal and covered in acres of carpets the size of some NZ houses, until their final demise after the first world war. Mustafa Kamal Ataturk then lead Turkey into a new republican era.
With one hour to go on the last day of a Banksy exhibition we were thrilled to get in and even better a ‘ two for the price of one’ ticket. Plus ….it was around the corner from the hotel. It was brilliant and just one of lucky chances .
Meandering the narrow streets in the evening below Galata tower small cafes were selling simple food like doner – smoking a shisha is something we are are quite unfamiliar with, but many groups of young people seem to enjoy this pastime while sitting drinking tea and chatting. Quite frankly give me a good glass of red wine any time.
Sitting on the roof top bar with the beautifully lit mosques reflecting on the Bosphorus – I feel sorry for Istanbul and Turkey – they are hurting.