Saturday, 28 August 2010

Time to get some wheels

So, Thursday afternoon saw us on a trip over the Bosphorus to the Asian side of Istanbul to go and visit a car showroom. We have made the decision to buy a set of wheels and have gone for a Suzuki Grand Vitara.

Should have it some time this coming week and I will post a pic when we get it!

Can't wait.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

The Basilica Cistern

Eldest son and his girlfriend have descended on us for a holiday - our first visitors in Istanbul. They arrived yesterday and today we took them out to do the tourist bit. Eldest son wanted to see the Basilica Cistern.

I will be honest and say that I didn't know about this but was keen to see it when I heard about it (interestingly I can't find any reference to it in the Rough Guide to Istanbul; might be wrong but I haven't found it and it isn't mentioned in the index).

Anyway, regular readers of this blog will know of my fondness for available light photography and the basilica proved to be an ideal place to practice. Here are some of the results

The Basilica Cistern

The Basilica Cistern

The Basilica Cistern

The place is fantastic and well worth a visit next time you are in Istanbul.

Whilst I was in the area with my wide angle lens and in the mood for available light photography I went back to the New Mosque at Eminonu to take these:

The roof of the Eminonu New Mosque

I think the roof of this mosque is absolutely spectacular. And I love the way the lights have all starred in the photograph below - I promise you I didn't use a starburst filter for that effect either.

Inside the Eminonu New Mosque

The Princes' Islands

On Thursday the school organised a trip for all the new staff (yours truly included) to the Princes' Islands. These are located in the Sea of Marmaris about 15 km south of Istanbul. The incredible thing about these islands is that there is no motorised transport allowed on any of them! They are havens of peace and tranquility!

We took a nice slow ferry from Karikoy and relaxed for the 90 minute crossing.

The ferry to Buyukada

Eventually we arrived at our destination Buyukada where we took a phaeton (that is the name they used but I have always known them as landaus, but anyway, a horse and carriage) up the hill to our hotel. This was the only part of the two day trip that I didn't particularly like and that was because our phaeton driver was rather obnoxious to both his passengers and to his horses. I don't like to see horses being mistreated and this guy was rather too free and easy with his whip for my liking! Hence no photo of the phaeton.

The hotel garden

The hotel was a lovely if somewhat rustic place perched on top of the island and from the top we had great views of the next island in the chain, Heybeliada.

The view looking to Heybeliada

Our time there was delightful, very restful with good company and good wine and good food and a beautiful sunset.

Princes Island sunset

The next day we walked back to the port (a very pleasant stroll down hill that took about three-quarters of an hour) and caught the ferry back to Istanbul.

On the way back I took a series of photographs of the Asian side cityscape and stitched them together to make this panoramic view.

Asian Istanbul cityscape

The ferry calls in at Kadikoy on the Asian side on the way back and I managed to get a couple of photos of some famous sights of Istanbul. The first one is the Aya Sofia which is well over one thousand years old and for most of that time was the largest enclosed space in the world. The second is the Sultanahmet Camii, better known to the world at large as the Blue Mosque.

Aya Sofia

The Blue Mosque

All in all we had a delightful couple of days. On Monday work starts in earnest!

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Another Tourist Day

So, after an early start this morning, we decided to head back into town again. So it was back on public transport for us. Dolmus into Sariyer, then we got the wrong bus from Sariyer - wrong in that it didn't go where we expected it to! What the hell. Where its route ends there will be a little bus station so we will try to get where we want from there. I guess it took us about two to two and a half hours to get where we wanted rather than an hour. By that time we were extremely hot and sweaty!

Anyway, we went to Eminonu to have a look at the Egyptian Bazaar - lots of ceramics, lots of Turkish Delight and lots of spice stalls. Lots of people as well. Saturday is not the best day to be doing this sort of thing - especially in the hottest and most humid summer anyone in Istanbul has ever known!

After the spice bazaar we visited here:

New Mosque

It is wonderful that the "New Mosque" in Eminonu should have been built between 1597 and 1663!

This is a beautiful mosque and visitors are allowed inside. This is a walled court yard containing the ablution fountain outside the main mosque.

The courtyard and Ablution Fountain outside the New Mosque

The mosque is as beautiful inside as it is outside. It quiet and it is peaceful and the faithful at their prayers are very patient with us tourists, even allowing us to use flash photography in there.

The roof of the New Mosque

Above is a view of the beautifully decorated multi-domed roof of the New Mosque and below is an interior view.

A view of the interior of the New Mosque

Well, there is only so much culture a person can take in one day so, after visiting the New Mosque we made our way over to the very flash Kanyon shopping centre and finally got home at about 10 past 5 in the afternoon... Knackered!!!

Baggins in his new home

He might be a pain when it comes to finding dry food that he will actually eat, but he is still a beautiful cat.

Baggins in his new home

Here Comes the Sun

I woke up early this morning and couldn't get back to sleep. At about 20 mins past 6 I decided to get up. This is the sight that greeted me when I looked out of the window:

Sunrise over the Black Sea

Beautiful! How could it possibly be anything but a great day after this?

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Bloody Fussy Moggies

To say that Baggins is a discerning eater is to somewhat understate the case!

Baggins will eat dry food and he will eat wet food. In terms of wet food he likes Miaow Mix (well one of the flavours of it anyway) and he will deign to eat certain other brands at a push.

