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THE LEGEND OF THE BOSPORUS Istanbul - 23rd-27th March 2020

LAST SPACE

ISTANBUL

Istanbul....Constantinople.... The very names conjure up images of an ancient civilisation, of East meeting West, of an unimaginably exotic land.

An alluring and romantic city - once the seat of sultans and their harems - it entices the visitor with its mixture of chaos and paradoxes.

It is this combination of history, culture and art (along, it's fair to say, with the cuisine) that has inspired us to visit Istanbul in the spring of 2020. We can reasonably expect seven hours of sunshine while we are there. What better way to wave goodbye to the grey skies of a British winter?

Istanbul is home to many holy sites, the most famous of which is undoubtedly the Blue Mosque. Built back in the early 1600’s, it is considered to be one of the finest architectural achievements of the Ottoman empire.

It sits astride the magnificent Bosporus river and at every turn you are greeted with the remnants of a glorious integration of cultures and civilisations.

BLUE MOSQUE

Overlooking the city is the Süleymaniye Mosque – another jewel in the city's crown. It has a stunning symmetrical dome and its own enchantingly tranquil Islamic garden outside.

We will, of course, make time to explore the famous, colourful and lively bazaars of Istanbul, including the Arasta Bazaar, the Misir Çarsisi (the spice bazaar – a place of intoxicating aromas) and the stunning Grand Bazaar (or Kapali Çarsi).

These are places full of the atmosphere of the east, a chaotic tangle of laughter, light, noise, bustle and colour. An environment to slow down and take in the daily life of the local people. To spend time, bartering in a good-natured way for some beautiful craftsman-made objects to take home as treasured memories of our visit. To sample local delicacies. While not forgetting the reason for our journey - the making of compelling images full of vibrance and vitality.

As always on a Bailey Chinnery tour, we will ensure our dietary and liquid refreshment is taken seriously. Here we can enjoy a fusion of many cuisines – an enticing melting pot from Eastern delicacies to Mediterranean cuisine . Much of the fun will be in seeking out the best and most exciting food the city has to offer us. Each neighbourhood in Istanbul has its own weekly food bazaar and so for the foodies amongst us (and that’s everyone, surely) there should be lots to excite our palate as well as our creative objectives.

We will include a visit down into the Basillica Cistern - the Yerebatan Sarniçi.

A huge palace-like underground hall, it is supported by 336 coloumns in 12 rows and once held the water supply for the Byzantine emperors. Now it is beautifully lit and makes for a wonderful spectacle – enhanced as an experience by the gentle sound of trickling water and magical reflections.

The gardens of the 19th-century Beylerbeyi Palace on the other side of the river are worth visiting, if only to be able to say that we are 'popping into Asia for a couple of hours'.

The Istanbul equivalent of the Staten Island Ferry is the commuter ferry service that goes across the Bosporus. The ride affords us a view of the historic peninsula from the Sea of Marmara side - and the realisation that Haghia Sophia and the Blue Mosque were probably designed to be seen from this angle, particularly at sunset.

Like virtually every other city in the Western world, Istanbul's cafe culture is alive and kicking. Rest assured we will be giving Starbucks a wide berth and instead seeking out the atmospheric environs of the local nargile cafes where the locals disappear behind clouds of vapour as they enjoy their water pipes.

Historically, smoking nargile was looked upon as a status symbol, with the highest honour reserved for those who smoked pipe with the sultan. In those days, the pipe contained just tobacco. In recent years, all manner of flavours are now enjoyed - mint, strawberry, apple, rose and cappuccino (!!).

The colours, sounds and smells of Istanbul will assault our senses. The Turkish coffee, the rich spices and the fragrant rose petals will all help to transport us back to the days of Aladdin and Alí Babá and the 40 thieves.

We might hope to shoehorn in a tour of Istanbul’s Beyoğlu district - where contemporary and age-old arts and crafts alive and thriving in the backstreet workshops. There can be no better way of acquainting ourselves with the creative heart of a city.

Their output includes carpets (of course), ceramics, leather, woodwork, stonework, marbling along with calligraphy and gilding.

We have detailed just a few of the many attractions of this extraordinary destiantion - it is a city awaiting discovery.

Elements from Istanbul city centre

Other options include a gallery of modern abstract eastern art and the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts. As ever, our itinerary is not set in stone and will be dependent on various factors such as the weather and how long we stay in any given location.

Also for the brave (or adventurous) amongst us, there is also the option of a visit to a real Turkish Hamam should you wish. Without a doubt one of the ultimate experiences in Istanbul and because they originated here, they are the best of their kind in the world. So, if you fancy being scrubbed down and exfoliated to within an inch of your life amidst in clouds of steam (so good for opening those pores), then this could be for you. And for the rest, there is always shopping….

Hope you can join us

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