Away cares maz­ing city

Sunday Mail - Travel/Escape - - NEWS -

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

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