Away cares mazing city
It is bordered by the Bosporus, that river-like body of water that connects the Sea of Marmara to the Black Sea and the former Soviet socialist republics that lie beyond.
The Golden Horn, an inlet of the Bosporus, divides the city and the seven hills that surround it.
If you were to travel by boat downstream from Istanbul, heading down the Bosporus and across the Sea of Marmara, you would eventually come to another narrow seaway.
It is one the Allies tried to penetrate in World War I, their failure to do so resulting in the name Gallipoli being writ large in Australian military history.
We picked up a brochure for a day trip to Gallipoli, which left at dawn and returned about 10pm. A day spent in a bus didn’t appeal and Gallipoli was left for another day and another trip.
Our hotel was on the tram line that runs through the heart of the old city. The fare was two Turkish lira no matter how many stops you travelled and the trams were modern and clean.
We watched from the upper level of a double-decker Red Bus tour as a black Volkswagen cut across a lane of traffic, clipped the side of a mini-van and slammed into a tree, exploding in a shower of broken glass and steam.
A few seconds later the driver emerged, talking into his mobile phone and apparently unhurt, his car just another casualty of the insane driving habits of the locals.
Take a Red Bus tour – a get-on, getoff journey around the city, which crosses the Golden Horn to Taksim Square, returning to the Blue Mosque.
We sipped coffee and ate pastries stuffed with spinach and fetta cheese most mornings before catching a tram to Sultanahmet, where the parklands surrounding the Blue Mosque were packed with tourists.
Late one afternoon, tiring of the throng, we retired to the rooftop bar of the Seven Hills Hotel in the shadow of the Blue Mosque with a magnificent 270-degree view across the Bosporus at its confluence with the Golden Horn.
At 4.30pm, as the light began to soften, a voice cut through the warm air, high-pitched and plaintive as the muezzin called the faithful to prayer. Within a minute it was joined by many more, echoing over the roofs of the city.
On another day we caught a tram to Kabatas and then a funicular to Taksim Square and strolled down the broad streets that radiate from it, stopping for coffee and baklava. The streets are lined with some of Istanbul’s better retail outlets, with dark, narrow laneways disappearing down steep hills and all lined with small shops and stalls.
Rather than take an organised tour, we jumped on a ferry heading up the Bosporus. It was a journey of about two hours past the mansions of Istanbul’s