After around 30 hours of travel time and 36 hours without sleep, we arrived in Istanbul at around 1.45pm local time. After a quick check through immigration we were met by at the airport by a driver, arranged for by our host, Suleyman, for our 20 minute drive into Sultanahmet.
On first impression, Istanbul reminds me a lot of Melbourne. Lots of trees; big strips of green grass down the middle of the major roads and the Sea of Marmara looks a lot like Port Phillip Bay, except there are literally scores of freighters waiting around for their turn to head up the Bosphorus and into the Black Sea.
On the drive in, we also got to see some of the old city Walls of Constantinople. Some of these date back to around 500 AD and as to be expected, these ruins litter the city and I'm sure we will see many more of them in the coming days.
Our drive into the city was pretty hairy! No one indicates, everyone appears to be on their mobile phones while driving and the horns are used as a warning for everyone else to get the hell out of the way!
Upon arrival we met our neighbour, Taner, who manages the flat we are staying in. We were all re-energised and excited to to go for a wander, so we dropped our bags and headed out into the mysterious new city. One of the selling points of our accommodation was the close proximity to the Grand Bazaar and the rest of the Old City attractions, so we made a bee-line for the Bazaar for a quick peek.
The walk was amazing. This part of the city is just bustling with all sorts of commerce. Streets filled with people, pushing heavily laden trolleys up and down steep hills. Lots of sidewalk stalls selling perfume, handbags and watches. Noisy, loud and smelly. Everyone seems to be smoking and the cigarette smells have a distinctly foreign, and in some cases, sweet aroma.
We reached the Grand Bazaar and it was very busy. Before we even reached the front archway, I was being ushered away by a salesman to look at leather jackets. Michelle and the kids were following behind, looking nervous, as the salesman led us down narrow alleys into an old arcade with 4 storeys of shops.
This is something that I was expecting and eager to experience, but it was a bit frightening for the kids. The salesman was very insistent that they try something on, and they obliged. Then the haggling began. The price for a jacket went from 450 TL to 200 TL in the blink of an eye, as I explained to the salesman that I hadn't even had a chance to get any Turkish currency. I stood my ground and he wasn't happy, so we left. Once outside again, the kids just wanted to get the hell out of there and we wandered home in search of dinner. Whilst it was an interesting experience for me, it did frighten the kids. Che wrote in his journal; "Today I went to the Grand Bazaar. It was horrible. They were so pushy! I don't want to go back. Boo Turkey"
In the cold light of day with a decent night's sleep, I'm sure they will look more fondly on the experience.
We got back to the apartment around 5 and crashed. I wandered out to find a supermarket and came back with some bread and Nutella, a big bottle of water and what I thought was margarine and apple juice. Turns out I guessed well, but when I returned home everyone was asleep. I had some Nutella toast and water for dinner and enjoyed the sounds of the evening call to prayer at the mosque just down the street. I then crashed like a falling tree and didn't move until 3 am this morning.
We all woke up and quickly exhausted our meagre grocery supply's, caught up with the world on our laptops, phones and ipads and all enjoyed the morning call to prayer at 5.50am.
The kids were much more philosophical about their bazaar experience and are keen to give it another go.