HI. Following my little trip to India last year I am now spending a few days away a bit closer to home and definitely with a different flavour. A few of you enjoyed the last travelogue, a few of you looked at the pictures only and a few of your ignored the whole lot. Few I would imagine read through to the end, so the good news is, this is shorter at only eleven days so if you fancy tagging along please do so.
Anyway I reckon i got about at least as many followers as Kurupt FM, innit. :-)
Anyway first stop Amsterdam. And my last stop too on the round trip. Fairplay. I would imagine the majority of you will have taken the short trip over the channel, for a stag or hen or whatever, a lot of Brits do The "Dam. The real question is how many of you really remember it. There is a chunk of my mates on here especially who will vaguely recall going, but have no idea how they got back, what they got up to, nor what that persistent rash was for weeks after. Anyway I am gonna look round and see if I can find a few new bits to bring light to.
After 24 hours there, I am off to Istanbul, somewhere I have long wanted to go and surely one of the most fabulous and historic places in the world. Think Rome had a few dramas. Minor scuffles. Think Athens was where it all went on. A library. Compared to Istanbul.
So I shall look forward to bestriding the Bosphorous for 6 days or so, bringing Byzantine to life, Constantinople to conscious and Istanbul as it now called in its third incarnation (4th actually - it was for a while called 'New Rome)" firmly into focus both historically and as it is today. Then a few days in Budapest and finally 3 days back in Amsterdam before the short flight home to Spain.
For anyone that takes an interest thank you. For those that don't give a stuff, thank you. And for those who wanna punch me in the throat, thank you too.
I love you all.
Day 1 - 29 Mar - Alicante to Amsterdam
Great flight over and easy through the airport. I have every flight boarding pass, every visa and every Air BnB ticket all downloaded into my apple 'Wallet" a single app that takes every, single, stress there is out of flying and accommodation as we used to know it. So a stroll through at both ends and quick hop on a tram to the harbour to find the 1908 sailboat I am staying on for the night. Find it no hassle, the harbour is wicked and the boat almost as charming as the youngish adventurer of an owner, Wamme, a top bloke, with a lust for life and a love of sailing, who alternates between hosting and running sailing trips under full mast.
Complete knob that I am, posh and all that, I adore Rembrandt as my second favourite artist (after Rubens who painted women of a more 'rotund' nature hence the term Rubenesque though not the reason I revere him). But Rembrandt to me is the cream of the Dutch crop, (though Wamme the Dutchman boat owner said he was Hollands most boring painter). Anyway Rijksmusuem it was, did the important floors on 2, then 1, and spent an hour and a half enjoying Holland's best. Great building, some awesome works, and, and......and anyway I'll bore the pants off you even more so will leave it there.
I hadn't mentioned I have a couple of co-travellers and old long term friends who are joining me at parts en route, one in Istanbul and another upon my return to Holland next Friday. So in light of this and not being sure on their own tastes in trudging round museums I wanted to knock the Musuem quarter off especially, in the first day here, so at the end of next week we can meet up and properly chill.....canals and clubs and cafes and all that to follow in part two. Culture likely to be at a minimum (is my hope)...
So with the clock ticking to midday and my check in time, I reckoned I had about 50 minutes to squeeze in part two if I ran a bit, so being the man of culture I am I managed to take in everything major at the other great place here...
That's a lap short of a mile queuing just to get your passport stamped. So that's two and a half hours I'll never get back. Heh ho. I made it I guess
One thing I hate, abhor and revile is taxi drivers at foreign airports. See a tourist and they rip the arse out of you. Saw it all over India, in fact anywhere I have been. So I refuse to do it now. Having done my home work I had pre bought an Istanbul equivalent Oyster card, jumped on the metro for a couple of stops, google mapped some very dodgy backstreets and found my hotel, 15 minutes max from the airport with zero issue. Basic, but clean and close which for a few hours is all I wanted pending my weekend co-traveller turning up tomorrow.
Asked the hotel porter where I might go to eat he said there are 6 restaurants in the next street . "Great" I said. But he then smiled and added the caveat that everyone one of them was a kebab house.......lol. Anyway it was bloody good.
Still awake, 5.35am here so a solid 24 hours up and a lot done. No point sleeping now. Today is gonna be awesome.........nn x
Ps exactly as I sign off at 5.40, the call to prayer has just started across the city, over loudspeakers.
Day 3 - 31 Mar - Istanbul
I wake so early that in fact I never got to sleep which often happens when I travel. So I am up and roaming the back streets off the back streets where I had stayed just for the night. English is certainly not as widely spoken here as in Amsterdam where everyone is fluent, so striking up conversations is hard. But I chat outside and smoke some cigarettes with the young hotel manager. His English is good and he had done a degree in hotel studies etc. But I quickly find my way of striking up conversations in Turkish. It is easy. I simply point at him and say "Fenerbache" or "Galatasaray" (the two fierce rivals teams in Istanbul - think Barca / Real Madrid) and I am soon in animated conversation in the universal language that is Football.
Phone charges crippled me on my last trip so as I did in Amsterdam I find a TECHNIK shop and arrange data and call sims for my phones and iPad. The young lad in the store, Afad, speaks not a word of English let alone faux cockney (which is what I seem to have acquired over the years), so we conduct the conversation by sitting side by side and taking turns to type into Google translate. It is effective and we have a pleasant half hour conversation by keyboard and my internet etc is sorted for the next 5 days here. Another job done.
Jo, my half Turkish flying travelling partner and friend of 30 years or so is landing at around One pm so I do some bits and bobs and then go to the airport, find a cafe and expect a 3 hour wait for her to clear customs. I must have landed on a bad day as she is through in an hour and its great to see her.
She is here for the weekend as may fly on to see her parents in Cyprus, one off whom is currently rather poorly, so suits all parties and I am really pleased for the company for a couple of days of my adventure. I know we will have a laugh and her knowledge of the language (and what to eat) is a real boon too.
So as explained before it would be easy to get a taxi from the airport to the old town where I have booked what likes a wicked apartment, bang centre of where you wanna be. It sleeps 4 in comort, is a whole flat, has a sauna and steam room on the premises and looks over the Bosphorous, all boxes ticked for me. And the cost is about twenty quid each a night, which again shows you do your research you can get these amazing places fof next to nothing.
But as previously mentioned airport taxis ain't my thing so we take the metro toward Sultnahamet, get off, get a tram to within five minutes, then walk down a steep hill toward the coast and find our place. It is simply beautiful. The greeting could not have been warmer and our host "Errol Flynn' is funny as you like and gives us coffee and we talk for an hour or so. And work out a rough itinerary for the next two and a bit days. I say rough 'cos I cant be doin with all that planning - I need to know generally bits I wanna cover off, and then go get lost and see what I find. The weekend is plenty to do this.
An adjacent Mosque whose name escapes me
The deep blackness for the Bosporous
Table seat across the waters
This little lot was brought to the table for our delectation
We chose a whole 1.5 kilo Sea Bass, and cooked baked in salt as is my preference. Good choice as it turned out.
The Bosporous ferry passes.
Somewhere between a prawn and a lobster started us off
Much to my and the adjoining diners amusement, the whole thing is suddenly set ablaze and a little bonfire is started in our corner of the restaurant. The fish had been baked in salt in the oven for 40 minutes, another layer of salt and egg wash is then added and it is finished off guy fawkes style by the restaurant manager and his fellow arsonists.