Scotsabroad's Weblog

January 16, 2010

Cold Turkey

Filed under: Holidays — scotsabroad @ 7:18 pm

It seems a long time since we blogged last. Last year. Before heading for Scotland back in December we stopped off on route in Istanbul. In the short time that we were there we managed to squeeze in a significant amount of sightseeing while trying to cope with the freezing cold. The boys were magnificent and walked for miles. We visited the big attractions such as the Aya Sofya, the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace but it was in the less familiar places that we found some hidden treasures. The Basilica Cistern we visited on our first morning, the wind and rain driving us down into a vast underground  water store containing scores of columns, carved Medusa heads and freakish patrols of large fish, made all the more atmospheric as the rain above found its way into the cistern. The atmospheric music being played through the speakers was just crap and spoilt the experience somewhat. The ancient Hippodrome warmed us up a bit when we saw the Obelisk of Theodosius brought to Constantinople in AD 390. Off the Hippodrome was an Ottoman Palace now housing the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art. This was a brilliant museum that displayed a magnificent door from some very important mosque and some beautiful carpets. The Archaeology Museum was superb but we began to walk around uneasily as we discovered many of the best pieces were on display at the British Museum. Not just fragments but whole temples.  The Galata tower gave us some wonderful views but getting to the top by elevator was a bit of a let down. We visited the spice bazaar as well as the Grand Bazaar marveling at the piles of Turkish Delight, huge honey combs, tacky and expensive souvenirs and every conceivable item of clothing. The station was interesting. It had seen better days, once the end of the line for the Orient Express, but we discovered a quirky railway museum inside. Wonderful building with incredible stained glass in the waiting rooms. We visited Taksim Square and then took a regular ferry for a stop across the Bosphorus.

The Galata Bridge was almost as I had imagined it . I read a book last summer called, The Bridge – A Journey between Orient and Occident by Geert Mak. He wrote about this bridge at the heart of Istanbul with its fishermen and vendors and a lower deck full of cafes and fast fish restaurants. A great few days in a very expensive and cold city. European City of Culture 2010. Just don’t go in December. The cockerel and the rabbit we spotted on the street but there was nobody around to explain it. It was only when we returned to Egypt and asked someone who was Turkish we found out that the bird and the rabbit  take wrapped pieces of paper out of the cart (using their beak or teeth) that display your fortune. We spent two days in London before heading up to Scotland visiting the British Museum to see the Rosetta Stone. The cat was gifted by Gayer Anderson, whose house we have visited many times here in Cairo. Think the cat should come home too.

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