To inform entertain and excite my kids, Jamie, Patrick, Aaron & Sarah Middleburgh, our family and friends.

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Istanbul Revisited

I realised, whilst putting up the last few posts, that I never finsished a post started in January 2005 about my trip to Istanbul. This and the photos just published on Flickr and in my photoblog corrects this ommision.

Why Turkey

I have a simple strategy for choosing holiday places. Check which destinations are served by non stop flights from the local airport: short list, after elimating destinations already "done", those too far away or plain boring (discretionary based on mood) Find the best deal for travel/accomodation/food which optimizes options to mix/match culture/sight seeing/relaxing etc ...choice is made. On this basis Turkey seemed a good deal coming from HK... cheap frequent direct flights, not as far as Europe; nearer than North/South America or Africa ,culturally different from all of them and China, in fact different from rest of the middle east and the decider was .. I had been there before on business so I was confident it was OK even if there were local bombings (and these days where aren't there!!)


Turkish Airlines to Istanbul; Taxi to the hotel (booked over the internet after careful research) in the old town near the Grand Bazaar and in walking distance of major tourist sights. We hadn't allowed for the fact that walking to these sites involved running the guantlet with traders bouncing on us as we passed. To me,as they went into sales mode, they always asked " English? German? Being perverse but truthful I always politely replied as we swept past .. NO FROM HONG KONG. On one occasion an itinerant shoe cleaner can up to us as we sat in a Sultanahmet Square and when I said I was from Hong Kong he looked from me to my friend and back and then said : No, She is from Hong Kong but you are not. On another occasion I even took out my Hong Kong ID card as proof and in the end when we walked down the main street the shop keepers started to called out "Hong Kong !!" when they saw us. Although persistant we found the limit of one carpet salesmens objection handling skills "We would love to have a carpet really but the problem is that we lived in a very leaky sampan in Hong Kong and it would get ever so wet during the Typhoon season .. so sorry"

Did a short side trip to Kyrenia, Northern Cyprus which will be the subject to a seperate post and returned to stay at a Hotel in Beyoglu across the Goldern Horn. More up market catering for Japanese, Americans Western Europeans etc the contrast could not have been greater. Most of the tourists in Sultanahmet hotels were Russian speaking presumably from Georgia and the Caucasus Republics as well as Russia proper.

The locals in Sutanahmet are conservative " ie when midsay prayers are called some mosques overflowed into the steets and the women wear the jilbāb. In keeping with the age of the buildings the street furniture was "dickensian" or put it another way off the main roads most of street lights were broken. By contrast on the other side of the Horn, women wore stylish western clothes ; Starsucks was doing a roaring trade and it was definately a modern european city. (with a reputable football team)

We saw the sights and got mosqued out ; we took the ferry to the restaurant at the end of the Bosphorus (not quite on the Black Sea); We did the trip to Asia and visited Bursa. All in all a very good holiday only marred by the lack of good chinese restaurants for emergency soul food (but not as bad as Cyprus) In fact we did have a decent chinese meal in Taksim. We didn't even have to mention Hong Kong - one look was enough and the chinese manageress took charge.

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