The history of the Bosporus since the Turkish take-over seems to be one of various Sultans building newer and more modern palaces along the shore, century by century. True, there were matching forts on the European and the Asian sides of the strait, to prevent re-conquest by Europeans.
Here in my notes is a most unlikely statistic: that there are 2 million cross bridges on the Bosporus. This comes right after a note saying there are 40+ piers. And that 60% import / export in Istanbul. Now, I believe the last one means 60% of the economy of Turkey comes from trade, which is a very healthy number indeed. I can believe the statistic before that, especially in light of the 3rd comment. But the first—I have no clue what Yashir said, nor what I meant to write.
The Bosporus is 75 m deep—average? At the deepest? I guess this was not my day for making coherent notes.
We passed by our ship at her dock, and another from the Aida line which was remarkable, not just for having painted eyes, which is common among private boats in the Med, but for having enormous [6-8’] red lips painted on the bow.
The cruise was ok but not really outstanding, as one can truly see enough lavish palaces. The two [not 2 million] bridges we went under were marvelous engineering feats and very busy with people switching continents. All-in-all, Istanbul is vital and busy on land and sea with trade; perhaps the most vital economy we’ve seen anywhere in the Med.
As we left the boat, a vendor approached with his head piled 2 feet high with pretzel-like bread [yum--moister and not salty] called simit “1 euro, 2 lire, 1 dollar” was the common cry heard in the streets for toys, snacks, tea, CTC*…
Then commenced a most annoying episode. Tour busses almost always stop at the guide’s “Cousin Vinny’s” whatever-store. This is one of the perks of the game and one tries to be patient. This time it was an upscale jewelry store in which most of the bus had no interest. Some went in to use the restrooms, some stayed on the bus and we wandered off to look for a hardware store.
This has become our regular plan when stopping at Cousin Vinny’s. In Ireland we ate wild blackberries and looked at horses at one such stop. The next one, we discovered a hardware store and went through with delight, comparing homely items to what we’re used to [mink trap--€25].
So in Istanbul, we walked one block up a hill from Cousin Vinny’s and found a bustling, thoroughly local street with tiny specialty shops with tiny old men inside. Wholesale fresh fruits and nuts; janitorial supplies; Internet cafes; and hardware. We didn’t dare stay long, so we hoofed back to the bus with a couple of minutes to spare. The bus was open, but the driver and Yashir nowhere to be seen. Our group was mostly there, sweating and eventually the driver came along a turned on the engine and air conditioning. I noticed a man walking by with an ancient desk on a hand truck and I said, “Is that what is meant by a mobile office?”
We talked with a charming lady whose grandfather had invented a special carburator. We waiting, increasingly annoyed. Finally the lady got off the bus and went into Cousin Vinny’s to talk to Yashir. She told him that for what we were paying per minute to be on this trip, we could stay on schedule and call a cab for the one [!!] person still shopping. She came out. We resumed waiting. She went in again and raised the roof. We sat in the bus literally watching the roof of Cousin Vinny’s catapult into the air. Well, not literally.
Finally, Yashir and the shopper got on the bus. Yashir did not apologize, but said there was no excuse. This sounded like a practiced speech to me. Due to our delay, we still had to sit there while other busses left, that had blocked us in.
This debacle cut into our time at the Spice Bazaar. This marvelous ‘caravanserai’ was built next to a mosque in Elizabethan times and has bustled ever since. Though called the Spice Market, it features every imaginable thing—hog skins; dog kibble of every flavor sold by the scoop; CTC; fresh fish; clothing, scarves, hats; leather goods, Turkish delight; fresh fruit and nuts; jewelry; glassware and ceramics; and, indeed, saffron and other spices. Turkish merchants are meticulously clean and often splashed water on the cobbled floor to lay the dust. The main corridors were very crowded, but as one passes through the array of goods to the booth of each merchant, it can be quiet. There seemed to be stairs leading down from the booth into a basement, presumably for storage. But, for all I know, the merchant and his family might live there too. The day was very hot and the crowd close, so we quickly had enough of the sensory overload of the bazaar, although we managed a number of purchases—each one surpassing the other in gaudy uselessness.
Back to the ship—Yashir got very few tips. I hope his Cousin Vinny made it all worthwhile for him. Still suffering from sensory overload, we took a nap in our darkened cabin, but were up in time for watching the passage through the Dardanelles, as the sun set on a dead calm and hazy sea. We overtook another ship, only to discover that it was Aida ship.
“We are two lips that pass in the night,” said Ron.
Note: our British guidebook spells this waterway “Bosphorus” but Microsoft spell-checker dislikes the “H”.
**CTC = cheap tourist crap
N4 50 Med cruise 9 Bosporus edition
www.bucklesfamily.net for photos
www.carolbuckles.livejournal.com for my blog