We spent the first day exploring the Spice Market and the Grand Bazzar. Sultanahmet was relatively easy to navigate, with the bazaar positioned only 15 minutes away from our hostel, and the Blue Mosque within eye view, and a handy street map so we looked uber touristy.
The spice market was a narrow covered street, full of spice shops, sweet shops, more spice shops, a few kebab shops, more sweet shops, and a few shops which seemed to sell a variety of items you may need, one day. Following the spice market along we found ourselves entering the Grand Bazaar, I actually had to ask someone if we were in the right place!
After momentarily losing ourselves (and our concept of money) within the bazaar, and purchasing a few wee pressies, we very quickly became bored of the cushion shops, leather bag shops, jewellery shops, shoe shops and carpet shops, all row after row. Nearly everything was completely over and above our price range, and the only things we really wanted wouldn’t fit in our backpack. Like the amazing Turkish lamps, and beautiful Turkish rugs. I do have to say, the bazaar was a grand let down. (HA)
We were pre-warned on the intensity of the sales pitching, ants to sweets some describe it as. And we certainly did stick out like a sore thumb, there was no way to disguise our foreignness. We were constantly stared at, some pointing, some laughing, some in awe, Dans stretched ears drew a lot of attention.
We were warned that the height of people trying to sell us things would be within the bazaar, but we actually found walking there more stressful! Some of the best sales pitches:
“YES” as we walk past
“Don’t come here, but if you do, you might like it.”
“Hey Australians, come in here.”
“She looks hungry” to Dan about me
“Hey Angelina Jolie.” To me…
“I’ve worked here for 7 years and I can tell you right now, that my restaurant is the best.”
“Lady, lady, come here!” Stepping in front of me as I try to dodge
And on and on and on… With our response becoming almost automatic as soon as we hit Sultanahmet “York, Sau” (No Thankyou.)
The second day was spent walking across Galata bridge to Galata tower and across to Beşiktaş. Round by Galata tower is very funky, lots of cheap kebab shops, lots of hippie inspired clothing shops and funky designer shops. Towards Taksim Square seemed like the ‘new’ and modern Istanbul section, with popular international brands such as Mac, Nike, Sunglasses hut, Zara and of course McDonalds and Burger King, with kebab shops and Turkish delight shops scattered amongst.
On our first venture to Taksim square we witnessed 5 police bus’s, with barred windows and police men with guns standing on the back, driving down the Main Street, followed by a huge water gun tank, and three police motorbikes.
It was pretty scary, and that was just an introduction to the police state, Istanbul.
Traffic police, tourism police, police driving mini’s, police driving Mercedes, motorbikes, undercover police. Cameras everywhere. It was intense!
On the third day we went to the Blue Mosque in the morning, with the other hundred or so tourists. I had to wrap a scarf round my head and Dan, in his shorts, had to wrap a scarf round his legs.
Inside the mosque was very busy, full of tourists taking pictures, us amongst them, but feeling out of place. We quickly left and took more pictures outside which we found more impressive anyway.
Hagia Sophia cost to enter so we just took photos from the outside.
For the next few days due to being low on money, we spent the majority of our time walking.
We would leave Sultanahment quickly, trying to avoid the sales pitches being chucked at us, the sales men pretending they were actually interested in us, and would walk across Galata bridge, observing the fishermen who would have the entire bridge to fish off but choose to all go next to each other. They’d often be in their camo gear, in disguise hoping the fish wouldn’t no that they were fishing off the bridge into the main harbour!!
Walking round, there seemed to be districts, all selling the same things. Fishing district, every shop selling fishing gear, all the same stuff. Sock district, all the shops selling socks, one after the other. Engine district, engines filling shop windows, a whole district of them!
In Istanbul there is no need to want anything, because if you haven’t got it, some bodies trying to sell you it, or there’s an entire street dedicated to it, you just haven’t spotted it yet.
Dogs and cats happily roam the city, both were most well fed, and looked after strays I’ve ever seen.
Istanbul is stunning, walking through the quirky streets all selling odd mixtures of items…momentarily forgetting where you are, the call for prayer would echoe throughout the city.
Reminding you that your somewhere new, somewhere exciting, full of amazingly beautiful mosques, full of different religions. We enjoyed listening to the call for prayer, it had a soothing sound to it, and as one mosque started others throughout the city would join in, creating a mass sound of jumbled singing reverberating against the buildings.
Our time in Istanbul was limited, but enjoyable, as mentioned in my previous blogpost, we weren’t able to live it up due to a tight budget, but we still made the most of it.
As for now, I’m done with chicken kebabs! Bring on France!