The previous blog entry may have given the impression that the whole Simpson Prize group are out running every morning, but we must clarify. So far Zoe, Tanvi and Stuart have been pounding the footpath, though this morning Gene joined this exclusive group. The rest of us have stayed resolutely in bed, recovering from our 5.30am alarm of the dawn call to prayer, or blissfully sleeping through everything, dreaming of Turkish delights. So with that sorted, today’s blog is based on the random thoughts of Gene and Connor (who did not go running and opted instead for a marathon breakfast). The breakfast spread provides great variation and is definite upgrade from the usual cereal and toast back home.
First on the agenda today was a visit to Chora Church in the Fatih district. However, on arrival we found the narrow street that leads up to the church full of buses – these damned tourists. So we decided that rather than battle the crowds, we would head over to the technology museum of Rahmi M. Koc. This a relatively new museum located on the Golden Horn and developed by one of the richest families in Turkey. It was full of great exhibits including classic cars, vintage motorbikes, boats, tractors, buses, trains, planes, coaches – pretty much anything with wheels, wings, engines or keels.
It also included a history of personal computer technology and a great hands-on section showing how various household appliances work. Many displays were set up in chronological order, showing the development of various transport technologies. Highlights included a 1980 Formula 1 car, a Second World War Liberator airplane, classicLondondouble decker bus and a Coca-Cola truck. There were many Turkish students visiting as well, so we were inundated with lots of hellos from mostly primary school kids. The girls in the group were trying out their Turkish greetings, with little success, but remain resolute to keep trying.
We headed over toTaxim Square for our lunch at Haci Baba on Istiklal St. There were hundreds of riot police gathering as a political demonstration by a Kurdish group was marching up to the area (general elections on soon in Turkey). After some tricky maneuvers in the bus to get closer to Taxim Square, we dodged the crowds and started our walk down Istiklal St, one of the most important streets inIstanbul. Ozgur (Fred) explained its part of the European feel of the city and on a busy Saturday night can have as many as 2 million people walking along. It has a great range of shops and arcades, with particular highlights the quality Turkish delight shop (where we all made purchases) the vintage bookshop and the 4 storey Adidas shop. Lunch at Haci Baba continued the feasting with our first lentil soup and stuffed eggplant of the trip. Dessert gave us a mind boggling choice of 5 different options – the rice pudding or the crème brulee – such difficult decisions. A black out just before we left the restaurant provided an interesting end to the meal.
Then it was back to where we started the day at Chora Church to see the amazing mosaics and frescos. Many of the mosaic glass tiles were covered in pure gold. They depicted the stories of the Bible, in particular the stories of the Virgin Mary, birth and life Jesus and other religious themes. This was all displayed in amazing detail. The mosaics had been covered up with plaster by the Ottomans, which had helped to preserve the tiles. Finally we completed the day with a visit to the Spice Market. We cruised the shops, purchasing more Turkish delight (for immediate consumption) and various other goods, but making mental notes of future purchases for our return after Gallipoli.
We experienced the crafty selling charm of the local shop keepers. With one particular new friend we tried to explain what the Simpson Prize was, who Simpson was and how the donkey was involved, but we were not sure he understood the concept. On the way home the girls practiced singing the words to Istanbul, not Constantinople, which Andrew introduced them to yesterday. It’s coming along quite well. Certainly some opportunity to practice further when we hit the road tomorrow on our way down to Gallipoli.