In terms of dry food he will eat Friskies.

That is it. Friskies. Nothing else.

But they don't sell Friskies in Turkey.

We have tried all sorts - Whiskas (that was always going to be a loser, Baggins won't eat any manner of Whiskas), Kit-E-Kat (tried one piece), La Cat (winning by miles, he has eaten maybe 3 pieces in the last few days), some expensive stuff from the Vet (not interested), Eukaneuba (didn't even bother to sniff it)

So far, in the 9 days we have been here we have spent about 50 US dollars on dry cat food in an attempt to get him to eat - result, nothing.

And the trouble is, if he eats exclusively wet cat food he starts throwing up.

What to do!

Bloody Fussy Moggies!

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Istanbul Touristy Stuff

So Mrs Istanbilly and I arrived in our new home on the evening of the 2nd of August. I've been into school a few times - they are constructing a new building and I need to make sure all is well. I've had a tour of the construction site.

We've been to a couple of shopping centres and spent more than we would want to!

On Saturday we decided that we should do some exploring and some of the touristy stuff. Now, Istanbul seems to have a fantastic public transport system! Dolmuses (really a shared taxi that has a specific route but more like mini-buses that will stop anywhere on their route for passengers to get on or off - quite an experience), an extensive bus network, a metro, trams, funicular railways and ferries! And remarkably cheap! Apart from the ferries we made pretty good use of the rest of it on our day out.

We decided to head for the centre of the city, so we took a dolmus from Zekeriyakoy to Sariyer and then a bus to Taksim. At Taksim we caught the antique tram down to the bottom of Istiklal Caddesi.

The antique tram runs from Taksim to the bottom of Istiklal Caddesi

The antique tram is probably one of the most photographed vehicles in the world

I love these little antique trams, and I suspect that they are one of the most photographed vehicles in the world (those of you who want to be picky please note that I said one of.) In a shop on Istiklal Caddesi I saw a great photo of one of them in the snow - I shall look forward to seeing that in January or February for myself.

When we got off the tram we walked about 250 metres down hill to Galata Tower.

Galata Tower

Built in 1348, the tower dominates the skyline and has a great view over the Golden Horn. There is a panoramic view balcony around the top and also a restaurant at the top. I am pretty sure that the lifts up to the top were not part of the original feature but they are a lot easier than struggling up a long and winding staircase in the current Istanbul heat and humidity.

The Galata Bridge crossing the Golden Horn to Eminonu
The bridge is the Galata Bridge linking Karakoy with Eminonu. The trams use this bridge as do many fishermen.

View up the Golden Horn to the Ataturk Bridge
Here we are looking up the Golden Horn to the Ataturk Bridge

View over the roof tops of Istanbul looking towards the Bosphorous
Andthis is the view over the rooftops of Istanbul looking towards the Bosphorous

As you can see in the photographs the day was very hazy, presumably caused by the high humidity. I shall look forward to going there again when the weather has become considerably cooler to see if I can get clearer pictures.

After the tower we went down the hill to the Golden Horn and caught an ultra-modern tram at Karikoy to the Grand Bazaar.

One of the main thoroughfares in the Grand Bazaar
This is Kalpakcilar Basi Cad looking towards the Beyazit Gate,one of the main thoroughfares aroundthe edge of the Grand Bazaar,

One of the side streets in the Grand Bazaar
And this is one of the smaller side streets off Kalpakcilar Basi Cad.

Visiting the Grand Bazaar on a Saturday was possibly not the best move, next time we will try for a mid-week visit. After the Bazaar we caught a tram back to the other side and a funicular from Kabitas back up to Taksim.

Once in Taksim we took a walk down Istiklal Caddesi and, in the Balik Pazari, managed to find a butcher who sells pork! So it was pork chops for tea on Sunday.

Back to Taksim for the bus to Sariyer, then the dolmus to Zekeriyakoy and home, hot, sweaty and exhausted. But, all in all, a very pleasant and successful trip.

How long...

would be considered reasonable for an ISP to provide an internet connection???? Personally I think 7 days is outrageous at the end of the first decade of the 3rd millenium! But that is how long ttnet took. Shame on you ttnet - your work is not up to standard, especially as it only took my next door neighbour 2 days.

The Desolation of Qatar

On the 1st of August I left Greece on the start of my journey to Istanbul - not a difficult journey you may well think. I had to go via Doha! I had to pick Baggins up from the kennels in Qatar and fly with him to Istanbul. It seems that there is an odd piece of legislation here to the effect that, if Baggins arrives on the same flight as me there is no problem in bringing him into the country. If he arrives on a different flight than me then the red tape for bringing him in becomes horrendous! It was easier to make sure that he arrived with me.

So I flew to Doha and stayed overnight with Amanda and Dave - many many thanks to them. On the way to the airport on the 2nd (ready to fly out) I decided to take a photo of Qatar, just to remind me...


The city of Doha was like other Middle Eastern cities - busy with tall buildings and shopping malls and a nice Corniche. But I didn't live in Doha, I lived 40 kilometres up the road at Al Khor. The picture shows the desolation of Qatar - I saw this view every day. The 2nd of August was a particularly beautiful day, had it been a normal day the sky would have been brown as well!

I am so happy to be out of there!