Arrive Istanbul / Labour Day
It was 12 degrees at 0115 when we touched down at the airport so once we grabbed our bags we did a quick change in to some warm clothes. We then cleared customs and walked out to find the shuttle bus to Istanbul, jumped on the 0230 bus to Istanbul, from here we made our way to our hotel via taxi. We thought we were lucky to be out of Asia and all the frauds and scams but first taxi ride and it was on once more. I went inside to check in and the cabby cleared the meter and then asked Summer for 45. She remembered it said 35 and so gave him two 20’s and then he asked for 5. After she said no he ripped the corner of the notes she gave him and said ‘you need to get replacement notes these are no good‘. Well Summer was half asleep and not in the mood for this and told him that he ripped the notes and just give her a 10. He tried for a little while longer but she was not budging. He gave her a ten and drove off. Welcome to Turkey.
I had to wake the guy at reception and we checked in at 0330. Exhausted, we all had showers and then fell into bed and I set the alarm for 0930 so we didn’t miss breakfast. I don’t think we realised how much we appreciated a shower screen until now. Most of the places we stayed in throughout Asia, the shower head doubled as a bum gun. So the toilet would get saturated during a shower. Made a real mess and a pain for the next person or the last one through, generally me.
Each morning I check the news/sport back home and Summer gets onto some local news via twitter or trip adviser and checks out what is going in the local area. We found out that as it was the 1st of May and it was the Labour Day holiday. Protesters would be marching the streets of Istanbul and tourists were being advised to stay away from Taksim Square. Luckily for us we were across the river, far enough away from the action. The hotel was in a pretty shady area of the old section, lots of poverty and kids playing in the streets, but only a short walk from the New Mosque, spice market and harbour ferry terminals.
We just cruised up our little street, grabbed a kebab and just walked. It was cool, just hanging with the locals. We walked through the spice markets and into the New Mosque. It is not really new just in name and we were lucky enough to walk in right on call to prayer and so we sat in the tourist section and watched as dozens of men ran in to take their position at prayer. They all go through the same motions, in unison and so it was something we had never seen before. After fluking that experience we continued to walk until we reached the Grand Bazaar. It is a fantastic old maze with colourful goods and equally colourful characters amongst the over 4000 shops. We got pleasantly lost for a while but after getting our bearings we walked down the hill, grabbed a cheap dinner in one of the laneways near our street before going back to the room for a proper nights sleep.