Well, what can I say other than I have had the most incredible weekend in Istanbul with Miss K! We left Kalymnos on Friday morning set for a long day of travel and thats what we definitely got. Taxi, Ferry, Taxi, 6 hours waiting in Kos, ferry to Bodrum, missed our flight and then arrived in Istanbul at about 1am on Saturday morning. It was a long long day and one that I would say should not be repeated.
We awoke on Saturday morning and had coffee with Anne, our host for the weekend. Karine had lived in Istanbul for a year prior to us meeting and knew Anne well. They had done a little travelling together and she had also joined Karine in Kalymnos at the same time K and I had met there. We headed out for breakfast in the local area. We were staying in the Beyoglu district. Privato was the little cafe we ate breakfast at and it was a wonderful little bohemian place in a narrow, cobble-stoned back street.
Anne left us after breakfast and we walked down to the area know as the Golden Horn. This is a famous trade area where the Istanbul Spice Bazaar is. We walked across one of the many bridges that cross the Bosphorus river, fisherman lined the walkway chattering away about life and talking about their choice of bait, line and hooks. Happily showing each other their gear.
The floating restaurants and the number of ferries on the river was incredible and the day was beautiful. People were out wandering around and I felt a sense of pride in the air. It was a strange feeling. It was like everyone was out and about as a statement defiance to what has been a terrible time of trouble for the city. I spoke to a local man about this and he said “Yes we will not let these horrible humans interrupt our lifestyle and how we live, FUCK YOU!”
We walked down through the streets to Hagia Sophia. This stunning place of worship was once a Greek Orthodox Basilica and was now a museum. We didn’t go in, just walked around the park. A little further on was the incredible and enormous “Blue Mosque”. Walking in to this place was truly overwhelming. Looking up at those beautiful mosaic tiles and the shear majesty of the place brought tears to my eyes. I remembered seeing a documentary years ago on it, but I never in my wildest dreams thought I would stand in this place.
Walking out and back through the courtyard and on to the street we discussed the level of artistry that goes into not only building but decorating such an incredible building. This building was 500 years old and still incredibly beautiful.
We walked through the park and then took a short cut Miss K knew to go and have a drink and rest for a few minutes as it was a beautiful day and the temps were quite high. The smell of shish filled the air and the perfumed tobacco was almost nauseating. As we continued to walk through town, occasionally I would think to myself “I cant believe I am walking through the streets of Istanbul!”
If someone had said to me before I left Australia and began to explore the world, that I would be walking through the streets of Istanbul….I would have said “There is no way in hell I will do that!!!”
Its amazing how things change with time and experience. I have to say I was a little anxious from time to time, but I felt very relaxed the majority of the time. You cant live your life in fear and not do things because you are crippled by your fears. One must live!!!
Later that day we met up with our host Anne and headed out for a pre-dinner drink at a very bohemian little bar in a back street. Anne said it was her “after work local” and it was very cool and obviously very popular. Graffiti lined the external walls and it was very much not the sort of graffiti I expected to see in Istanbul. The vibe was great and it felt like a little bar in a Paris side street.
Dinner was a traditional Meyhane Meze (tapas) with the most amazing array of flavours. Parsley, walnut and pomegranate salad was a delectable treat. Too many to describe and remember. The wine was also sensational. It was a great night with great people in an amazing city.
The next mornings coffee was to tide us over until we met Karine’s former colleagues for a late brunch at a buffet restaurant called Fua in Maçka Park (pronounced Mush-Kah). It was mainly vegetarian and there was no alcohol served at all…….Slightly disappointed at this I had a very nice fresh orange juice……..WTF!!!!
After lunch we sat in the park and watched life buzz by with dogs, cyclists, slack liners and other assorted activities occurring between relaxed groups enjoying a beautiful day. Miss K and I then caught up with Agate and Ishan. Agate is French and Ishan Turkish. I had heard a lot about them and was looking forward to meeting them. We had a great afternoon chatting at their place and then went out for an early dinner.
It was great to have the opportunity to chat to a local and get the low down of how he feels about whats going on there. He also asked what the view of Turkey is from the outside. We had a very solid and meaningful conversation that was extremely honest and at times very moving. I couldn’t have asked for a better person to chat with about this amazing place.
After dinner we walked to the metro station, said our goodbyes and Karine and I caught the train back to our stop and walked together arm in arm through the busy Istanbul night……We had an early start (5am) to get our flight back to Paris……..It was an action packed weekend and we were exhausted and very very happy.