Bayram has been officially over for two weeks now, my lateness excused through the excessive amount of paperwork and stress which comes hand in hand with the chosen profession.
The end of Bayram saw the end of a freedom, back to the reality of working, a daily dose of the madness that is teaching young Turkish children. The jumping, screaming, crying, snotting horror.
With equal doses of lazing about, shopping for mundane throwaway household items, touristy sightseeing and delicious cake, the Bayram holiday week was a strange mix of what felt like a holiday (without the dread of returning home), settling in and searching for an Apple Macbook charger (Apple shop Istanbul set to open in 2014, nightmare!!), with a generous helping of Season 4, Broadwalk Empire to help us procrastinate on rainy days (of which there were precisely two). With a birthday thrown into the mix coupled with the inevitable homesickness that such an event incurrs (remedyed with the adrenaline rush of a go on a dodgy pirate ship at a random fun fair), I do believe we made the most of our Bayram both through getting out and about a bit and through recovering from such a last minute move from our old jobs, flat and life straight to Turkey and into the new job without a moment to pause for breath.
Bayram week is almost like Christmas over here, a weeks holiday to celebrate Eid. From the Tuesday onwards all transport was half price in Istanbul (I am assuming it is the same across the country but cannot say for sure), good news for us on a limited budget, living relatively far away from anything too interesting. We were also informed by the office that the public transport would be deadout in Bayram week, a refreshing prospect after spending a week commuting on a metrobus that transforms one literally into a sardine in a hot, sweaty tin. This, unfortunately turned out not to be the case, being squashed up against ones fellow commuter was to be a regular occurrence. Honestly where do all of these people come from, the metrobus comes every couple of minutes and I have yet to witness one that is not heaving with bodies. Looking forward to flu season, epidemic central.
A metrobus and tram ride away saw us visiting Sultanamet, the old bit with the Hagia Sofia, Topkapi Palace and the Blue Mosque. All of this alongside many a quaint street filled with shops selling trinkets and pointless souvenir stuff, cobbled streets and city walls, a refreshing change from our compound, very much the newly developed (and still being developed) concrete jungle/wasteland, any character swallowed by the cranes and steel rods that permeate the city scape. We managed to miss out on one of the most desirable things to visit here the Basilica Cistern, brought to our attention by a colleague. The largest of several ancient underground cisterns in Istanbul, it is easily missed without prior knowledge of its existence. We shall definately be returning.
Bayram week also saw a return to Taxim, mostly due to our desire to find the elusive Apple charger.In the first instance we almost dismissed Taxim as just another European style city centre, filled with people shopping in places they can come across everyday in their own home cities, Mango, Sunglass Hut (misspelled by them not me), Adidas, blah, blah, blah, yawn, yawn, yawn. I have never understood the compulsion to go on holiday to shop. Shopping is neither fun for your feet or for your purse, do yourself a favour and go spend your money on Tequila, a faster, cheaper and more effective way to ensure happiness (and mine through the unblocking of the walkway- I am all for utilitarianism).
With time to kill and the successful purchase of a fake Apple charger, we had time to scale the full legnth of the street bringing us down to the Bosporus. On the way passing more interesting, independent looking shops, many selling various musical instruments and again trinkety things, I even found myself a secondhand bookshop, always my retail outlet of choice in any country (14 TLR bought me Dostoyevski and Black in Selma an interesting perspective on the civil rights movement). A pleasant surprise. In a good mood, we waited in a queue to get to the top of Galata Tower, a big old thing offering superb, almost breathtaking views of Istanbul. At 13 lira each we felt inclined to turn back being eternally stingy, our curiosity and good moods got the better of us and off we went to see what all the fuss was about. Being in Istanbul it was so crowded at the top doing the 360 panorama was only possible for those possessing the patience of a saint. Not us then. After a quick gander it was time to get out of there.
All in all a very relaxing week and one of the few holidays that we have whilst here, we managed to learn a bit more about how to navigate our way around this huge city and yet still havent scratched the surface. Our next mission is to visit the Asian side, something we did not get round to due to the sheer size of this place, living so far west getting over to the east is going to be a pain in the proverbial.
To be continued!!!