Thursday, 1 November 2012

Don't Mess With The Meze; or, Exploring Istanbul

Leaving Riyadh for a holiday is always good. But when your destination is Istanbul it’s twice as exciting.

We’ve been here three days now and  already we’ve walked and seen and heard so much. I’ve seen fresh pomegranates being squeezed and made into juice on the street.

I’ve been woken up by the call to prayer (some things never change) but here it comes from Istanbul’s spectacular Blue Mosque. It's incredibly loud, even by Riyadh standards.

I’ve tried Turkish meze platters and read of their interesting history. Something to do with food tasters employed by Sultan Suleimanthe Magnificent, and being given small dishes to test taste. If one of them keeled over, then you’d know for sure they’d done a good job and the food was seriously unsafe for the Sultan.

(Too late for the tasters though. Unfortunately.)

We’ve marvelled at the amazing gilt mozaics in St Saviour Chora and looked for the story in each.

We’ve walked and walked and walked, up and down Istanbul’s streets, through bazaars and past mosques.  I’d like a pedometer just to really  know how many kilometres we’ve covered each day, but my calf muscles tell me it’s probably a lot.  As my husband  kindly remarked, “What won’t kill us, will make us stronger.” Our context is very different from Nietzsche’s, but the aphorism’s still apt I guess. (And I’m still walking.)

I’ve been tempted by the never-ending array of sweets and interesting goods in the bazaars.

We’ve taken an hour’s flight south into the Turkish countryside. In the middle of tussocked fields, we turned a corner and unexpectedly confronted the complete infrastructure of an ancient Roman and Greek city.

At Aphrodisia we saw a  Greek amphitheatre, an intact Roman theatre, Hadrianic baths, agora, Roman roads and  temples.

Roman theatre

At Hieroplis we saw the necropolis or burial ground, and read the stories told by the different symbols on each mausoleum. Our guide explained to us that a wine amphora, a trident and a shield along one lintel told that this was the resting place of a former gladiator.


Amphora, trident and a shield (no, really, it is!)

At Pammukale we saw the natural hot springs and wondered if this was how New Zealand's pink and white terraces once looked.

And at the end of each day we return to our hotel ready to sleep and recharge our batteries for the next day’s adventuring.

Because isn’t that the way all holidays should be?

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