Land of the Golden Fleece: Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan, return via Istanbul travel blog

Spires and fountains

Jean with the 'Ask Me' student tourist guides

Hagia Sofia

Turkish sweet shop

Mosque dressing room

Seen in publioc like this!

Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque interior

Another interior


Tea on cushions

Sunday evening relaxation on the Bosphorus

The taxi took a long time to locate the hotel when it did we were not too happy. You get in by a ‘turret’ of steps every upwards and had it not been for the two men who seem to run the place I would never have got my suitcase up to the room.

The room is tiny and very basic. We knew the shower room was across the corridor – not a problem in itself, but the room where they keep reception is at the end of the corridor so slipping between bedroom and bathroom takes some planning. Jean this morning washed her nightdress then found she had nothing more than the towel to return to the room!

If you only want clean sheets, hot shower and warm welcome –fine; but for three nights at the end of our holiday we did not expect something between a hostel and a guest house. However, it is right in the centre just a few minutes from the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia and lots of restaurants and shops at hand.

We visited Hagia Sofia first as I had not got the church visiting uniform with me and here things are very strict – long skirts, head scarves over shoulders and you take off your shoes and put them in a bag (supplied).

Hagia Sofia is basically a museum without these restrictions so we spent an hour or so there – not fantastic as the mosaics in Ravenna are much superior but an interesting bit of ancient history which is important to Istanbul. It is a pity about the amount of scaffolding across one side, but we were able to visit the gallery and get a view from the top and see the remains of some of the mosaics close up.

We found anice craft market close by with some interesting souvenirs so planned our return for the afternoon when dollars had become Lira.

After a lunch of humous, spinach and bread we came back to our little ‘refuge’ to find the bed had not been made (Jean always makes hers) – and the second pillow I had requested had not been supplied ‘because we are only a small hotel’!! Last night I had got three towels from them to put in the pillowcase- Jean supplied- in order to be able to sleep. Now, running out of my good humour I asked if ,as a hotel, they did not make up the rooms and clean the bathroom. After this little interlude I got together my church outfit and we went off to the Mosque. The afternoon was much quieter as all the tourist groups had gone so, wrapped in scarf, sarong and with a plastic bag on one foot and a shower cap on the other (who wants to put their feet down on a carpet where millions have passed before?) and shoes in a plastic bag we finally passed the entrance test and got inside. It was much more spectacular that Hagia Sofia, with large amounts of beautiful mosaics.

After a cup of mint tea in an Ottoman style restaurant sitting on cushions we then walked through a park to the Bosphorus and it took quite a long time to find a space in the wall (which runs around Topkapi Palace) to get back into town. On the way we came across a bazaar (to be explored tomorrow) and a nice restaurant with local music and a whirling dervish who finished off nicely our busy day.

I now feel a bit guilty as not only have they made the bed, but also changed the sheets: they do try!!

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