Wednesday, 26 May 2010

When in Constantinople

Do as the Romans, the Ottomans and the Greeks(?) did....

Well. Hi!
Sorry for the hiatus- I've been traveling. While I initially considered updating this blog during the trip, I fought the temptation, squeezed as much out of my holiday as I could and decided to fill in all the details once I arrived here.

Here I am!

I have to say, Turkey rocked. We went to Istanbul, and if you ever decide to go and need to plan some sort of itinerary, then here are some ideas! Visit some of the amazing historical sites. You have the blue mosque, the Grand Bazaar, the Turkish Baths, the Spice Bazaar, the OTHER mosques around different parts of Turkey.

Loads of fun. Plus the Mediterranean climate. Phwoar.

So, where should I start?

British Airways.
Well, BA were allowed to strike in the end. Fortunately, this didn't affect our flights. However, it still left us in a precarious situation with booking hotel rooms- we had to book in a relatively last minute manner meaning our selection was diminutive and expensive. I was personally spending in the region of 80 a night for (what I was expecting to be) a double bed. I'm sure we could have got much nicer rooms at a far cheaper rate had we booked in advance, but hey, that's the way shit goes down sometimes.

Otherwise, we had little to fault BA, their service was friendly, efficient and got us to where we needed in relative comfort. My niece had a penchant for kicking the back of my chair. But I think she just liked stretching her legs. The in flight food was a little weak and there was no entertainment. So, actually, we COULD fault them. For quite a bit. But no, I'll stay positive because Turkey has made me a happier person.


We arrived in a bizzarly shiny, modern looking Turkey, late at night. Zipping through the streets we caught glimpses of a conglomeration of hotels shooting into the skyline. Nothing but hotels for at least a 10 minute stretch of road out of the Airport. And then a McDonalds. They drive the other side of the road from us. A fact that kept escaping me and left me in a precarious state on more than one occasion. But on the first night, we zipped straight to the hotel.

While you're imagining me sitting in the back seat of a cab, looking out of the window, marveling at the wonders that presented themselves before me, let me give you a bit of what I THINK I know about Turkey. With regards to Turkey of Today, the country is on the brink of joining the EU. Some opposition is being thrown its way from current member states- from what I've READ, again, I'm PROBABLY mistaken, but I think Germany holds issues with Turkey joining. This could be for a mirriad of reasons, that it's a majority Islamic nation, that it would lead to an influx of immigrants to other parts of the EU, that... I dunno, but I think on the front of it all, they give the latter reason for opposing their membership.

As it stands though, Istanbul, the capital of Turkey has been nominated as the European capital of culture. Meaning they're throwing exhibitions and concerts and all manner of fun things. Which can only really help their standing as being seen as a developed, well functioning, ASSET to the European market. So great stuff, keep up the good work.

We stayed in quite a central area of Istanbul- Cemberlitas- there are accents under the c and s to make it sound Chemberlitash. That's wedged between quite a few famous landmarks- The Aya Sophia, the Blue Masjid, the TopKapi the Kapli Karsi, many of which have accents under their letters too. But we got to see most of those places. Save the Aya Sophia.

Economically, Turkey uses Lira as it's main currency, they converted at around 2.25 per pound sterling at my time of visiting. Many, more central places also accepted Euros but these aren't widely accepted in general shops so best to use Lira.

Then there's Turkey's geographical placement. It may well be the only country that's actually wedged half and half between two continents. There's and Asian side and a European side. I didn't get the opportunity to step into the Asian section though it didn't really appeal to me as much as the luxury and (relative) familiarity of the European side. Unlike the UK, Turkey is right near the equator, meaning the sun goes much higher in the sky by noon. The day's were all bright and amazingly warm. Perfect tee shirt weather.
The people are very friendly- where I stayed seemed to be practically a merchant town with people stopping you in your tracks, asking you how your day has been, where you come from and insisting you want to buy a pashmena. Quite similarly to Pakistan, you generally have to barter when you're in the market places and you're advised to begin your bartering at roughly the halfway mark of the sellers original asking price. They WILL try to riip you off at every chance they get. I bought a sheesha vase that was originally being sold to me for 210 Lira for 150. I had to place my initial offer at 100. Though nothing in my repertoire of bartering skills will come close to some of the displays put up by my family. There's the shambolic attempt by one of my sisters:

Sister: I'll take this one for 5 Lira.
Shopkeeper: But it's only 2 Lira....

That was funny. She's really, really bad at bartering.

While on a polar opposite, my other sister.

Sister: I want these trousers, how much are they?
Salesman: 65 Lira.
Sister: 20.
Salesman: (!) I Can't do that! No, no, no, no, no! 55 Lira! Lowest price.
Sister: 20.
Salesman: But why won't you listen to me?! I can only do 45 lira for you, special price. Only 45!
Sister: 20.
Salesman: Ok, final offer, I do it for 35 Lira no less.
Sister: No thank you. Only 20.
Salseman: Ok, ok fine.

I just stood there amazed watching her do her thing.

UNLIKE Pakistan, the quality of things available can actually be very good, particularly with their silks, leathers and pottery. We bought ample little trinkets as gifts and as I mentioned before, I got a sheesha. It's lovely. Although I hated carrying it home today. Trains. Gah!

Anyway, as it stands, I'm going to leave it at that. I'm tired, Gran Tarino is on and the family just got back from THEIR flight. Joy.

Anyway, it's been fun, for more information on Turkey, read my next post!! This one was just a cover of Turkey in general, tomorrow I hope to tell you things that actually happened. Make time to listen about the Pakistani dude who tried to sell me a prostitute. The Turkish Bath incident with my brother in law involving an overly friendly male masseuse. The inside joke about face jacker and our attempts to freak out Turkish people. Shopping! The conundrum of what do do with the cat?! The porn in the hotel rooms! The food! The Jet plane that I saw fly over my plane on my way home today!! Well, actually, that last one's pretty much already been said. There was a plane. That flew directly over my plane. And was very close. And left a stream of cloud-like gas in its trail. So exciting!

But seriously, I'm shattered. Night peeps!

1 comment:

  1. Mohammed Hossain27 May 2010 at 07:47

    Nice! However, I don't understand why Germany wouldn't want Turkey in the EU. I always thought it was because of Holland or something.

    Germany is already flooded with Turks who helped rebuild the country after the Wars.