Day 16: Bosporus

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Mosque in a mirror
Mosque reflecting in a modern building, Istanbul
How does the Bosporus, the narrow strait connecting the Mediterranean Sea with the Black Sea and dividing Europe from Asia, look like? To find out more about this, we have planned to take a ferry from Eminönü in the centre of Istanbul to Anadolu Kavagı. The ferry runs four times a day and zigzags through the Bosporus all the way to the Black Sea. Anadolu Kavagı is the last stop and close to the northern mouth of the Bosporus at the Black Sea. There's plenty to see along the Bosporus. Eversince, wealthy and powerful men have chosen places along the Bosporus as their residence. And so old palaces and less old palaces line up along the shore. Among them, the fortress Rumeli Hisarı is worth mentioning. According to historic sources, the fortress was built during the Constantinople war in 1453 within four months only by Sultan Mehmet II.

Another, rather modern highlight are the two large bridges spanning the Bosporus. After more than one and a half hour we arrive in Anadolu Kavagı - and we are surprised. The small village is a Mecca for fish lovers. For fish-on-the-plate lovers to be exactly. Numerous restaurants specializing in fish dishes as well as fish traders concentrate around the gangplank.

One of the two large bridges across the Bosporus
Needless to say that it's quite noisy, since many touts are trying to drag the newly arrived visitors into their restaurants. But they are not as annoying as some of the touts in central Istanbul. Since we don't know any of the restaurants, it doesn't seem to matter at all where we are going to walk in. The menu is in Turkish and English. For two large plates of really fresh fish we pay around € 13 - an appropriate price. The place seems to be very popular with the locals, which is for a good reason. A nice place to flee the big city. Staff in the restaurant is incredibly fast - probably they know that most people are in a hurry, since the returning ferry doesn't allow to stay long. On the boat back to Istanbul, two talented musicians are trying to make some extra money.

After a while on the boat, we order two cups of coffee. One cup is 1,500,000 TL. I hand over a 10 million Lira bill. The change is 6 million - wait a moment, 10 - 2 x 1.5 - isn't that 7? At least this is what I've learnt in school. It's not a real restaurant, and in Europe as well as in Turkey it's not usual to leave a tip when ordering just a small thing such as a coffee. I look at the waiter and ask where the other one million would be. He's just smiling sleazily and replies "That's my tip"! Well, maybe I would have given him a tip, but now I insist on the one million. What a shameless person. But it seems to work - else he wouldn't try.

Fish restaurants in Anadolu Kavagi
Fish restaurants in Anadolu Kavagı
Back in Istanbul, we are heading to Kapalı Carsı, better known as the "Great Bazaar". Near the entrance to the bazaar we spot some people selling clothes in the streets. Suddenly, within a few seconds, all the vendors pack their things, put their stuff onto small wooden carts and run away. Do they know something we don't know!? Of course, the reason for the panic turns out to be the polis. The same thing can be seen in many countries - especially in →Taiwan, this procedure was quite entertaining to watch.

Unfortunately we will be disappointed - the Great Bazaar is completely closed, because it's Sunday. What a pity. I went to the Great Bazaar some years ago, and although it's a touristy and therefore also expensive place, it's highly interesting. Although it's Sunday, I keep on looking for a shop selling the traditional narghile (water pipe). After a while, we can find a shop not far from the bazaar. The owner welcomes us friendly, and a long conversation starts. Surprisingly, he doesn't seem to be interested at all in selling something to us! That's strange. Usually, they start some small-talk, offer some tea and then it's showtime - they present their goods and start haggling. Not him. Although almost one hour has passed. I admit the conversation is interesting and much deeper than usual. While we are talking, an obviously pretty rich Russian couple comes in. They select some real gewgaw, and the prices the shopkeeper is telling them are just way too high. But they don't need to haggle, and he knows that. Finally they pay a small fortune and leave the shop. The owner is smiling at us and says "I love the Russians". Certainly.

After a while, I can finally interrupt him to let him know, that I would be seriously interested in buying a water pipe. He has some more or less beautiful water pipes in his shop. One of them is particularly nice, because it's not too kitschy. "I always tell the tourists that they are very old, but actually they just look as if they were old" he says. Indeed, the water pipe, completely made of copper, looks timeworn. But nice. I'm more and more surprised about the man - an honest owner of a souvenir shop in Istanbul - what an oxymoron! The water pipe looks nice and stable, so I ask for the price. "28 US dollars is the price I pay for it, so just give me 28". I never trust people working in souvenir shops, especially not in places like Istanbul, Cairo or Jerusalem. But this time I trust him. Almost two kilogram of fine art of copper - the price can't be much lower. Some hours later, I'll see exactly the same water pipe in another souvenir shop - for 60 US dollars.

Later we enter a carpet shop in order to get a so-called kilim - a traditional Turkish, coarsely knitted carpet. It is supposed to be a souvenir. Soon we find out, that there's nothing more exhausting than buying a carpet. It takes ages to find the correct one.

At night we pass the famous Sultanahmet Mosque again on our way to the hotel. Next to the mosque is a restaurant, below the street, and so we can see some of the famous "whirling derwishes" performing in the open-air restaurant. It is supposed to be a traditional dance, where men wearing white skirt-like dresses and a red fez are turning around and around in an incredible speed. Okay, it's quite amazing that these men don't just fall over or at least throw up after a couple of minutes, but it remains a miracle to me what is so fascinating about this dance. But maybe I'm just ignorant. Or it's just a running gag for the ignorant tourists...

Our trip is about to finish the next day. A trip through two completely different worlds. Turkey is the one world, Georgia and Armenia the other. Although differences between Georgia and Armenia are quite big as well. All the places we came across were just great, and I can only recommend them.

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  • The ferry running along the Bosporus between Anadolu Kavagı and Istanbul Eminönü leaves four times a day. The return tickets costs 5 million TL per person (around € 3).






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