Istanbul or Bust

Like most of us, I have a love affair with Istanbul, and I try and visit this beautiful city at least once a year.  I always take a list of things I want to see and when in the city, I walk around and tick off the tasks that I’ve completed.  Daughter can’t cope with my method and now that she is a little older (but perhaps not any wiser) I let her go off and do her own thing (which usually involves around sitting in coffee shops with her friends, flirting with boys and melting my credit card with her spending).

istanbul 10

I’m just now back from a week in this gorgeous city, staying in a fab apartment on Istiklal Caddesi.  I racked up over 100,000 steps (or 82 km), predominantly getting my tourist on, but also spending time meandering through tiny alleyways and cobbled backstreets looking for that hidden gem that I hadn’t found before.  One of my friends gave me a pretty thorough list of places I should visit but with my god-awful sense of direction, I got lost every single time although having gotten lost, I often found somewhere new that I wouldn’t have come across otherwise.

Istanbul 8

Walking through Istanbul’s busy streets is a visual feast, with so much life going on around every corner that you never know what you will find from an overflowing mosque filling onto the street on a Friday afternoon, ladies gossiping to their neighbours (probably about other neighbours) or a street party to welcome a young man home from his army conscription, life is everywhere.  Istanbul is also made for those of us who are cat-obsessed and as a self-proclaimed cat-whisperer I  always kept an eye out for my four-legged furry friends as I go.   Did they follow me back to my apartment?  I’m not saying yes and I’m not saying no but I will say that when we left there was a little calico kitty sitting on the step next to our doorman when we left for the airport.

Istanbul 5

The thing with Istanbul is that it really is a city that you can just walk around in.  No need to do tours or pay exorbitant fees (150TL for 1 day or 180TL for two days) to bus companies.  Instead, you grab an Istanbulkart and hop on the trams and buses that are so easily accessible and just as easy to use.  I also downloaded a couple of apps including Voice Map and Street Art Istanbul which gave me the opportunity of also seeing things from a different perspective.

Istanbul 7

Of course, I ate way too much during my week in Istanbul but I expect that all that walking won’t translate to kilos lost thanks to my indulging in everything I saw with tempting stacks of baklava, simits and lokma on every street corner and juicy kebabs, overloaded kumpir and thanks to Macro Centre (why oh why won’t they open one in Mersin) even a little bacon thrown in to enjoy.  Yes I know I can eat all of this just as easily in Mersin (well maybe not the bacon) but when in Rome (or Istanbul).

Istanbul 11

On a serious note, I will mention how safe I felt during my time in Istanbul.  There was a significant security presence with police and soldiers patrolling at tourist attractions as well as security guards doing bag checks and security gates to pass through before entering shopping centres or bazaars.  At no time did I feel nervous or intimidated.  I was not harassed while out by myself and Daughter, who travelled on the metro by herself to Kadikoy and back, did so without incident.  Yes, you should be vigilant and follow the advice of local security authorities as well as monitor media reports and keep up to date with the travel advice issued by your own Government, but I personally felt very comfortable visiting this beautiful city, and I hope to come and visit again very soon.

Istanbul 1

I will do a few posts over the coming weeks about our time in Istanbul, but I just thought for now I would put up a few photos.  They are, of course, not great as I am no photographer, but they are little memories for me to keep.

If you are thinking of visiting Istanbul why not grab one of these books –

 

_________________________________________________________________________

Loving this blog? Please help me build my audience and share with like-minded people who, like you, love Istanbul – oh and you love Turkey. You can also subscribe or like me on Facebook for all updates.

Cumhuriyet Bayrami

In Turkey 29 October is known as Cumhuriyet Bayrami (Republic Day).  This day commemorates Mustafa Kemal’s declaration that the Ottoman Empire would forevermore be known as the Republic of Turkey.  With that declaration a vote occurred in the Grand National Assembly and Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (Father of Turkey) was elected the first President of the Republic of Turkey.

Here are a few photos taken around Mersin today finishing our day with Ispanek Borek in Ataturk Parki.

29 Ekim 3

29 Ekim 2

DSC00457

borek

_________________________________________________________________________

Loving this blog? Please help me build my audience and share with like minded people who, like you, lurve a celebration and lurves Turkey. You can also subscribe or like me on Facebook for all updates.

