Sightseeing in Istanbul Part 1
I got a taxi to the metro at Kartel which was undoubtedly the most dangerous thing I’d done in the last year. This was the second taxi I’d used since arriving in Turkey and unfortunately I was still in the UK habit of getting in the back seat, clutching the seatbelt and expecting there to be something to fasten it into. So once again, I was flying through the traffic seatbeltless and felt extremely exposed.
At the metro station I grabbed a round, sesame-covered bread and a tea and jumped onto the metro with a haggle of commuters. Train commutes are the same the world over, groups of random people looking into the distance, disconnected from their current state and unhappy with the fact that they’re going to be spending the next 8-10 hours of their life at a place they hate, with people they’d prefer not to be around.
Once in Kadikoy, I boarded a ferry across the Bosporus to Eminonu. The grey skies above didn’t make for good photography, but I caught my first glimpses of the Blue Mosque, Haghia Sophia and Topkapi Palace.
As the boat landed ashore I disembarked and walked into the first building I saw. It turned out to be the Egyptian spice market. I was immediately confronted with a sensual sensation.
Hawkers called out as I walked along the covered area, selling anything from tea to trinkets and pistachios to picture frames. I felt a little lightheaded and was glad to leave the gold-tinted emporium.
Back out in the open, I made my way to Topkapi Palace. As I entered a bored looking security guard took time away from his smartphone to waive a magic yellow wand lazily over my backpack. What was he looking for and what did the magic wand detect exactly as it did bleep rather loudly. In any case, I was let through into the palace grounds.
I bought a ticket and followed a school group through the main gate of the palace grounds where my bag was x-rayed and I passed through a metal detector. Again, it bleeped but evidently not the right bleep, I was through.
Inside the kitchens were giant copper cauldrons and smooth white marble worksurfaces used for making feasts for the sultans. Huge cartoon-like ladles and stirrers were presented with small plaques explaining what each implement was used for. The roof of the building was particularly impressive.
A vast array of glitzy, jewel-encrusted items really didn’t do it for me, but the outside grounds and mosaic walls and roofs of the buildings are impressive.
The armoury section of the museum was undoubtedly the highlight of my visit. Bows, arrows, swords, armour, axes and sceptres lined the display cabinets, with helpful ‘how-to’ videos of each deadly weapon.
I decided to leave on a high and made my way to a recommended restaurant in Sultanahmet, right next to the metro stop.
The Sultanahmet Koftecisi is a bit of an institution as the countless pictures of happy customers (some of them celebrities) testified to. The diligent and efficient waiters dressed in starched white shirts have been serving the locals and tourists of the Old Town since the 1920’s and for good reason. I ordered a starter of soup (a constant in every Turkish restaurant) which was served with a large hunk of white fluffy bread.
For my main course I had meatballs, a haricot bean salad, more bread and a hot spicy sauce, again served with more bread and the obligatory jalapeno pepper pickles. It was delightful and a real treat after walking a few miles through the streets of Istanbul. My ‘free’ tea came promptly after my main and, for the very reasonable sum of 29 Turkish Lire (around £7), I’d eaten to point of popping and it had been truly spectacular. It was time to get back out on the streets to see what an afternoon in this exciting city had to offer.