Istanbul, Turkey



I want to be a restaurant owner.

Fun fact number 1. The Turkish flag is red which represents the blood sacrificed by her soldiers and the moon and star, well, represents a moon and star which, I suppose was shining above a battlefield at some point. The grand finale to this fun fact is that it is illegal to wear the flag on your arse. That’s right, no Turkish flag underpants or bikinis here, it’s deemed offensive.

My second day in Istanbul was spent exploring the city. The first stop was an old tower which I cannot remember anything about. It was built many years ago and appears as a piece of history amongst the Istanbul skyline. A circular tower with a pointy roof, you can’t miss it. It’s famous, in part, for a man deciding to make some wings and throw himself off the top of the tower a few centuries ago. He lived and, even more remarkably he glided several kilometres, making it to the other side of the Bosphorus. The top of the tower did offer great views and as with all tourist attractions it had a cafe and gift shop just in case you felt the need for a novelty giant pencil. There was also a helicopter simulator tour of the city which we ended up getting tickets for. Not quite sure of the relevance but hey ho. It was in 3D and had the added bonus of having motion chairs which tilted in all directions. I can say very confidently that it felt nothing like a helicopter ride. I love flying in helicopters, it’s an amazing experience but, I left this feeling extremely close to vomiting! It was therefore decided that walking and actually going to visit the landmarks would be far less traumatic.

The Grand Bizarre was our next stop which was a place I really wanted to see. I think only because I hoped an English spy would be riding a motorbike over the top of it. Unfortunately this was not the case and there was no view of it from above on offer either which is what I would have liked to have seen. I was really very surprised when I went in as it was extremely peaceful and quiet. I have been to a few of these crazy places before but actually, the Grand Bizarre wasn’t crazy at all. It was rather lovely. There is only one thing to do when in a lovely environment and that is to have a cuppa tea! Whenever I visit large markets abroad, they always sell the same stuff with heaps of shops all selling the same things. The kind of stuff that is used to make your home homely. It’s not necessarily useful other than it fills an empty space. Apparently though the big markets act like a wholesaler to other shops in the city. This trinket of information made everything click into place in my little brain and now these huge crazy (or lovely) markets make perfect sense to me.

The day came to an end visiting a few mosques which are grand and beautiful. You are able to go inside once covered up but you can’t take photos and, people will be praying so it all feels a bit weird. What I don’t understand about mosques (Churches would also apply!) is that they are so splendid and must cost a heap of gold to build. But, Islam is all about modesty, restraint and sharing wealth so……..?????

The following day we headed off to an island, hired some bikes and went on an adventure. Apparently the Turkish tourist industry is on its knees but is that Western tourist data??? There were heaps of tourists from the Middle East. We stopped off for a swim and a bit of sun at one beach and I saw three wonderful things. The first was Muslim women in the sea, covered from head to toe in the Abaya (I’m not sure if it was a swimming version!). This wasn’t anything too crazy. What was crazy was when they got out they wrapped themselves with Sponge Bob Square Pants and Frozen towels, still fully dressed (obviously). It was the contrast that amused me! Then there was Borat having a good old time with his girlfriend who looked to be half his age but, I assume she loved a good moustache, it must tickle! Finally a boat crashed into the pier at a bit more speed than the Captain intended. I was in stitches!

After all that excitement I was hungry and we ended up going in the opposite direction to what we intended. The benefit of this was that we ended up at the quieter end of the island. A simple rule of tourism is that the majority of people will go where it’s easiest. The fact is if you put the effort in, you end up in great places. On this occasion we stumbled across an awesome little restaurant on the edge of a cliff, overlooking the sea. The owner bombarded us with food including some of the best fish I have ever had, wine, desert and several cups of tea afterwards. He spent plenty of time talking to us. The rest of his staff were casually going about their day but didn’t look at all stressed although, it was mid afternoon, not exactly rush hour. But then it dawned on me. What an awesome lifestyle. A cheeky little open-sided restaurant with great views and great but simple food, chatting away to all the guests about your adventures of yesteryear. I could settle with a bit of that!

Final fact. Currently, rail travel is free in Istanbul courtesy of the government. I assume a thank you for stopping the coup!

Oh and try the ice cream! They have sellers on the shop fronts everywhere. They have a big stick that is used to stir the ice-cream. They then put on a show by handing you an ice cream cone, dolloping a heap of ice-cream on it using the stick and then pulling it all out of your hand. It’s then waved around in the air and you are tormented as he offers you the ice-cream but then continues to move it around in all directions. When I finally got my hands on it, it tasted bloody lovely!

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