Istanbul, our full stop on the Silk Road.
(December 2014)


Istanbul, on the Bosphorus, was a symbolic last stop on our Silk Road journey. We had been on the go for three months, since leaving Hong Kong in the South China Sea.

Three months without a seascape.

So it was a very pleasant change to arrive in Istanbul to the sound of seagulls and the smell of salt air.

In Turkey you can put on weight, just by drinking the coffee.

Turkish Coffee that is.

I usually drink an espresso without sugar but in Turkey a good local coffee is hard to resist and I like mine sweet.

Having been in Istanbul just over 18 months ago, visiting sites wasn’t a high priority, so we just wandered around and had the occasional coffee.

That’s the beauty of ‘slow travel’.

We did cross over the Golden Horn to do some shopping.

The last time we were in Istanbul we discovered a wonderful sports store, that’s just over the Galata Bridge, so we returned.

This time to buy some warmer clothes.

The weather was getting colder, and we were planning to go to Iceland for Christmas, and what we had in our packs was not sufficient.

On another occasion we made a quick ferry trip across the Bosphorus, back into Asia. We were hoping to find a restaurant that we had visited in 2012, but we couldn’t even find the restaurant area.

Things are changing rapidly in Istanbul and the city skyline is a forest of construction cranes.

What has also changed are the prices.

We seem to be paying twice as much as we were thirty months ago.

Call it a conspiracy theory but I believe that the government, under the conservative leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, have increased taxes on luxury items, especially alcohol.

This won’t concern the majority of Turks, who are Muslin, but it will affect the very important tourist industry – it will also rile the secularists who dominate the western part of Turkey.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan knows what side his support comes from, as he represents the conservative views of the eastern part of Turkey.

He has been so audacious as to try to belittle the importance of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, a proponent of secularism and the first Prime Minister of Turkey – a man regarded by many Turks as a god.

Istanbul put on fine weather for our last day.

We visited the Basilica Cistern, one of many water reservoirs that lie beneath the city.

This was built in the 6th century during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I.

The roof is supported by a forest of 336 columns. Two of them have the head of Medusa, mysteriously one of them is upside down.

The cistern is capable of holding 100,000 tons of water, which is just a fraction of what’s there now.

The rest of our time was just spent wandering around.

We walked through Gülhane Park, where there was an army of gardeners planting thousands of bulbs in anticipation of spring.

The autumn, that had been chasing us for three months, was over and winter was right on its heels.

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