Orana 44 “Midi” – Midi’s Meanderings Part Six – Istanbul Spice Markets & Grand Bizarres!

Posted 16 July 2011

Merhaba everyone. Since we last talked to you, Joanne and David have left us and there was half a day of washing and cleaning before the next wave of visitors arrived. We were in the marina at Atakoy in Istanbul which was very expensive for our cruising budget but there was nowhere to anchor just off Istanbul.

Well the Camerons and MacPhersons arrived bearing many gifts plus much alcohol (sorry Dr Nigel) and we have not stopped talking and laughing since. Robyn, who works in advertising, came armed with a very special device from Yahoo, a little dome shaped thingy that you press and it plays “Yahoo” in many different ways. The company gave it to her, as long as she takes photos of it in exotic locations, so that is the challenge. (This photo shows the Blue Mosque in the background). We first took the crew to the shopping centre, just a five minute walk away from the marina. There must be a lot of wealthy people in Istanbul, going by the brand new Mercedes, BMW, Porches and Ferraris we saw around the marina and shopping centre plus the calibre of the shops we found. Felt rather out of place in our grotty yachtie clothes.

Next day we all piled into one small taxi (30TL for 6 in a 4 seater taxi plus driver) and ventured into the city to start our touristy bit. We visited the Basilica Cistern built between 527-565 AD and held up to 100,000 tonnes of water. Amazing, incredible feat of engineering. We also visited the Hagia Sophia. The mosque that had started out its life as a basilica in the year 360 AD and contained many beautiful Christian mosaics, alongside Muslim tiles and gilt domes and vaults. Nick, Robyn, Yvonne and Bruce visited the Science Museum as Bruce and I sat outside on the grass and observed the multitudes of locals, enjoying the park in the sunshine. So late in the day came the challenge to find our way back to the marina and Midi.

After some meandering through several crooked streets we found our way to the Cankurtaran Train station where as per usual in Turkey there were any number of people who provided us with the info required and ensured we alighted at the correct station all for 10.50 TL. A much better deal than our trip into town. The Turkish transport system is great, generally cheap and reliable. The next day we set off in to town again, very intrepid we were, by local train. The Turks, I have to say, are so helpful and we were never short of people willing to help six dumb kiwis get off at the right spot. We went to the Topkapi Palace Museum that had been the residence of the Ottoman Sultans. We visited the harem, saw the courtyard of the eunuchs and the circumcision room (the men sort of went an interesting shade of pale in these last two spots) and went to the highlight of the place for me – the Imperial Treasury. Had to peel me off the case that held the Spoonmaker’s Diamond – an 86 carat pear shaped diamond, surrounded by 49 largish diamonds. There were so many large emeralds to be seen in various doodahs, I was in heaven. Who needs to look at rusty old machinery, when you could look at beautiful jewels.

After that we set off to the Grand Bazaar. What an overwhelming place but what an adventure. Bruce Cameron thought he was pretty good, buying his genuine, knockoff Gucci wallet – bargaining the price down from 50 Turkish Lira to 20 Lira but then when we walked out of the Bazaar he found another man selling the same wallets on the side of the road, a lot cheaper. He ended up buying two more for 15 lira, 7.50 each! No need for anyone to bother trying to buy pashminas and scarves in the Bazaar, the ladies on Midi have bought them all (according to the men we have any way). Every town & city has its bazaar which is mainly filled with hundreds and hundreds of stalls all selling generally tourist tat and every 2nd stall is selling the same stuff. They all accost you as you walk by, “my friend where are you from, England, Ireland, Germany, Australia etc, etc”. Tell them you are from New Zealand (Yeni Zealanda) and out come the Kia Ora Bro and so on. Then they tell you they are your friend and now you are their brother and come to my carpet / leather shop and so on. It is great fun and a fantastic atmosphere. And if you look hard enough and can endure the crowds and bustle you may even get a bargain (sorry Bruce)!

Next was the Spice Bazaar. Like an array of jewels, all the coloured spices were laid out. They were magnificent. The Turkish Delight and Nougat just ‘jumped’ into our shopping bags! Now readers, Midi operates a ‘kitty’ system when she has guests on board and we each put in an equal amount to buy sustenance to keep the fires stoked up so she can be operated. This usually buys bread, meat, fruit and veg, the odd bottle of beer and wine (sorry Dr Nigel) and a loo roll or two. Not with our current crew on board! Let them loose in the Spice Bazaar and what do they buy? IRANIAN BELUGA CAVAIAR!!!!!! And it was a bargain, down from 130Tl to 75 TL for 100gms. I ask you – what self-respecting cruising yachtie eats caviar? We did and damn fine it was too.

