Interlude

We havnt said an awfull lot about Istanbul. It is an amazing place. The Byzantine empire started there so it has tangible history reaching back to before JC turned BC to AD. Coming into Istanbul by car takes some time, it is a huge massive sprawl of suburban enclaves that increase in height as you get nearer to the old city areas, changing from two story houses to tower blocks of apartments. The skyline is punctuated at random but frequent intervals by minarets that reach up from the many mosques of the city. The place does not require sleep, at its quietest moments there still seems to be a low level hum of activity. During the day that activity becomes a frantic onslaught of sights, sounds and smells, where no street is empty and most are teeming with buyers and sellers haggling, men sitting drinking tea from handleless glasses and awestruck tourists trying to take it all in.

At this time of year it is warm even when raining but by no means uncomfortable, every morning you wake to the sound of the Imams voice with the call to prayer at the nearest mosque. They dont climb the minarets any more, they have huge loud speakers attached instead. The Imams cry on a hazy pre dawn Istanbul morning is a strangely exotic experience and how I imagined it might be.

The historical buildings are facinating and many of them provide a welcome and calm oasis from the clamour outside. I did not get to see everything, you would need weeks, but what I did see was fantastic. I wont bore you with individual descriptions but I do recommend it.

There are shops everywhere in Istanbul many of them highly specialized, some places have a whole street of shops selling very similar items, there is a series of streets for habidashery and another for kitchen hardware, we saw a shop that sold only cuddly toys and another that had nothing but tupperware. The grand bazzare is a huge maze of stalls that you spend a day exploring on its own, many things are sold there but by far the majority of stalls are selling jewelry and carpets. Again thouroughly recommended but be preapred to be sold to by pretty much every vendor at every shop or stall in every street. In most cases you say no and all is well, some can be more insistent.

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