Saturday, April 23, 2011

Week 4

Into Turkey
Mon. April 23 Dicella to Alexandropoulis to Edirne
Miles 116
Drove along the coast to Alexandropoulis, did our last shopping in Greece, and then headed for the border through rather flat (for Greece) country.
Once past Dhidimotikhon the surface of the road became non-existent for the last 30 miles to the frontier. This town was also interesting for the cave-houses under the town walls.
Stopped in Edirne for our first good look at Turkey. Whilst in one of the old mosques we met a French-speaking Turkish army officer who offered to show us around the Mosque Selimiye. It was built by Sultan Selim, the son of Sultan Sulliman (the magnificent) whose mosque in Istanbul is one of the marvels of the city. Our guide was an art teacher in private life & thus knew what he was talking about.
We had to take our shoes off before entering the mosque, as this is part of the Islamic ritual. The carpets covering the entire floor of the mosque came from Aya Sofia in Istanbul when it became a museum.
Also in Edirne we met the “Indiaman Convoy” consisting of 2, 30-seater buses and 5 long wheelbase land rovers. This company runs a regular service between Colombo & London. 

Figure 1.43: Edirne

The passengers were mostly Australian and they seemed to think we were very adventuresome to be doing the trip the way we were. Seeing well-organised outfits like that makes me wonder whether we may have bitten off a bit much?
When we left the U.K. we had 3 route guides from the A..A..
1. Calais to Belgrade.
2. Belgrade to Istanbul.
3. Istanbul to Lahore
We will be starting on the third (and largest) in a few days time
Weather - still hot & sunny.

Tues. April 24 Edirne to Istanbul
Miles 156
Another memorable day. Spent the morning driving to Istanbul - clutch slipping like mad. After a lot of mucking about, eventually found the British Embassy & collected 3 letters. Just the job, there is nothing quite like receiving mail when far from home.
Managed to locate the land rover agency and they have fixed us up with a barn attached to an old house that we are free to use as long as we want. We have this place to ourselves and have even been given a lock & key for the door. 
Figure 1.44: Yildiz Caldesi
Figure 1.45: Yildiz Caldesi
That means we can leave all the gear under lock & key while we take the vehicle in to be serviced. I hope it is not going to cost, but we must get it done before we go any further east.
Anyway, the time will not be wasted. There is a fantastic amount to see in this city though it is not as 'eastern' as I had expected it to be. The centre is positively western.
This is the part of the trip I had been dreading. The thought of having to camp outside the city and guard our possessions had been hanging over us like a cloud. Then, in one fell swoop, all is light.
Weather - slightly overcast & cool.

Wed. April 25 Istanbul
Miles 0
Took the land rover to the service station early, and found that it will not be ready until midday on Sat. Spent the rest of the day sightseeing. Our first port of call was Aya Sophia that is supposed to be the most beautiful mosque, quite an assumption in a city, which contains over 500 mosques. We found it to be big but somewhat sterile as it is now a museum. From there we went to the Sultan Ahmet Mosque, which really is beautiful. Also known as the blue mosque, it gets its title from the reflections inside the dome from all the different shades of blue tiles used to decorate it. One of the most beautiful buildings, inside and outside, that I have seen anywhere.
Figure 1.46: Blue Mosque, Istanbul
Next we drifted around the covered bazaars, said to be the largest covered shopping areas in the world. One could quite easily get lost in it.
From there we went to the university building where there is a tall fire-watching tower, still manned. We climbed about 250ft to the top and gained an extraordinary view out over the city. We took several pics before descending.
Had a haircut in a little shop on Galata Bridge & then walked around the mosque of Suleiman the Magnificent, the biggest mosque in Istanbul. Back to our barn, very tired, we seem to have walked about 50 miles!!
Weather - overcast and cool.
Thurs April 26 Istanbul
Miles 0
Had a lie-in this morning then spent the rest of the morning doing washing and getting things sorted in general. After lunch we caught a bus down town to the Rover agents’ - they have not even started yet! From there we went to the British Embassy but there was no more mail. Passed the afternoon wandering around the bazaar shopping and inspecting the ship-repair industry, which is unique. All the various trades are well-represented in shops along the waterfront, with most of the work being carried out on the pavement. We now know the best markets, and where to get the cheapest food. Dinner tonight was fish, bought off the same boat it was caught from.
Weather - mixed; cloudy - bright & cool.
Figure 1.47:: Coppersmith, Istanbul
Figure 1.48: Coppersmith, Istanbul. Photo: John Ireland
A digression: WOOFERS
Our barn was situated in the centre of some market gardens with high-rise blocks of flats all around the edge. This made privacy hard to achieve, which, in turn, made certain bodily functions difficult to carry out. To get round this problem we invented a game called “Woofers” This involved placing a piece of newspaper on the blade of a shovel, crapping on the paper, and then hurling the results as far as possible into the cabbage patch. We never bothered to ask the women who worked these fields what they thought of these gift-wrapped parcels of manure that rained down on them from the heavens! Had we done so we may not have liked the answers.
Fri. April 27 Istanbul
Miles 0
Went down town about midday and straight to the Rover workshop. Signs of life! They have actually taken out the clutch & gearbox. They showed us the clutch plate, which was very oily. Whether that is all that is wrong remains to be seen. They say we can have it tomorrow. Spent the afternoon walking about - our usual occupation these days.
Visited the Seraglio Palace at Topkapi, one time residence of the Sultan, but now a museum. It is in a wonderful setting, high on a hill where the Sea of Marmara, the Bosphorus, and the Golden Horn all meet. It houses a huge collection of oriental porcelain and china but we only had time to see a small portion of it as it was chucking out time. Have yet to see a Turkish pub or drunk - must be against their religion or something.
Weather - warm & sunny.

Sat. April 28 Istanbul
Miles 0
To the embassy fairly early & collected 3 letters when I wasn’t expecting any. Then to the garage. The land rover was ready so, after a lot of argy-bargy about the bill, we drove off around town. Did some shopping and then back to our country estate. We are getting quite Turkish in our ways. We make our tea very weak and add a couple of slices of lemon instead of milk.
At about 9 o’clock we decided to have a look at Istanbul’s night-life. It is much the same as any other city’s - perhaps quieter than most.
We will be on our way the day after tomorrow and Istanbul has left quite a lot of impressions. First & foremost it is a city of taxis and banks. I have never seen so many of either anywhere in the world before. Everywhere one goes there are banks & big neon signs advertising them. As for taxis, they far outnumber private cars and the general standard of driving is very bad; fast & erratic. Not quite as fast as Paris but a lot more haphazard. Not surprisingly, the accident rate is high. The land rover has a new clutch plate fitted.
Weather - warm & sunny.
Figure 1.49: Istanbul. Photo: John Ireland
Sun. April 29 Istanbul
Miles 0
A day of complete and studied idleness. We spent the time just lying around, packing stuff up and just generally mucking about. Packed the roof rack ready for the morning and got most of the other stuff sorted out. It will be good to get back on the road after almost a week & it will be a good feeling to be leaving Europe behind and entering Asia at last.
Weather - warm & sunny.