Thursday, 4 August 2016

Crossroads of the World - Day 5

Fish Boat Restaurants

Istanbul                                                                         Turkey

Monday 13th October 2014

As was expected the call to prayer rang around the entire city when I was fast asleep. Despite this, it felt as though I had the best night sleep since I came to Istanbul. I lay in my bed a moment longer though watching some British TV channels and having a quick breakfast whilst planning my day out. It was actually nice to hear some English on the TV and even better still, Sherlock Holmes was on too; how British could it get? I was contemplating on going onto the Bosphorus boat tour today but then I thought it would be better to do that the next day. My plan was instead to go beyond the old city and explore the Ortaköy district which was the location of the huge Bosphorus Bridge expanding from the Europe side to the Asian side of Istanbul. I knew I would have to walk miles to get to it but I mentally prepared myself for the long journey. I could have easily used the trams provided but I thought I would make it a challenge and also take in the sights along the way; so I packed up my essentials and headed out of my apartment. To save some time getting to Galata Bridge, I walked pretty much the way the crow flies and headed north. Along the way I walked through countless small shops selling everything and anything including hunting equipment and gun shops which were something unique and interesting to see. I continued to head north and on my left I caught sight of the tall Beyazit tower; so I headed towards it to have a closer look. It was quite a size and dwarfed everything around it. It sort of looked like a radio tower which was located right next to one of Istanbul’s universities. I continued on my northern path and I finally arrived at the familiar sight of the Galata Bridge and tower in the distance.

Beyazit Tower
Galata Bridge

However, on my right was the ‘New mosque’ which I had never been into yet so I thought while I was there, I might as well take a look inside. It was quite funny to think it was called the new mosque despite the fact it was 500 years old. I headed inside with my shoes off placed in a plastic bag and was yet again struck with amazement upon the views of the interior as with the other mosques. This one however had a blue carpet than the typical red carpet I had seen with the other mosques. Yet again I was won over with the spectacle of the mosaic tiles and floral patterns along with the shear size of the domes. I eventually left the mosque and started crossing the Galata Bridge. I stopped halfway at the bridge and looked out over to the Bosphorus and right in the distance was my destination. It was absolutely miles away but I marched on with no second thoughts. 

New Mosque

New mosque

New mosque

New Mosque

After a mile or so of walking east, I came across a sign saying ‘Istanbul modern’. This was part of the new city I read up about and as soon as I passed the sign, I could see a massive difference from the old city and its mosques. It sort of felt as though I stepped into a different era in time. It was also weird at the fact I felt like I was in New York as tall structures surrounded the area with yellow taxis racing up and down the main road. I decided to get away from the main street and walk right alongside the Bosphorus with the hot sun beaming down on me. This was the hottest day of my journey so far and I was going to make the most of it. As I left the main street area, it became very peaceful which was a relief to hear; or not to hear so to speak. I decided to get my dinner at a small café along the waters edge which had a row of outside seating areas in which I sat down at. I was curious enough to try out the fish in Istanbul so I ordered a fish sandwich and a can of coke. As I was waiting for my food I took a long moment feeling relaxed and at peace looking at the wonderful view in front of me. At the distance on my right was the old city and I could clearly make out the several minarets poking out from the horizon which also looked like a silhouette. 

Bosphorus Bridge
Old City of Istanbul

It was remarkable to behold as my fish sandwich finally came. I ate my sandwich and I was surprised at how tasty it was even though I had to spit out some tiny bones. It was time to move on again and keep walking to the east. I passed a famous sight known as the ‘Dolmabahce’ palace. I was in two minds whether to visit the palace but was more focused on getting near to the Bosphorus Bridge. So I walked and walked nearing my destination with every step. I realised along the way I was walking alongside another university which had security and one way bollards at each entrance and exit so instead of trying anything funny, I carried on with my route. 

Clock Tower

Palace Main Gates

I also noticed along the way constant pictures of the Turkish republics’ first president named Ataturk from his younger days to his older days which was interesting to see. Time passed on and the pictures of Ataturk finally stopped. This meant that I finally made it to where I needed to be. I was very close to the bridge and right next to the Ortaköy mosque which was a lot smaller than the imperial mosques in the old city. Speaking of the old city, it was a very long distance away but the minarets were still clear as day. As for the Bosphorus bridge it was a colossal size. It was definitely the largest and tallest bridge I’ve ever witnessed in the flesh so far. I sat at the waters edge yet again with not a care in the world. 

