Friday, 5 April 2013

Just call me Dora the explorer!

So last Saturday I decided to take myself on a self-guided tour of some of the lesser visited sights of Istanbul since you can only go to The Grand Bazaar (The GB)  so many times. I started by walking down my street, with an obligatory pat of Three-Paw on the way, before catching the tram to Beyazit ( which is actually the stop for The GB should anyway be interested.) But instead of entering Haggle-World I went to a lovely tea garden nearby called Çorlulu Ali Paşa Medrese.  It was full of unshaven types, sucking on nargileh pipes, playing Tavla. Lovely. So I sat down and had a Turkish coffee ( which is rather similar to Arabic coffee and Greek coffee and...well it's made in Turkey) and watched all the people smiling and gossiping and puffing sweet smoke. I half wished someone would ask me to play Tavla but I would never have done it if they had asked. I am quite gregarious in the classroom but can be very shy without a blackboard ( and whipping cane) beside me. Anyway sated by my coffee I walked through one of the avenues of The GB but I was on a greater mission. There would be no browsing today. I was determined to make it out the other end without a pashmina in hand which actually wasn't that difficult since I currently have the financial stability of a Cypriot . 

My plan was to find an Buyuk Valide Han somewhere on a street nearby.Astonishingly I managed to do this with the precision of a front-of-the-pack Amazing Racer. It seemed quite abandoned apart from the odd scurry of an artisan running between rooms. But the spooky desolation of it all  was not enough to deter this explorer  from wandering through its dark, damp alleys. 

It smelt wonderfully old and musty. Just how I like it. After a few minutes of nose-poking I noticed an old man in a beanie standing at a door which I immediately became compelled to inspect. He smiled at me as I pointed at the door and after a minute of deliberation he opened it up so I  go could inside. Well, all I could see was a very uninviting set of stairs which clearly I had to climb... but at the top it opened up onto the roof of the Han and a glorious view of Istanbul greeted me in a blaze of blue sky. Honestly, it was so peaceful up there ( probably a health & safety nightmare) but just clambering between the domes of the roof made my explorer soul very happy. And I can't even decide how many photos to bore  you with although none of them do justice with the experience of actually being up there. 

Not entirely sure what to call this pose!

Once I had finished my frolic over the roof I made my way down and headed for my lunchtime destination - The Aqueducts of Valens.

This is definitely a much more traditional area of Istanbul with plenty of baskets of newly chopped goat heads for me to avoid. I liked how the arches spanned the streets though. Very medieval. 
Finally I ended my day with a ferry trip to Asia to visit Uskudar. From here you can visit the Maiden's Tower in the middle of The Bosphorus. 

But once i got there I realised I was actually monstrously tired so I just wandered along the promenade ...

before catching a boat back to the iskele ( port) near my home.

 Stay tuned for tulip tales.

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