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Istanbul


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Edit from March 2019: The restaurant we went to was called Ahırkapı Balıkçısı - it's still going! Definitely a place I recommend! Piya Hostel is still going too and I recommend that as well.

Dave woke up not feeling well at all - but he made it OK to Istanbul. By the end of the flight he was feeling better. Instead of getting the bus, metro and tram to our hostel, we took the more unusual route of a bus to the Asian seafront (Sabiha Gökçen Airport is on the Asian side, but miles and miles out of the city itself), with a view then to take a ferry to the European side and lastly a tram and a walk to Piya Hostel, the same place we had stayed at before our Cappadocian and Aegean adventures.

Before we got on the ferry we had a great Balik Ekmek each for lunch on a café-boat. I really recommend Balik Ekmek - such a simple idea (freshly-caught fish boned, grilled and stuffed into a crusty roll with some optional salt and lemon juice) yet it works so well.

On arrival at Piya Hostel we went straight to bed for a nap - we had had an early start in the morning. Late afternoon we started out on a walk round the corner to the Arasta Bazaar and the Istanbul Handicrafts Market, but only about 100m away from the hotel Dave stubbed his toe and it was bleeding, so we went back to our room and I patched it up for him. The market would have started packing up by the time I finished, so we decided just to have some dinner instead.

We had tried to visit this restaurant before, but if was closed for Ramadan then. Ramadan has finished now though, so as soon as we realised it was open again we were there like a shot. It was a tiny seafood place just round the corner. I had a swordfish skewer and Dave had shrimp salad; the shrimps were massive and the chunks of swordfish on my skewer weren't far behind! We shared a cold (but cooked) aubergine and tomato appetiser as well, plus some baklava when it came to dessert and we still had space. The food was great and the owner/waiter was very softly spoken and charming, not pushy at all like some of the waiters are round here.

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After dinner we walked back to the waterfront in order to fulfill a long-held desire of mine; to at least dip my fingers in the Strait of Bosphorus. This was a little more difficult than it sounds, because the 'beach' consists only of big boulders piled up so closely together that there's no space on the ground to stand. I did, however, manage to get my hand in the water; mission successful.

Posted by 3Traveller 01:03 Archived in Turkey Tagged airport turkey istanbul hostel buses ferry bosphorus dave turkish_cuisine Comments (0)

The Spice Market & a taste of Asia

Istanbul


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The Spice Market was our morning destination on Saturday. Held within a building dating from 1666, it was formerly known as the Egyptian Market because the spices used to be shipped in from Cairo. As well as spices, it sells mounds of fruit teas, dried fruit, shelled nuts, Turkish Delight and wrapped and unwrapped blocks of olive oil soap. I couldn't wait to experience it...

Before we got there, however, we found ourselves wandering around the Main Market, which fills the streets around the Spice Market. In fact we had quite a job finding the latter due to the mazy street layout and all the market stalls! The Main Market was very interesting to look round in itself. It was filled with stalls selling a wide range of household goods, including wicker baskets, cooking utensils, tools, t-shirts, hats, headscarves, jeans, knives, plastic toys, towels, pets (cages of birds, green lizards and white rabbits), pet food, blocks of coloured soaps and some jars of live leeches in water.

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Needless to say, once we found the Spice Market I loved walking round, savouring the colours and the mix of exotic scents. I wished my family were there to appreciate it all, especially the piles of huge juicy-looking dates which they would have loved but were wasted on me. I bought some 'meatball spice' (which smelled genuinely lovely) and some 'Turkish saffron' which I've since found out is not saffron at all but a cheap imitation called safflower. I should have been suspicious about the price not being sky-high!

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These are the surroundings of the Spice Market;

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I had read somewhere that the Turkish Delight at the Spice Market is not actually that great, and the best place in Istanbul to get it is from a shop nearby. Before we set off to find it, however, we went to different shop nearby which apparently has the best baklava in Istanbul - at least we tried to find it, but didn't manage to - it was supposed to be in the main market, but around where it should have been we only found a baklava shop of a different name. We bought some from there anyway, as it looked good, plus some Turkish rice pudding. It was lovely, so no regrets.

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It was between one and two o'clock by now and we needed to move on to catch a ferry to the Asian side, so we decided to look for the Turkish Delight shop on our return to Istanbul before we go back to Bulgaria, instead. Before we got on the ferry we had a tasty 'Balik Ekmek' each; this is an ultra-fresh fish fillet thrown onto a grill and then stuffed into a huge crusty roll with some chopped lettuce and raw onion. Lemon juice and salt are optional condiments. These are made and sold on the seafront.

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The ferry trip was a great experience. It was a commuter ferry, not a public excursion one, so it only cost about 2 lira. It took about 20 minutes and we loved all the different views we got of the skyline. Minarets, skyscrapers, Topkapi Palace, Galata Tower... We passed a French destroyer docked at the headland next to the palace; Dave said he thought the small black and white flag displayed on it was the international quarantine signal.

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On arrival in Asia, we headed to Kadikoy produce market, where the locals go apparently. We just window-shopped instead of actually buying anything, but it was good fun to see all the different goods; fresh fish, containers filled with honeycombs, the biggest cherries I've ever seen, other fruit and vegetables, yoghurt and cheese, baklava, eggs, olives, dried peppers, crystallised and dried fruit...piles of colourful soaps, too.