Bosphorus Bridge

Ortakoy Mosque

I watched the huge cargo ships pass by and under the bridge producing some large waves behind them which were then smashing against the quayside. Luckily enough I moved well out of the way in time when the water splashed vigorously onto the pathway. However, some people were unfortunate and got completely soaked with unexpected waves. There was one who loved the splashing water though and it was a stray dog. It was racing up and down the pathway chasing the water which humoured me and others a lot. In the small square behind me there was an old man selling bird seed to feed the pigeons in the area which weren’t afraid to walk right next to people as though they dominated the square. I moved on at this point having a wander around the area looking at small market stalls which all happened to sell the same jewellery, fridge magnets and clothing. I also passed stalls which were selling ice cream so I decided to try a pistachio ice cream. It tasted really nice but instead of the typical softness of cutting into an ice cream, this one was thick and very hard to cut through. It was time to take the very long walk back to the old city but I knew what to expect. A very long time passed and I was welcomed by the sight of the Galata tower closing in which really was a great relief. By now my legs were feeling the strain so I made haste for the apartment. 

However, there was one more place I wanted to visit which was the Basilica cistern. I had to wait in a small queue but I eventually entered and down the steps immediately becoming speechless with what I had seen. It was all underground with what looked like a forest of marble columns in a vast cavern. Each column was lit up with orange lights which illuminated the area in a spooky glow but also magnificent to see. As I looked down into the water I could see hundreds of large carp drifting so elegantly through the water with coins shimmering up to my face. I felt lost looking at this vast cistern and the deeper I went in, the more interesting and marvellous it became. I was constantly getting dripped on which was a bit annoying but obviously didn’t surprise me as it was a cistern. At the far end were two carved pieces of marble in the shape of ‘Medusas’ head’ both holding up two separate columns. It was definitely peculiar to see as one was on its side and the other was upside down. Throughout my time in the cistern, Chinese therapeutic music played throughout the large cavern making it even more special. It was definitely an experience to witness the cistern and I was happy to finally take my leave and be back at my apartment resting my feet. 

Basilica Cistern

Large Carp

Basilica Cistern

Medusa Head

Medusa Head

It felt amazing finally taking my feet off the ground and lying on my bed after all the walking. I decided to call home to reassure my parents that I was safe and well. My father answered and I said hello. I could hear my mother in the background breathe in a sound of relief to hear from me. I told them that I was having a great time and keeping well. I couldn’t stay on the phone long though as I needed to keep my phone credit for when I was at the airport. I had a good long time relaxing on my bed before finally getting ready to go out again for tea. I headed into the Sultanahmet square to figure out where I was going to eat. I chose to go to a different restaurant at the same side street I was at 2 days ago which was called ‘Kayikci’ restaurant. 

Kayikci Restaurant

I ordered lamb chunks with a mixture of peppers and tomatoes which was kept on a traditional cooking tray and of course a Turkish tea to go with it. I didn’t know what to expect with the cooking tray but when it came, I was astonished with what was placed on my table. My food was on an old fashioned metallic tray which rested on a floral designed metal casing encasing a small gas cooker inside. Almost everyone passing by was admiring my food and what it was on. The food was very nice even though it was a bit spicy but what was I expecting being in Turkey. 

Traditional Cooking Tray 

I had a Baklava dessert once again with yet another Turkish tea feeling satisfaction melt into my mouth. I finished my food and paid my bill but I was then given a free Turkish tea which I appreciated very much. While I was drinking my very sweet tea, I got chatting to an elderly couple who were from Canada for a small while asking about their holiday experience and talking about my experiences along the way before finally taking my leave. I had a small walk around and stayed a moment at the Blue mosque courtyard again in time for the call to prayer to be sung. It was a nice sound which I grew accustom too but only when I was awake and not asleep. Once it stopped and all went quiet, I headed back to the apartment for some well deserved rest.

Blue Mosque
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