Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Ayia Sophia, two bazaars, the Galata Tower and Dolmabahce Palace

Nefise led the sightseeing today, we met her and the Walters at Ayia Sophia. It was very busy, but still the people were dwarfed - it's massive. Restoration is ongoing and will probably never end.

Nefise led us to the Grand Bazaar, and we left the boys drinking in a cafe and went to benchmark prices. It's massive; you could easily get lost in it. From there, we walked to the spice market which is much more compact and manageable. Then we walked across the Galata Bridge, which has cars and trams on the top level with fish restaurants underneath. Anglers line its sides. Once across, we stopped for a beer by the water, at the second attempt - the first place we stopped didn't serve alcohol.

We climbed the steep hill to the Galata Tower, from where there are great views of the city. The first recorded human flight took place from there, 6km across the Bosphorous, but the airman was exiled as a threat to national security. We were going to take the antique tram to Taksim Square but it wasn't running because of a demonstration. We made a small diversion to find the Pera Palace, where Carl and Sophie stayed on their honeymoon, but it was closed for renovation. We continued along Istiklal Cadesi, which was just like Oxford Street, teeming with people and lined with familiar stores like Starbucks, Lush and Accessorise. It was a long walk up to Taksim Square where the demonstration had just finished. There were a couple of armoured cars and many police in riot gear, including quite a few women. Nefise explained that it's a popular career choice for female graduates who can't get another job.

Simon and I left the others and took the funicular down to Kabatas on the coast and then picked up a tram to the end of the line and walked the rest of the way to Dolmabahce Palace, which we named the palace of bling. Massive and hugely impressive, but so ornate it makes your eyes hurt. We got a tram all the way back to Gulhane, then went to meet Sophie and co at the cistern. We took them to our part of town for an aperitif on the comfy cushions and had dinner on the roof terrace of the Ozler restaurant near the hotel, which was lovely until it got annexed by a rowdy party of German students.

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