Monday 5 October 2015

Bazaar and bubbles

No matter how many times you've been to Istanbul - and this is my third stay in the city this year (not skiting or anything - ok, maybe just a bit) - a visit to the Grand Bazaar is obligatory. Even though I'm officially souvenired out after the last time, when I was under the consumer influence of the Firstborn, it's still irresistible, full of such pretty, colourful stuff, all of it just what you're looking for. That's what the touts reckon, anyway, in their professionally charming manner which is also hard to resist.

"Yes! Where you from? Kiwi? Kia ora! Beautiful country! You beautiful couple! You like carpet? Lamp? Spice? Bag? No? You break my heart!" Pretty much a standard script, but delivered with deep conviction, much eye-contact, and winning smiles - it's hard not to play along. There was Turkish Delight, I'll admit - but that's obligatory, isn't it? We did resist the Viagra Tea mixes, and the "Wegetables Spices".

Down through the steep little cobbled lanes where the shops are so busy and stuffed so full of stuff that it's easy not to notice that above the verandas are ancient stone and brick buildings that tell you that all this commerce has gone on just like this (except perhaps with less Viagra) for many centuries  - down past all that, pausing for a tulip-shaped glass of apple tea, we came to the waterfront. It's heaving there, so busy, so much going on, so crowded, that it was a relief to get on board a ferry and, eventually, go for a 2-hour cruise along the Bosphorus past appealing suburbs with restaurants and marinas; past stately buildings, a castle, mosques, rich men's houses, wooded hills; under bridges and overtaken by big cargo ships heading up into the Black Sea, their bow-waves breaking white along the sea-walls.
After, the Big Bus took us around the Golden Horn, fringed by playgrounds and parks, churches, mosques and museums, and back to the city where, at the 17th century Hamami Aya Sofya, I was washed and scrubbed and rinsed and hidden under a mountain of bubbles, and rinsed and massaged and shampooed and rinsed again, and left, smooth and clean and shiny, to sip herbal tea and eat Turkish Delight sitting back against cushions under a high dome over a marble fountain lit by candles in red glasses. Nice.

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