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Something the Asian side had which we hadn't seen in the historic European area was sideless carts piled with antiques or secondhand books. These were wheeled about the streets and then set down for a while for people to browse at. Some if the books were in English, but none we wanted to buy, though I did enjoy having a look at a book for adult English as a second language learners which was published in the 1950s... I regret not buying that now, actually.

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Another thing we noticed was groups of older men sitting around cafe tables playing a particular game which involved a lot of clicking, sliding about and picking up rectangular cream counters. Some other cafés had younger people playing backgammon and other board games.

The last thing we did before returning to Europe was to have Turkish coffee and a Turkish dessert called 'Kazan dibi'. I tried some Kazan dibi once at the Lucky Man restaurant in Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria (a place with a small Turkish population); the stuff I had today proves that what I had in VT was genuine. It's delicious, if filling!

Some photos from the return ferry trip;

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On our return to Europe we decided not to get the tram back yet, but to walk across Galata Bridge to the other European side first for a look around. There were loads of fishermen on both sides of the bridge, using extremely long lines. One of them caught a fish just as we walked past him- it flopped around on the ground for a while before being captured and put into a container of water alive.

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The Strait of Bosphorus, while not crystal clear of course, was much cleaner than I was expecting for such a big city. We spotted a few white jellyfish and some small silvery fish (maybe sardines?).

For dinner we had another 'Balik Ekmek' each, from a cafe on the seafront; they were even better than the ones we had earlier!

When we were back in Sultanahmet and walking from the tram station to our hostel, we couldn't help but notice that hundreds, even thousands of people were pouring in from every direction and settling themselves and their families onto rugs spread out on the grass in Sultanahmet Park. We guessed that it was due to Ramadan- people sharing the breaking of the day's fast with their friends and family in a shared environment. It was nearly sunset by then, so this was more than likely.

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Posted by 3Traveller 08:58 Archived in Turkey Tagged bridges market turkey istanbul asia ferry bosphorus dave turkish_cuisine Comments (0)

Galápagos Islands: Santa Cruz (Indefatigable)

Guayaquil and the Galápagos Islands


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Edit from January 2019: Finch Bay appears to be called Playa de los Alemanes (German Beach) on Google Maps - maybe Finch Bay is the unofficial name.

Breakfast and then off to Guayaquil Airport. We had to get our bags checked and tagged at the Galápagos Biosecurity Control Inspection & Quarantine desk first and then move to another desk next door to pay $10 each for our Tourist Control Cards.

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We arrived at Baltra Island to hot breeze. The runway and terminal were both tiny, set in the midst of obviously volcanic rock, red earth and dry vegetation on every side.

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From the airport we we were driven in a LAN bus to the port, where we got on a ferry to the main island, Santa Cruz. Luggage went on the flat top of the boat whilst all the people went inside. We saw our first blue-footed boobies!

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On arrival we waited for a bus, only to be told by the taxi drivers that the buses have gone for the day. I didn't believe them, thinking they were only saying that to make us get an $18 taxi ride instead, so we hung around for a bit longer. Then a new ferryload of people arrived and I asked a tour guide if either of the two buses in the bar park were public ones - they had the same name as the local buses mentioned in our guidebook - but he said no. It turned out they had been commissioned for his tour group and we were not allowed on. So we thought "sod it" and just got a taxi to Puerto Ayora after all - we couldn't afford the time to hang around any longer.

At about two-ish we arrived at our hostel, the Galápagos Best Homestay. Dave's name was written on a welcome whiteboard on the outer wall! The owner was really friendly and our room had a kitchenette and free drinking water from a big container (like on the mainland, the tap water isn't safe to drink).

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Almost straight after checking in to our hostel we went out on our first excursion... a trip by water taxi to a small, curved, enclosed beach called Finch Bay. We walked through the town centre to get to the dock.

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We saw mangroves and a massive heron on the final short walk to the beach.

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Finch Bay has wonderful white sand.

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Then we hiked for 25 minutes to Las Grietas, a fissure in some rocks maybe about 10 metres wide - wide enough for people to swim in.

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It's filled with a mixture of seawater and natural fresh water that comes through the ground. It was wonderfully, deliciously cool, not to mention pretty clear - when snorkelling, I could see the ground about 40 feet below! I saw some small, well-camouflaged fish that stayed on underwater rocks, and a small shoal of much larger fish.

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We stopped at Finch Bay on the way back and I had another swim - Dave had got changed already so didn't get back into his wet stuff. The beach was sandy and instead of having rocky headlands on each side, it was flanked with mangroves. The sea was clearly very salty because I could float on my back without having to breath in at all.

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We stopped at a small supermarket on our way back and bought some dinner - a type of Ecuadorian sausage I've had before that is a lot like a frankfurter but shorter and much fatter, an onion, some mayonnaise and some rolls. We cooked half of the sausages for dinner and saved the others for breakfast tomorrow morning.

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Posted by 3Traveller 15:46 Archived in Ecuador Tagged birds coast beach airport hostel ferry dave ecuador galapagos_islands guayaquil explorations blue_footed_boobies unesco_world_heritage_site freshwater_swimming Comments (0)

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