Well, on the Tuesday, I decided to take it easy, and go on a cruise up the Bosphorus. Contrary to all my stereotypes, I had a wonderful day with an American woman and her Australian friend. I had actually overheard them a day earlier in the hotel, and thought the worst. But you know, it really IS the cultural style of Americans to TALK LOUD!! So I sincerely apologize my American friend, where ever you are!!
Queues and Lines
Getting the ticket for the ferry was an adventure of itself. One need to go down to the teeming ferry terminus at Eminonu and find the ticket window for the day cruises. The bridge over the highway to the terminal teems with people going to and from Asia into work. Middle class people commuting, basically. I can't remember which building ones needs to go to (the window is at the end of one of them, but just look (or ask if someone looks like they speak English), or look for other tourists looking for the ferry booth for the day cruise etc. I tried helping a bunch of middle-aged Israelis, but they thought I was a tout as well!
It is worth getting there early as 1) the ferry can fill up 2) Turkish efficiency means long lines. Of course, I got in the wrong queue -for renewal of school transport passes, but how was I to know that. I got talking to a group of older Israelis, but I think they thought that I was trying to sell them down the river when I told them NOT to buy tickets of the touts who will sell you a shorter trip...
I sat down near the 'loud' American and her Australian companion, and we got talking. Of course, I fell for taking a glass of orange juice off one of the 'stewards' - later, he came around for the $2 - or more if you aren't careful!!
After chit chat with Pam and Lyn, an older Australian woman joined us. She was having an on-going feud with her travel companion, which kept us in laughter.
Unfortunately, the weather was overcast, and it even rained a bit, but the views of the palaces and luxury buildings along the Bosphorus were just spectacular, all accompanied by a 'put put' of tankers and fishing vessels alike. It would take another week of touring just to visit Dolamabce and the other palaces. There were also naval bases all the way up the Bosphorus, and the Turkish flag was flying everywhere. No Greek would ever invade here!!
We all got out at Anadolu Kavagi, which is a fair way up to the Black Sea, on the Asian side of the Bosphorus. Pauline and I walked up the hill to the fortress, while the others sought food - this seemed to be very important to them, while I preferred my yogurt.
We walked across open fields, and past family burial plots on the hillside, and eventually made it up to the ruined fortress. It would have been a much shorter walk on the main road, but we seemed to have missed the road!! Cows grazed in the ruins of the fortress, and I could make out the initials of Manuel Comnenus in a marble plaque high on one of the towers. I could see re-used marble columns in the towers. Labor was cheap in those days.
Freely says that about the middle of the 14th century the fort was taken over by the Genoese - and there were pottery sherds all over the place. I think he also attributes the fort to another Byzantine king, but I don't have the Blue Guide handy where he said this.
Shades of Byron
He also refers to a nearby hill quoting Byron, who wrote of the ancient Bed of Hercules, the Giant's Grave (Yusa Tepesi).
"The wind swept down the Euxine, and the wave
Broke foaming o'er the blue Symplegades,
'Tis a grand sight from off the Giant's Grave
Between the Bosphorus, as they lash and lave
Europe and Asia, you being quite at ease:
There's not a sea the passenger e'er pukes in,
Turns up more dangerous breakers than the Euxine"
Well, for once I wasn't sea sick!
The view is simply spectacular, as one sees both ends of the Bosphorus and the beginnings of the black sea. The tankers below look miniature. We met some young naval conscripts who were just finishing up their service. One of them spoke excellent English and what else - was a software engineer. I thought I managed to get a picture of myself with them on the edge of the precipice, but it never came out!
When we came down the hill and through the village, I thought I still wouldn't have a full lunch, but the two others were finishing off in a seafood restaurant. So we sent them up the hill, and sat down to eat.
Things we find out about each other
What followed was incredible. I respect her privacy, but she had undergone the most terrible homicide in here family, and this trip was obviously part of this process of overcoming the past. As you may have noticed, I haven't told you the names of these people, to respect their privacy.
Even more incredible, as I discovered later, was that the other Australian woman recognised her from a homicide support group in a big Australian city - for she too, had undergone a similar experience. So we all had a lot to share on the way back. I suspect that a lot of older travellers are haunted by similar pain.
We walked around the harborside a bit, and saw a woman mending nets with incredible speed as she watched everything that happens in the area. I don't know if here life was idyllic, but she was certainly happy.
There was a restored Ottoman fountain near the dock, with an impressive Ottoman inscription, but a local lawyer with whom we got talking didn't know what it said - thus modern Turks have lost part of their language.
The Spice Market and Galata tower
Getting back to the dockside, we all took photos of each other, and said farewells to the older woman. Then I followed the other two women into the old Spice market and I bore it for a while - women do love shopping for jewellery. But it's a gender thing.
As dusk came, I walked over the Galata bridge (I got confused, and thought I was going to Asia...it must have been my sore knees that did it!), past banana and chestnut sellers, though a pedestrian underpass, and up, very, very steep hills to the Galata tower. I forgot at the time, but there is a subway, the Tunel, that goes all the way up there, and beyond. Oh well, I saw lots of buildings, a combination of the usual workshops and the financial district.
The Galata tower was first built by the Genoese in the 14th century, and while I only saw the view at night, it is worth the trip up if you have the time (and the restaurant/bar looks terrible, as all the guidebooks say.
I got back to the hotel, looking for the two other women, but they were out, but I spoke to a nice man my age originally from NZ who now lived in Vancouver.
And so to bed, all excited about more museums, on my last full day in Istanbul.