Ancient Wonders

Daughter and I went walkabout last weekend and ended up about 2 hours west of Mersin in the small village of Kizkalesi.  Most of you who know Turkey or more particularly know Mersin will no doubt already know about this little spot along the Mediterranean but for those of you who are yet to visit this area Kizkalesi should definitely be on your list. kiz 3

Once out of Mersin the bus ride is enchanting was we passed through small villages, a scatterings of ruins and the never ending blue ocean.  The town itself is really nothing to write home about with its extraordinary number of pensions and holiday apartments that have built along the shoreline and on the lower slopes of Tarsus Mountains but our reason for visiting last weekend is to wonder at the majesty that is Deniz Kalesi also known as the Maiden’s Castle floating in the blue water of the Mediterranean.  Set on a small island just 400 metres off the mainland the island (The Turk tells me he used to swim over to it as a child although I call balderdash on that statement) was built sometime in the 1st century and has been rebuilt many times over the following centuries. Like most things in Turkey there is a legend that is attached to Deniz Kalesi.  It is said that a fortune teller told the King that his beautiful daughter will be poisoned by a snake.  Shocked by the fortune teller’s words, the King tries to change her fate by building a castle on an island where no snakes live.  He sends his daughter to live in the castle.  But a snake hides in a grape basket sent from the mainland and poisons the princess.  Definitely a bit of bad luck for her – maybe the King should have sent the Princess to Ireland.  Incidentally there are hundreds of little lizards on the island sending Daughter into screams of terror at every turn – so that’s definitely a bonus *sigh*. Image Daughter and I took a paddleboat over to the island (which really means I had to paddle both of us over to the island while she hung her legs into the water) to explore before returning back to the mainland (which also meant I had to paddle us both back while she complained about being cold even though it was 30 degrees and I was sweating bullets).  If you don’t want to paddle (or know that you are going to get stuck doing all the work) you can take one of the tourist boats over for 10TL. Exploring the ruins takes time and as Daughter and I had all the time in the world we enjoyed wandering around the base, climbing up and down its high walls and examining the mosaics. Image The mainland also has its fair share of ruins to explore as well and Daughter and I spent a good few hours wandering along in the sunshine traversing the ruins along the shore including Korykos Castle (above) which is directly opposite Maiden’s Castle and then a quick dolmus to Elaiussa-Sebaste (below) ruins which are only a few kilometres east of Kizkalesi.  If you have a few days you should also explore the Roman-Byzantine cities of Kanlidivane and Kanytelis also has a wonderful example of Roman necropolis. Image In summer Kizkalesi is packed, mostly with German tourists, but right now it is just a sleepy village and definitely no crowds – the beach was just pristine and it was all ours. _________________________________________________________________________ Loving this blog? Please help me build my audience and share with like minded people who, like you, love to travel and love Turkey. You can also subscribe or like me on Facebook for all updates.

Gunaydin

I pretty much track the same steps every day when I leave the house in the morning.  First is a walk with My Hurley Dog.  I go wherever he chooses – he is in control of the walk.  The one certain on our early morning walk is that we stop for fresh bread.  One loaf for The Turk and I and the other for his father.  After I drop off the bread at home My Hurley Dog and I make our way down to the deniz (sea) for a pleasant stroll.

Image

I wave and call “Gunaydin” to those I know as we wander down towards the water.   I occasionally stop to have a chat (with my limited Turkish) if anyone calls me over.  As I walk down the main road I can see Daughter’s school in the distance.  She is no doubt daydreaming at her desk, pretending to learn but most likely thinking of Calum Hood or chatting with her friends.

I always stop by the vegetable market to have a quick look.  Always fresh and always delicious I might make a quick purchase before dodging may way through the fish markets.  Although the Village is predominantly a farming community it also has a large harbour and fishing industry and many of the restaurants in Mersin purchase their fish from these markets.  You need to be there early though – really early.  By the time I get there a little after 7:30 most of the best fish has already been sold leaving the lesser quality for us slowpokes.

Image

Image

When I finally arrive at the waterfront I always pause for a moment.  With the early morning sun shining on the water it is a sight to behold.  No matter how crappy I feel or how down I am at the world in general looking at this scene always perks me right up.  Gorgeous water, gorgeous sunrise – unfortunately, however, the beachfront itself is not as attractive to the eye.  It is a garbage dump.

The Village is the closest beach area to the city of Mersin itself.  It’s potential as a destination for day visits by the “city dwellers”, particularly in summer.  I recently read that the Council is looking into rezoning the area for tourism but that is, I imagine, some years away.  It is disappointing that the locals do not realise the little gem that they have here under their noses and the literal goldmine that they are sitting on.

Image

In the meantime My Hurley Dog and I love our morning walks in the sunshine – I say sunshine as I am still waiting for rain.  The rain count since we arrived still stands at only 3 times.  Yes that’s right 3 times in 132 days although it is little a little overcast today so we might get something.  Finger’s crossed.  Maybe.

Image