To cut a long story short

London/Istanbul - 22/08/2010

Second bus comes, we embark. Driver, who even if never uttered a singular word to you could not help but be supposed a curmudgeon, was grumpy as is his habit. Gatwick looms, we check in and wait for the plane. I note with interest that Easyjet's 'Speedy Queue' optional extra seems to have been created primarily by slowing down the normal queue. Having said that there must have been something vaguely efficient about boarding as the captain felt able to spare 10 minutes to deliver an impromptu standup routine at the front of the plane. He was, it must be said, a refreshing change from the dour sobriety that is the modus operandi of the airline community normally. Having closed my eyes (yet not slept) I somehow missed the take off and landing completely. The middle bit was as interesting as (and did include) an airsteward's safety brief, thus we find ourselves in Istanbul. A shuttle bus to the western limit of Asia Minor and ferry across the Bosphorus facilitated our entry into the queen of cities. Soaring minarets pierced the skyline as our taxi driver pierced backstreet after backstreet in forlorn search of the Rose Hotel. We drew on the advice of the greater proportion of the residents of Istanbul in its finding. But find it we did and its location was of the primest kind (cheap price too, especially if you think it's in lira) in Sultanahmet and we were but a local's hocked gob from the magnificence of The Blue Mosque and the twin splendour of Ayia Sofia, the latter which we entered. For 1000 years the largest enclosed space in the world (nb, this may not be right, do check) it makes its rival brooding at it from across the hippodrome seem almost contemporary by comparison. The interior is as awing as the time-worn facade and extensive work goes on to restore the original Byzantine iconography so cruelly defaced by its new Ottoman landlords after 1453. The Galata Bridge houses a teeming mass of shops and restaurants many serving balik ekmete (fish sandwiches); dirt cheap, damn good, recommended try. There's quite a fishing scene off the bridge too, although by far the largest thing we observed being hooked was a 150 pound tourist. Sunset over old Constantinople's dreaming spires was taken from the Galata Tower just over the Golden Horn, though a haphazard system for delivering people to the top meant the best light had gone. A day which began 48 hours ago in Birmingham drew to a close with us taking relaxing puffs on a hubble bubble pipe (or Nargile, Hookah or Sheesha if you prefer) in the well furnished environs of Ozlër's bar and haberdashery. Surrounded by cushions, inundated with cats (if they do have 9 lives them surely this must be a city of a billion souls) travel seems elementary and elemental (this, I pray, will not change...)

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