Monday, May 18, 2015

MENU's Aegean Odyssey. Day 1, Cape Town to Istanbul

On Saturday afternoon, we took the MyCiti bus to the airport and discovered that the actual departure time was 40 minutes earlier than the time printed on our tickets. We came close to missing the plane, but we made it in the nick of time
and boarded Turkish Airlines TK 0041. We and the small contingent of Cape Town passengers flew to Johannesburg and killed two hours in the aircraft on the ground before taking off and
 landing in Istanbul at 5.30am on Sunday, tired from a sleepless night - we never sleep well on planes and love KLM's daylight flight from Amsterdam. Service on Turkish was good and the plane food slightly better than usual
 Then came the shock. After about an hour in the long queue for immigration, in the worst queues we have ever seen worldwide, with thousands shuffling, we discovered that the Turks require a visa for UK passports. John had applied for and printed out his e-Visa, free of charge. Lynne had been told a visa wasn't necessary for a UK passport. She had to go and buy one (€25) and rejoin at the back of the queue, which took another hour. Landed 05h15 left airport 08h30, exhausted
 Immigration cleared, we went down to the underground Metro station, bought our Istanbulkart pass cards (similar to a MyCiti card) and boarded the train, having been told by the security man to go to the second last stop on the line
We got off and stopped at a nearby hotel to ask for directions. We needed to go to the last stop on the line
So we did that
 and went looking for our digs. Lost again and went onto the Hotel Kuran to ask directions. The very kind concierge took us into his foyer, brought us tea and coffee (no charge) and called the people at our self-catering apartment
 The young manager came to fetch and said "5 to 10 minutes walk". He was a bit optimistic, but we made it. Lynne had turned her ankle in Cape Town. It took 25 excruciating minutes walk, dragging suitcases and bodies
 to Tura Apartments
and checked in... We knew the room wouldn't be ready before 1pm and this was about 10am
 So we deposited our cases and he showed us the way to the centre of the suburb so we could look for provisions and see the sights.  We are in the ancient quarter of Fatih opposite the ferry
 There is a huge variety of inexpensive food (some plates of rice and beans for as little as L1 = R4.50) savoury
 and sweet, mostly expensive
We stopped at one small restaurant for lunch, cubed chicken breast with aubergine, potato and cheese  and grilled chicken pilaf.No beer (Muslim restaurant) 
so we ordered a lemonade each
and walked on through the neighbourhood streets
 People have stalls, barrows of things to sell and sometimes just a pile of goods on the pavement
 Many buildings need repairs and one sees a lot of building activity
Lynne spotted this bit of antiquity with a very modern scooter and a fig tree growing from the neighbour roof 
 with a nice bit of wrought iron on the gate
 Across the square,
hanging gardens 
 More street food, a very popular chicken doner kebab, a flat bread, yoghurt, chilli sauce, pickled cucumber and chips all rolled up together with the chicken slices 
and small greengrocers everywhere 
 with beautifully displayed, fresh and great quality fruit and veg. We once had similar, but our supermarkets killed the small traders and the quality
 Stuffed mussels are popular
 and, in the evening, we had a sundowner in our room. 
Then our lights went out (sound familiar?) with a power cut. Lynne had brought a torch, 
so we could negotiate our three flights of dark stairs, 
and we walked to nearby Kumkapı square, 
which is ringed with restaurants, mostly specialising in fish, all touting for business
The surrounding streets are also full of places to eat. 
This man appeared to be making his own ice cream
 A display of fish in a restaurant
 Evening games of backgammon with the boys
A Mini Migros supermarket, with a generator, where we bought some things for breakfast: fresh peaches, tomatoes and coffee & pan au chocolat for our microwave 
 Embellishment is everywhere
 We finally made a choice for supper as we fancied some lamb
The menu is clear, with prices. You ask for details 
 A salad, some hot flatbread and some tomato, chilli cucumber sauce arrived first
 Other tourists stopped to ask what it was like and were attracted
 We could see into the fridge and choose our meat
 John chose a lamb dish baked in a clay pot with tomato, peppers and other delicate herbs and spices. It had a beautiful woodsmoke flavour
 Lynne had a nostalgic lamb shish kebab which came with pilaf rice with the texture of sushi rice, a grilled green chilli, salad and fried potatoes so crisp that they were like duck fat potatoes. Divine
Inside the restaurant with the chef, sparkling clean.  We drank 'Islamic beer' - water - with our meal 
Strolling through the restaurant quarter 
A band playing traditional Turkish music sat at one of the restaurants. They move around all evening
 Strolling home through the back streets, we are only a few minutes walk away
 Everyone, and the washing, is out on the streets
© John & Lynne Ford, Adamastor & Bacchus 2015

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