Monday 30 September 2019
30.09.2019 - 30.09.2019 29 °C
I planned to visit my friend Yusuf at his ceramics shop in the Sultanahmet area on Küçük AyaSofya Caddesi no 37. Rather than jumping on the tramway, I walked across the city, firstly down the narrow streets near the Galata tower to the Galata bridge.
There are a lot of fish restaurants on the lower level of the bridge, and above, it's lined with fishermen. The river itself is incredibly busy with ferries, small boats and tourist boat trips. Istanbul is a real city of movement.
Once across the bridge, I found myself near the spice market so wandered through, the sight and smells are very enticing, but I wasn’t here to buy. From here I was in the Grand Bazaar, much busier than when I was last here in 2016 after there had been several bombings in the city. Definitely more tourists around, and like Armenia, large groups, mainly Chinese. You still need to go through security when entering the bazaars and other key places and there is a huge police presence around the city - it feels as if they are on constant high alert.
I stopped for a coffee at the Grand Bazaar. It’s a great place to people watch. It’s interesting to see young women walking arm in arm, one in very western tight fitting clothes and the other wearing a traditional headscarf. It’s a real mix of East meets west. Getting out of the bazaar is a challenge as it’s huge. Once I managed to get out I headed past the Blue Mosque towards the area of my friend’s shop.
Chewing the fat - Istanbul style
Yusuf and I sat outside in the shade, drinking coffee and catching up. It made me feel like a local. Apparently, friends are always passing by for a catch up. Yusuf has adopted a cat that loves to sleep at the front of the shop. If Yusuf charged everyone for very photo they've taken of the cat, he would be a millionaire. We arranged to meet later at Hamid restaurant near the Galata Bridge. Yusuf closes his shop late so we arranged to meet at 10.30pm - my default bedtime since travelling on my own! I had to keep awake somehow.
I found somewhere for lunch and probably made a bad choice - going into the Capadocia restaurant. They have pushy people outside encouraging patrons into the restaurant, but once inside the service is quite lacklustre. The food is okay but nothing to write home about.
There are lots of cats in Istanbul. There is even a film called Kedi  - the City seen through the eyes of its resident cats. I haven’t seen it but would like to try and get hold of a copy when I back to the UK. People leave food and water out for them and they can often be seen in shop doorways guarding the goods. Little huts are also provided for them. There is a definite affection for cats, just like there is in Cyprus and Armenia.
After walking over the Galata Bridge, I thought I’d try out the funicular. Not that I can’t walk up the hill, but I love going on the different modes of transport in the city. The top station is very close to my hotel. I sat out on the terrace reading and relaxing until the sun started to set. The view across the river was beautiful. Soon it was time to get ready and cross the river again to get to meet Yusuf.
Hamid restaurant is a bit of an institution, and is one that features on a lot of the highly recommended lists. However, it’s quite meat orientated so I chose food off the starter list - stuffed peppers, pickles, shepherd's salad and Muhammara - more than enough for me. Yusuf hardly seems to eat anything at all. Apparently, once he’s full, he stops eating. Now I know where I’ve been going wrong all of these years. Anyway, I hate wasting food so I ate all of mine! It was very delicious.
I was happy to walk back to the hotel but Yusuf didn’t feel it was safe, so we got a taxi which dropped me off close to the hotel. The Beyoğlu area is busy so probably be safe to walk around there but I wondered if the Galata Bridge was maybe not so safe. Certainly, I was grateful for Yusuf's concern. It was way after midnight when I got back so I was glad to crawl into bed for a good night’s sleep.