Monday, 25 January 2016

Bosphorus Tour

One of our days in Istanbul was taken with a boat tour of the Bosphorus.  I would never have imagined the delightful view along its banks where Europe truly does meet Asia.   

The European side has all the mosques and palaces of the Istanbul where we stayed which I thought was beyond spectacular. But somehow it's the much more subdued Asian side that really delighted me.  The entire city, with its endless shoreline is staggeringly beautiful.  

It was a hot, hot day (it was around 40C (100F) every day we were there) but, as long as you stayed in shade, it was much cooler on the water.   I was impressed with the cleaniness of the water of the strait.  A population of 14 million and they maintain water clean enough for swimming. 

With that many inhabitants it's not surprising that every inch of space is well utilised.    The bridge across the Golden Horn between Beyoglu and Fatih is lined with fishermen, cars, and fish restaurants. The cars ride across the top where the fishermen stand and try their luck with very long lines and poles. Staircases lead down to a lower level closer to the water and lined with restaurants. 

 A beautiful waterside mosque, Buyuk Medidiye Camii 
(Grand Imperial Mosque of Sultan Abdulmecid)

 Ciragan Palace, built by Sultan Abdulaziz in 1874

At the narrowest part of the Bosphorus, stands the impressive fortress of Rumeli Hisari built by Sultan Mehmet the Conquerer (around 1452) in order to control commercial and military traffic along the strait in preparation for the siege of Constantinople.  He conquered the capital a few months after it was completed and since then the barracks has served various purposes - a barracks, a prison and finally an open-air theatre.


The Bosphorus is a very busy water highway with boats of all shapes and sizes going through it, huge container ships and tankers as well as small local fishing boats and the many ferries that go back and forth.  Around 48,000 ships pass through this strait annually, three times denser than the Suez Canal traffic and four times denser than the Panama Canal.

Bosphorus is a very busy waterway with many ships and oil tankers going through it, as well as local fishing and ferries go to the Asian side back and forth. Around 48.000 ships pass through this strait annually, three times denser than the Suez Canal traffic and four times denser than the Panama Canal. Approximately 55 million tones of oil are shipped through the strait each year. - See more at:
Bosphorus is a very busy waterway with many ships and oil tankers going through it, as well as local fishing and ferries go to the Asian side back and forth. Around 48.000 ships pass through this strait annually, three times denser than the Suez Canal traffic and four times denser than the Panama Canal. Approximately 55 million tones of oil are shipped through the strait each year. - See more at:

A new bridge, is inching out from each side of the strait, the Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge.  It is 60 metres (200 feet) wide with eight traffic lanes and two rail lines.  It will stretch over 2 kilometers with about 1.5 kilometers over water, and will be the longest suspension bridge in the world carrying a rail system. 

When we reached the end of the strait, passengers on the boat tour were given the choice and staying on the boat and venturing into the Black Sea for a swim (with a warning that the water was very cold) or going ashore at the quaint fishing village of Anadolu Kavağı, the last port before the Black Sea.

We chose to stroll around the village.  I'm so glad we did because here we had an interchange with two shop owners that touched me so deeply I will never forget it.

Next time.

Saturday, 23 January 2016


In September last year I arrived as one of 12.56 million annual foreign visitors to Istanbul, yet felt like my arrival was eagerly anticipated when we arrived at our lodgings.  My brother had done the leg work and a found cheap but cheerful looking hotel for us.  He was right on both counts. Because we proved difficult for the courtesy van driver to find (it wasn't our fault, honestly.  That airport arrivals area was bedlam and we just got caught up in it) our hosts were extremely happy to see us eventually materialize.  The owner, with much flamboyant waving and gesturing ordered the front desk clerk and waiters to whisk away our luggage while each of them bid us many welcomes.  I didn't realize it at the time but it was an introduction to how hard the local people work to make a dollar (or lira) from tourists.  

And now, after the recent terrorist attack, they will have to work even harder.  That attack took place in the area where we stayed.    My heart goes out to the warm and welcoming people of Sultanahmet, the heart of Istanbul city. It's the location of a number of major tourist attractions - Hagia Sofia, Blue Mosque and Grand Bazar and a quick taxi ride from the Bosphorus.  

We had three days to see and do as much as possible.  Let me assure you when my brother is the (self appointed but excellent) tour guide, you don't spend a lot of time sitting around.  I begged for a little time off one afternoon after a night with no airconditioning.  I was relieved when I returned to the hotel to be told my room had a "bad problem" and I would have to move to a better room.  At least that's what I figured they were saying as my bag was whisked away to another room - with a balcony!  The tiniest balcony I've ever seen but it did allow me a view of the parking lot next door.


a distant view across the rooftops to the high rises 

and a reasonable view of one of our closest neighbours, Hagia Sofia.  I was more impressed with the loudness of the Calls to Prayer from such a short distance.  I even vaguely recall hearing the pre-dawn salah - and it takes a bit to disturb my slumber before daylight.

Here's a better view from out the front.  From the scenes that appeared on the news at the time of the terror attack, the explosion was close to this point. 

and again by night, this time from a restaurant.

