I'm well behind schedule. I'm still blogging about stuff that happened more than two months ago. Such are the pressures and stresses of modern working life! Or am I just lazy?
Anyway, before my memorable trip to Kenya (coming up soon), I did a return trip to the UK to visit my parents, sadly ageing now, but fortunately still enjoying relatively robust health. Turkish Airlines seemed to offer the cheapest promotions, so I pounced on this opportunity to make a meal of a stopover in Istanbul. It really is all it's hyped to be, or at least from a touristic point of view.
Of course, Turkey has come on leaps and bounds economically too and still has ambitions to become a part of the EU. A far cry from the days when they supplied most of the workforce for the post-war German economic miracle! I wonder how Germans will feel about having to treat as equals people that formerly had virtual slave or sub-species status!
There were two areas I visited, firstly Sultanahmet, the main tourist area, and Taksim Square, the commercial hub of modern Istanbul. I didn't have time to see everything I should have in Sultanahmet, but nevertheless got a good taster. I can finish it off on my next trip. Apart from the manifold artistic and architectural wonders of the Aya Sofia, the Blue Mosque and the Topaki Palace, I was most impressed by the covered Grand Bazaar, which is one of the most atmospherics markets I've ever visited. It really takes you way back in time, as it's basic structure and layout has remained unchaged for centuries. I particularly liked the colours too.
The only downside was the presence of persistent touts and dealers trying to make hard sells, and always using the full charm offensive technique. That approach is particularly difficult to handle, because as a tourist you're looking for a experience and to make some positive contacts with locals, which of course they exploit to the full! Carpets is the number one item they push. Mind you, some of them really are nice, but I'd recommend having a good look around first to get an idea of what prices should be.
As far as the Taksim Square area was concerned there was nothing
particularly visually exciting,other than that it was just a generally pleasant place to hang out, including a nice park. Branching out of it, though, is Istanbul's equivalent to Oxford Street, a long walking street with trams coming up and down intermittently. But for Turks, this is the real centre of Istanbul.
Kenya coming up next!