… in which we hear more of the adventures of Pasha Phil meeting up with effendi Helen and John in Istanbul.
There are a lot of must-see places in Istanbul, where notwithstanding the lines of buses that arrive from the cruise ships, you have to take your place in the queue or miss out on astonishingly beautiful sights.
So on the next day, we set off to Topkapi Palace, the former palace of the Sultans in Sultanahmet. Not a European-style palace rather a beautiful garden complex filled with lavish pavilions. More stunning tiles and marble and opulent design. A library to die for, with thick walls against the heat, lounging couches and windows to pick up a breeze coming from any direction. A kitchen that accommodated 1,500 staff.
The Divan (yes named after the couches that lined the walls) is the Cabinet Room, where the Sultan could slip in unobserved and listen behind an ornate grill to his advisors arguing about policy and judging disputes. Clever way to keep the court on its toes.
After all that opulence, lunch was in a tiny family café down in the market streets near the Spice Bazaar (Uzunçarşi Cd). One each of a spinach, cheese and potato Gozleme, cooked by the mother, and two plates of deep-fried Hamsi (sardines) cooked by the father, with the son doing the serving. All brilliant, and with three waters, it cost a whole 40 TL.
The Palace had taken longer than we expected, so our afternoon plan – to ferry up the Golden Horn and walk to the Chora Church Museum – no longer seemed viable.
Plan B, created on the spot, was to hit the water – it was a beautiful day, after all, and a ferry to Üsküdur (Asian side) was approaching. After a Monty Pythonesque interlude, as the ticket seller dealt with a sudden power failure by scrambling to fire up a generator for the electronic reader of our Istanbulkarts, we were headed home, but via Asia.
Back at our Kabataş apartment, we shared a glass of one of Turkey’s better red wines, and planned some more adventures – a re-run of our Chora plan for the following day; a visit to the Istanbul Modern; a special breakfast in Besiktaş; an underground tour of the Basillica Cisterns; and making a booking for dinner for Phil’s last night at Lokanta Maya.
Then we headed out again to catch another ferry across the Bosphorus back to Kadiköy, to yet another great restaurant. And impressively, to three more Standing Man silent protest groups in different locations in Kadiköy, plus at 9.00pm, the enduring pots and pans/knife and glass anti-Erdogan protest from the restaurant patrons.
50 great first hours for a fiftieth, and plenty more great Istanbul hours to go.