Friday, 31 May 2019

Istanbul day six

I got up late and finished breakfast by 9.55am then rested in my room. By 11.35am I was in the lobby waiting for my friend to emerge from her room. We left the hotel at 11.50am and headed west. The wind was from the west at about five knots. We got to the Grand Bazaar at 12.15pm and wandered around for a while then ducked into a carpet shop where my friend bargained the dealer down to 1000TL on the price of a woollen Kurdish carpet.

After she made this purchase we sat down at 1.25pm at a cafe and ordered cappuccinos (32TL) then at 1.45pm left the bazaar and headed down the hill toward Eminonu and Sirkeci. At 2.30pm we queued at the entrance to the Balkan Lokantasi Restaurant to order some food, which we did at the front of the shop. We chose eggplant stuffed with rice, a spinach dish, Brussels sprouts, and chicken cooked with potato and carrot. It came with two dishes of rice. We also bought a Coke and a bottle of water. The tab was 41.5TL, which was very cheap. After eating, at 2.55pm we went into a camera store and my friend bought an SD card reader and a spare SD card (156TL).

We went across the road at the bottom of the hill and sat down in Sirkeci Station for five minutes, then headed across the main road (Kennedy Street) toward the ferry dock. We had a look in a bookstore there and decided not to sit down in the cafe next door, then crossed the road again and at 3.30pm caught a cab after getting the driver to agree to start the meter once we got into his well-worn Fiat. He drove us south around the headland on Kennedy Street.

I tried using my Turkish by saying the name of the street the hotel is located on but the taxi driver did not understand me, so we agreed to go to Ayasofya because everyone knows how to pronounce that. He dropped us off close to the destination and the fare came to 15TL. We got back to the hotel at 3.50pm and at 4.35pm I went out to change some more US dollars into lira (US$500 came to 2820TL).

At 6.20pm we left the hotel, and entered the Blue Mosque’s garden 25 minutes later. A man came up to me at the entrance and told us that the mosque was closed to visitors at that hour. He then asked me where I had come from. I told him I was from Australia and he said, “G’day mate,” and asked me if I had brought any Vegemite with me to Turkey. He told me his family operated a gift shop and I didn’t say anything but my travelling companion said we didn’t want to see it. He then asked why we were so angry and we proceeded ahead, ignoring him.

You get this sort of treatment often in Istanbul. When touts don’t get the reaction they want they can get aggressive. It’s the same with stores that try to sell you the usual kinds of tourist tat and that then put signs in the windows of their shops telling passers-by not to take photos. In any case they are likely to harass people walking by their shops then get upset if they don’t manage to get any money out of you.

It’s all very well to have little oases where tourists can get the kinds of things they usually want, like fresh food and beer and fridge magnets. But if you are going to get angry when tourists show that they are tired of the constant hassling then you are often going to be disappointed. It seems that being disappointed is a specialty of the Turks. Israelis are like this too: very short and unfriendly-sounding. There is very little charm on offer in these countries, and if you are a tourist you are generally expected to do one thing and one thing only: give away your currency as fast as is humanly possible.

After leaving the grounds of the Blue Mosque we walked into a set of demountables that had been set up for a book fair. A diesel generator was roaring away next to the Egyptian obelisk that one of the Roman emperors had transported from that country to Constantinople, when the city was still called by that name. Many of the books on the tables people were walking past were religious ones and all were in Turkish as far as I could see. Outside on the square hundreds of people were waiting for fasting to end so that they could eat. They were sitting at tables that had been set up on the thoroughfare, or else on the grass in front of the mosque.

At 7.40pm we sat down at a restaurant and ordered a sejuk pide, a mix kebab, and two glasses of red wine. I also had a beer, and the tab came to 195TL. The wine came in enormous balloons and was quite good. We got back to the hotel at 8.35pm.

Above: The Grand Bazaar entrance near the light rail line.

Above: Inside the Grand Bazaar.

Above: The window of a gold vendor's shop in the Grand Bazaar.

Above: North of the Grand Bazaar inside an arcade with shops in it. This window shows children's clothes.

Above: On the way down the hill from the light rail line toward Eminonu.

Above: Sirkeci Station.

Above: The lawn in front of the Blue Mosque where people wait until the fasting ends.

Above: Hagia Sophia seen from the south side.

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