Swimming in the Bosphorus – Mike

3rd August 2015:

About 4:30 on 30 July Tom and I catch a bus to Istanbul from Ecaebat on the Gallipoli peninsula. We time it well … After a day of being engrossed in the Gallipoli story, we have only has 30 minutes or so to say good by to Barry and Pete . They have their own little adventure to get into …each driving solo to Sofia and Belgrade and figuring out their own navigation.

Tom and head off to Istanbul for a day or so before Tom flys back to Oz and I fly to Rome to meet Fiona and Tina. We then work our way east to meet the other guys in Belgrade. Or where ever …. !!

So Tom and I find a well located place to stay and make phone and email booking with the aid of the wifi on the bus … Yes buses have wifi these days . I had no idea !

The trip takes a few hours and we drive though rich agricultural land and gradually make our way east and into the outer Istanbul and the bus gradually fills up with others finding their way into the amazing city of Istanbul…. “Some call it chaos … but we call it home” .. Is a message I read somewhere …and you can see why people love the place. Such energy … I was lucky enough to visit Istanbul in 1996. I thought it was amazing then and now it’s even more so.

Tom acts as tour guide as he had spent 5 days there before heading to meet us in Iran.

We arrive at the most hectic bus station and transfer onto a free shuttle bus that drops us of a 10 minute walk from the hotel… find the hotel … Check in around 11:00 pm and then Tom takes me out for a fish sandwich (… !!! ) at the restaurants under the bridge.

Istanbul

Istanbul

Magic Istanbul

Magic Istanbul

So next morning after breakfast we head off to do our touristing … A wander through the Karakoy trendy lanes and have coffee under the shade of grape vines in a district that has this amazing mix of plumbing shops, metal workers and other trades and the new designer industries of graphic designers and architects and the like . I am thoroughly impressed with the redevelopments that are squeezed into the old built fabric, respecting the scale and forms , but demonstrating real flare in how they are fitted they present the new with the old . Some of the best urban renewal I have ever seen. Very stylish.

As we wander around over the next day we see more and more examples of the processes of renewal … And across the board … In all the places we have visited across Turkey there is a real quality to the design and architecture … This includes apartments, single dwellings and these urban renewal projects.

Istanbul sightseeing

Istanbul sightseeing

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Then a tram ride over the river to the Blue mosques ..to find its not open until 3pm today ..so we divert to the ancient Basilica Cisterns … The Roman built water cistern built around 500 AD, and part of the main water supply for the city in Roman times. Lost for about 1000 years and then restored for tourists in the mid 1980s. At $10.00 a shot it’s turning over a good buck. And it’s worth a quick visit and nice and cool.

After that we wandered through the Grand Bazaar … A maze of hard core sellers …all hoping for sale. It’s changed in the 20 or so years … Far more tourist oriented. We wander around enjoying the sites with nothing specific in mind and eventually wander into a store selling Islamic calligraphy and paintings on old book pages . We end up having a very nice conversation with the trader and I buy a calligraphy which says Hic (pronounced Hich) … Meaning “nothing” or everything is “nothing” and Tom buys a nice little picture of Istanbul.

We have the conversation about Gallipoli I mentioned in the last post.

After we wander out and find nice lunch and then wander on through the streets to the edge of the Marmara and the Bosphorus and after wandering past folks using the rock protection wall as swimming beach we decide to strip down to under wear …like rest of the guys and dive in…. It’s cool and refreshing and something to remember. Apparently Swimming across the Bosphorus is an open water swimmers challenge to be reckoned with …and you can see why. The current and significant number shipping movements would test anyone … Would like to have a go some time …if the opportunity presents it self.

Swimming in The Bosphorus

Swimming in The Bosphorus

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Tom and I wear ourselves out by walking the full way back around the headland, past the back of the palace and the ferry terminal and back across the bridge to the hotel.

We rest up and eventually head out for a meal. We find a place which has great vegetarian food. And Tom over orders …. Because he can’t figure out the portion sizes. Any way we enjoy the evening walking around the tourist areas around Galata Tower. I had been there all those years ago. Then in the streets just away from the tower where rows and rows of small furniture manufactures . Now it is restaurants, tourist stuff, lots of “bricabrac” ( with amazing old furniture and odds and ends – this is not just for the tourists … It’s for the locals ) and the other non tourist businesses seem new age designers etc .

Galatea Tower

Galatea Tower

And beer right near it

And beer right near it

In the morning it’s another quick look around and a great coffee and then Tom is off to the airport and I follow later in the day for my flight to Rome ..???

As I quoted above …”Istanbul …. Some call it chaos … but we call it home” … Istanbul is even more cosmopolitan then ever … A place with such energy, such amazing mix of history and the contemporary … the mosques, churches, Roman cisterns and emerging sky scrapers . I had less than 48 hours there , but would love to get immersed in all it has to offer … Maybe some other life … Continually grateful for what I am experiencing … Spinning a little from the overload.

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