A week in Istanbul can never be enough. Western culture is folded in with tantalising oriental tastes, smells and sights. The Spice Market, Grand Bazaar and the old imperial Ottoman palace complex co-exist with tram cars, buses and fearsome vehicle traffic. All of this is spanned by the magnificent Golden Horn and the description defying Bosphorous. Having left the city I want to return, to immerse myself in it again, but this time it will be experienced more gently. On my next visit I want to take more time to saunter along or just sit and look and listen. Istanbul is that sort of place. After a week walking through it you love it but you haven’t even begun to know it, let alone the Turkish language, but that is another story. My hint would be to take the time and trouble to learn a few phrases including please and thankyou. You will be repaid richly by the appreciation of locals. Don’t be too much of a tourist. Be a visitor, a guest.
The next stage of our journey was hiring a mini van (Renault Traffic) to accommodate the luggage of four people and driving through morning traffic from the international airport (don’t hire cars in the city centre – that would be madness due to the traffic congestion). The exit from the airport and the drive towards the west is not one I particularly want to remember. My passengers sitting tight lipped and probably gripping door handles (I couldn’t see – I was concentrating on a cone of vision in front of the vehicle trying to avoid collisions with a sea of commuting vehicles driven by people who had little appreciation of the niceties of lanes or road courtesy. The roads didn’t help either. That day just happened to have almost continuous road work scheduled for the first 30 km or so. Four lanes narrowing down to one or two with hundreds of cars and small trucks asserting themselves for space is not a good way to get used to a new hire vehicle, especially if it is larger than one is used to. Anyway, we (mostly) managed to stifle the involuntary screams of fear and anxiety and expletives and eventually found ourselves on open road. Open road is a relative term however as is the speed limit, but we don’t need to dwell on that. I recommend such an experience for anyone who is growing tired of life and perhaps bored with the daily challenges. I, for one, will probably avoid doing it (driving out of Istanbul) in the future. There has to be a better way.
Next time I will describe some of our memorable drive to Gallipoli, near where the Aegean meets the Sea of Mamara. Beautiful, inspiring and beautiful and inspiring, and also culturally and historically very interesting.
To be continued . . .