I wake late (again) and linger in sleep, pondering what today might bring. Part of me is nervous about what new man will fling himself at me today; the other is fearful of breaking my winning streak to date.
I phone a friend for a goss download, and head out to walk across the Galata Bridge (across the Bosphorous Straight), then up the Galata Tower (think: more CLIMBING) for stunning views over the city. It is freezing and I’ve forgotten to bring my shawl.
After this, it’s off to Istraklal Street, the very European shopping street where delights like gozleme and Turkish ice cream await the delighted visitor.
If Greek sweets are something to behold, the Turks have taken it to a whole new level. Their ice cream is sensational, and the variety of baklava enormous, not to mention the halvas, nougat and other tasty treats that are piled up in shop windows.
Inconguously, Gloria Jeans has opened a coffee outlet on this trendy street – how bizarre!
I return early, and invited to some tea with the Hotel Manager before asking him to arrange a cruise on the Bosphorous and my airport transfer tomorrow night.
I ask him where he recommends for dinner: I feel like a Turkish pizza. He suggests Dominoes (no, seriously, Dominoes). I hesitate: do they really deliver that gorgeous pizza with finely ground, spiced meat? Yes, he says, “It’s made by Turks”. At the appointed time, I receive a small, depressing pizza with a topping resembling ham and pepperoni.
Today, I cruised the magnificent Bosphorous Strait, which divides the European part of Istanbul from the Asian side. I was stunned by its beauty, which could rival any waterway in Europe, with houses worth tens of millions lining the shores (a large waterfront mansion recently sold for USD85 million!). After this, I headed to the Suleyman mosque, only to find Istanbul’s most breathtaking mosque closed for renovations for the next year! Not deterred, I hunted for the Grand Bazaar, the enourmous shopping area, and promptly got desperately lost. Not to worry – following Anastasia’s example, I simply asked, pointing to my guidebook and the Turkish word for Grand Bazaar, and following successive pointing before eventually stumbling upon it. Shortly after, I was lost again, this time in the Grand Bazaar itself. Amazingly, it has its own mosque, and shortly before 5pm, the call to prayer echoed around the mosque.
Before I jumped into my airport car, I visited Rejep and his guys at the carpet place for one last tea – they are such sweeties.
In less than an hour, I head to Tehran on a 9.30pm flight, to arrive at 2.00am Iranian time. After confidently organising my visit, and watching as many of you guys pondered me, silently curious as to the state of my sanity, I realise that, in a little over 5 hours, I will be in Iran. There is a oddly-shaped knot in my stomach as I wonder if it will be OK. Of course it will – too many guidebooks and other resources have emphasised that it’s wonderful. I met a woman in Greece who recently went, and she LOVED it. And I have a local travel agent, who us looking after every transfer, hotel booking, and private guide on my trip. But still…this is one place where maybe I wish I had a friend in tow.
I breathe a little more deeply and hope that 2.00am in Tehran airport isn’t too surreal and disconcerting. I picture myself writing my next post from Iran, telling you how amazing it all is.