I could have spend days just taking photos of the outside.  Not that the insides weren't impressive.  It blew me away but none of my photos come even close to doing justice to its grandeur.  

The design of Hagia Sophia was so unique it was reputed to have changed the history of architecture. For almost one thousand years, it was the largest cathedral in the world before serving as the principal mosque of Istanbul for almost half a millennium. While it was not built as a mosque, it was widely admired in the Islamic world and its architecture heavily influenced the design of many Ottoman mosques. Despite current efforts to return Hagia Sophia to a place of worship, it has not been used as such since being converted into a secular museum in 1934. Hagia Sophia has undergone many changes over the centuries.

Here's my guide who lead us unerringly (good word that if it is one) - to the humble back gate of the Topkapı Palace.   Not that we knew it at the time, I just thought it was a bit unpretentious for a palace. If we'd gone in the front entrance we wouldn't have seen this lovely garden.  The guards watched their back gate visitors carefully for a while before deciding we were harmless. 

I couldn't really get my head around the size of the palace, the opulent pavilions, the jewel encrusted treasures on display, the sprawling harem, the engineering, the architecture.  Even the size of the kitchens.  There was a touch of fairy tale about it all.  I was dazzled and overcome by the beauty of it all.

Choosing where we would eat each night was an entertainment in itself.  I was a little overwhelmed by the turkish way of enticing customers into their businesses.  All the restaurants looked much the same, a few were noticably more expensive than the others, the biggest difference was in the guys I thought of as hustlers.  Each and every one had a special deal and I wouldn't have been surprised if an offer had included a first born son along with a free beer or a 5% discount.
All three restaurants we chose were excellent.  Two of them were beside the footpath and one night we allowed ourselves to be tempted up in a lift to the third floor with the promise of the best night view of Hagia Sophia in town, along with the best fish dishes.  There was only one other table of diners there that night, maybe the hustler wasn't in good form.  What a dreadful job to have, especially for one who must have so many talents - a good knowledge of different languages and the ability to "read" people for an instant communication 'connection'. 

One restaurant we dined at, located in an alleyway.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Regular activities

It must be because I'm retired that I looked forward to the end of the holiday season and the return of normal activities.  I had missed the company of my exercise classmates.  I was going to say I missed the ladies of those classes but a gentleman has recently joined our Tai Chi class and next week it seems another two will be joining us.  Not too sure how I feel about that actually.  I hope it doesn't make any difference to the easy, relaxed atmosphere.

I know I missed the Tai Chi itself.  Don't know how anything that is so easy on the body can be doing me any good!  The hard part is remembering the moves.  If the brain is the only thing that benefits then it's worthwhile doing in my book.  

Last week I had a couple of days at my friends place at Ruakaka with time to wander while she was at work during the day.  Most of the photos I took were from the side of the road althoughI did enjoy a cup of coffee at the marina watching the fishermen preparing to go out fishing.  It was a good day for it.


It doesn't take long for nature to take over when structures are neglected for a while.

Thursday night we attended a function at the Takahiwai Marae to welcome and listen to a talk by a Turkish man who is a tour guide in Turkey.  He spoke on "A Turkish Perspective of WWI at Gallipoli".  I enjoyed it immensely.  I have such warm memories of my trip to Turkey.

Which reminds me that I haven't finished blogging about that.  I will make that my mission over the next week.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

It's not the seven year itch

Several things have been keeping me from blogging, mainly the inability to sit for long.  Not because I am fidgety.  My back is the problem, it simply hurts if I sit for any length of time.  I gave thought to giving up the blog altogether but realize it has become a diary of the past seven years of my life.  Yep, my first post was 23 January, 2009.  I've re-looked at my early posts and smiled at some of the memories I found there.  Memories of my much younger grandchildren, the pleasure I've had in watching them grow.  Of places I've been and sights I've seen, the people who have added colour to my life in that time.   

In another seven years how will I remember the day to day events of my current life?  Not very well, I imagine, without a blog.   

How will I be able to remember what year the family camped on the farm, at the dam, for Christmas? 

I didn't take all that many photos of our Christmas adventures.  But the other keen photographers in the family did.  Here is a collection.

Literally camping with the cows.  If you look carefully you will see there is a wire between the cows and the tent.

The young ones enjoyed the water activities

Kids of all ages enjoyed the water slide

 The young and fit set off to climb to the tower on the nearby mountain

Twice we all set off to explore further up the creek.

Wading upstream in the shade of the surrounding forest was the perfect activity during the hottest part of the day.

The aim was to find the waterfall that Heather and I were sure was upstream.  It might not be all that large but we felt quite triumphant when we found it.

Any aches and pains could be washed away in the outside bath.  The water came in alkathene which ran along the top of the grass, heating the water very effectively.

And even as the sun went down there was eel fishing for those with the energy.

Solar powered lights meant we didn't have to spend our nights in the dark.  The moon was full and very bright.

So I can manage a post if I do it in 10-15 minute sittings but I really can't manage sitting long enough to visit other blogs.  I will try but I honestly don't think I can any longer belong to the blogging community I've enjoyed so much.