Today was our first day on our own. A day of challenges alone in the big city.
I don’t know about you, but machines which dispense tickets are a mystery to me. I approach them with fear every time even in Australia. I stand there and look at instructions and holes, wondering where I would put money, or a credit card, where it might come out, what buttons I must push. I look around a bit in perplexity, hoping that some kind soul might rescue me. I’ve been known to put my credit card in where the currency notes should go.
For the first few days, our guide Serdar bought all the tickets which allowed us to jump queues at most attractions. But yesterday, for the first time, it was our job alone. With a predatory machine at every turn.
We thought we’d have a nice lazy day to recover from the frantic sightseeing of the first three, so caught a ferry across the Bosphorus to the Asian side. Serdar had instructed us that when we arrived at the Eminou quay, we should stand looking bewildered, arms high in the air, and say “Kadakoy?” and hope someone would direct us to the ferry. Don’t laugh. Some people did laugh, but it worked. (by the way, get your koys straight in Instanbul. Our hotel is at Karakoy. We were going to Kadakoy. There are any number of koys.) In the map below, both the royal blue and the black lines are going to Kadakoy.
Found the right ferry station. People walking to machines, pressing buttons, grabbing something and off through the turnstiles. Can’t be that hard. We looked, pressed the button for English, and then stood. No divine inspiration. Totally confused. Found an employee, such a lovely man who quickly indicated what we should do. Put in a 5 lira note HERE, change will come back out HERE. Smiled to ask did we understand, we nodded enthusiastically. And off he went.
Put in a 5 lira note, change came out where he’d indicated. No ticket. You know the feeling when a machine has just gobbled your money, but there’s no ticket? Back to find the smiling man, hoping he’ll believe that the machine swallowed our money. Shaking his head and smiling, he came back to the machine. See in the change bay? There’s a 1 lira coin, and a metal token which is the ticket. They look identical. We are delighted! It’s so simple when you know how. Almost Mr Bean like, we nonchalantly went through the turnstile.
The Bosphorus is an ever-changing delight. The amount of traffic is astounding, from huge liners, to the smallest tugs. And they all know where there are going!
Darling Bernie of Izzi and Popo fame (for those of you who are not Australian, Bernie has a wonderful brocante shop in Melbourne) had told me about an antiques street at Kadakoy on the Asian side, and there are wonderful markets there too. Thank you Bernie! We found it! Armed with that information and the Triposo map on my phone (works offline and identifies where you are with a flashing dot) off we set. By the way my phone is so stuffed with travel apps I can hardly find the home button. Will let you know at the end of the trip which are the best.
Cally had printed out the day’s instructions which was great - I usually just look down at an app on my phone which can send you a little mad. We were, in this order, to catch a tram to Moda, walk along a street for quite a long distance, turn right into the antiques street and wander it. Then off again to find a street of interesting arty jewellery, art etc with a statue of a thinker at the end. Then the Opera House, the statue of the bull, the markets, and home again. Simple.
Firstly to get on a tram. There was no way we were going to try to do another ticket machine so we just blithely hopped on a tram which said Moda on the front, and politely asked the driver if we could pay him. He was in the middle of saying no, when a woman just behind us stood up and spoke. Someone on the tram would be delighted to use their go-card for us if we paid them 2 lira each. We nearly hugged her. She called out to the entire tram in Turkish, asking who had a card they were prepared to use. There was an immediate offer, the scanning happened and by then we had our money out for the woman. Shook her head smiling. No. It’s my treat. No no we said and pushed the money into her hand. No no. But we insisted and she took it. Isn’t that just lovely? The whole tram was smiling. Our helper sat down with us and chatted about where we wanted to go in very good English. I asked, so how do we buy a ticket for next time? Again a smile. Do again what you have done this time. Someone will always use their ticket for you.
Mostly it went according to plan apart from a slight detour of about 2 km (don’t tell Cally but it was my map reading fault). We had a lovely time in the antique shops. Cally nearly bought a beautiful curio paperweight of a real horse’s hoof set with silver, the bottom silver looking like a horse shoe with silver nails, the top a silver cover. The shopkeeper wouldn’t budge from his fairly high price. I saw lots I could have bought, but suitcase weight and the prospect of shopping still to come stopped me. (John - my darling husband - I know you are reading this. Don't take any notice. You know I don't shop. There is nothing in that bag in the bedroom)
We ducked inside the Seraya Opera House below, and had a drink at the Happy Moons Café.
I practised my merhabas and also have learned goodbye. “Ah lah ismarrrrr la dick” give or take a syllable or two. Worked a treat, except when I said it walking into a shop rather than when leaving.
We drank astringent pomegranate juice or at least I did. Curiously refreshing. Cally made a pursed lip face and said uh uh. Too astringent for her. She styled the photo below! I've used it as the cover for this post - I've got to put her on the payroll. We got lost, found ourselves again, discovered the famous statue of the bull, and wandered the most beautiful food markets. Such a lovely day.
The food markets are superb - the quality the equal of any of ours. The prawns as big as our biggest prawns.
And then, like the natives we nearly are, we bought our token for the ferry home (and even made an executive decision to catch a ferry back to our own side of the Golden Horn. Impressive?) Cally won't let me take her photo, but she took mine on the ferry.
We had made a reservation at a restaurant for dinner, but were reminded by the hotel that we had a voucher for a wine and a cheese platter which we had not used. Rather than nibbles, it turned out to be big enough to have fed a small country. We cancelled our restaurant reservation and had an early night.
A wonderful, easy and fun day. Today we check out of The House Hotel Vault Karakoy, which is lovely (bedroom bathroom office and sitting room) and into Hazz. I cannot wait!