The next thing we found was the specially mixed teas. We purchased a lovely citrus tea and sniffed all the aromas of the other ones and then we were offered the LOVE TEA. I am sure in the tea mixing factory, they had all these bits left over and the conversation would run like this “Mehmet, shall we mix all these bits together and call it LOVE TEA and sell it to stupid Kiwi sheilas looking for a little romance?” They did and we bought it. I personally am going to ask for my money back. The only action in our cabin after drinking the afore-mentioned tea, was me counting sheep while Bruce snored merrily beside me!

We left the marina and headed back to the Princes Islands (via a quick trip up the Bosphorous for a look at the sites of Istanbul from the water). A very busy piece of water too with many ferries plying to and fro and the sites of the mosques and palaces from the water was breathtaking. We spent one night at our anchorage at Cam Limani so the others could have a quick look around there and then headed off towards the Dardanelles. We did not have a lot of wind so we actually stopped at sea and all went over the side for a swim as it is so hard to find anywhere that does not have jelly fish in the water. We anchored off a small village called Armutlu – well the pilot book said it was a small village but all we could see was endless apartment blocks.

Next destination was Cakilkoy, with another stop at sea and a swim. Fortunately it was not at the same time as the Sahil Guvenlik (Coastguard) roared up to us and told us off as we had been too busy enjoying ourselves to notice that we had motored across a four mile exclusion zone! It surrounded a prison island and I guess they thought we may have been going to break some prisoners free, that is, until they saw that we were a boat of pre-geriatric cruisers!

We were intending to take the crew to Marmara island to show them all the marble but we were having such a great sail, we passed it by and went on to Kemer where we spent the night before upping anchor the next morning and returning back to Canakkale, in the Dardanelles. This day provided some great sailing with winds of up to 30knots and a current with us for a change. This wind, the Meltemi was set to blow for the next few days and made our anchorage at Canakkale quite uncomfortable at times not only the wakes of various ships and tugs etc that go by rolling us about but just the action of 30knot winds over water moving at 4knots sets up an awkward wave motion as well. Wouldn’t you just know it, we anchored in the same place as last time and John ‘Mehmet’ Rowles was still singing – badly.

The next day we went on a tour of Gallipoli. Fantastic but so sobering. All those young lives lost. Very interesting to get the Turkish perspective as our guide was a Turkish man and he had great sympathy for what he saw as English stupidity in sending so many men to their death. We went on a little boat and saw Anzac Cove from the water and it was hard to imagine all those young Kiwi and Aussie men landing there before dawn and having to scale such a high hill. We saw trenches that at the narrowest point were only eight metres apart and we heard of the swapping of cigarettes, the singing of songs and then the guns raised against each other. We visited a few of the many cemeteries that are dotted around the area and read the endless headstones that said that it was believed to be Private, Trooper, Captain so-and-so buried here. They had so many dead but they were not sure who they were burying where. The whole area was treated with great reverence by the Turks as well. 2,700 New Zealanders died, 8,300 Australians and officially 86,000 Turks but maybe up to 250,000 Turks. That is as well as British, French and Indian casualties. Are we not so lucky to live where we do today in peace and hopefully we will never have to send our sons off to war.

The next morning we officially cleared out of Turkey and headed off out of the Dardanelles. We took one hour to sail under genoa from Canakkale to the entrance of the Dardanelles, reaching speeds of up to 10.8 knots under genoa alone, a journey that had taken about four hours going the other way up against the current. We ended up at Gokceada, a Turkish island but anchored in a little port and hey – no jelly fish and out came the other very essential purchases the ‘kitty’ had bought. Six colourful swim noodles had us Kiwis bobbing about with much hilarity as we enjoyed the best swim we have had for weeks! Long may the fun continue.
Well we are now ‘officially’ in Greece, having paid our dues to the debt-ridden Greek government. We will not give you all the details on how we did this, until the next newsletter as it was a very loooooonnnnnnggggg process!

We will sign off here with the words that appeared on one of the huge marble memorials at Anzac Cove, written by Mustafa Kemel who later became the first president of Turkey, known as Ataturk.

“Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives, you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours. You, the mothers, who sent their sons from far away countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in the bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land, the have become our sons as well.”

Lots of love to everyone at home.
Lesley and Bruce

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