On Monday night and Tuesday morning I found myself back in Istanbul after a long absence.
Was it 8 years or 9? I’d have to check my old passport.
This week was my 4th visit, or maybe my 5th, depending on the answer to that question.
I was on my way to Girne in North Cyprus and even direct flights (there are none from Scotland) have to land in Turkey for 45 minutes on the way. Istanbul was the obvious (and most attractive) choice as a stopover.
It turned into a real trip down memory lane. I stayed at the Terrace Guesthouse, as I did several times during those visits between 2006 and 2009. It felt like meeting an old friend when I arrived about 11pm.
I went for a short walk before bedtime, around the Sultanahmet area which the guesthouse shares with the Blue Mosque (or Sultanahmet Camii, to give it it’s posh name) and Aya Sofya.
Breakfast was on the terrace at the top of the building, and normally it comes with amazing views of the Bosphorus and the Asian Side. That morning it was raining, but the view was still great.
Next on my whistlestop tour was an hour gossiping with Doǧan, the guesthouse owner, and another old friend. We didn’t solve all the world’s problems but we identified a lot of them.
Before heading back to the airport for my 16:30 flight, I had time for a leisurely walk around – down out of Sultanahmet to the Galata Bridge, where the Bosphorus meets the Golden Horn. I was tempted to get on one of the ferries (see the photo) which will take you across to the Asian Side in 20 minutes for 5 TL (£1 or €1.10) each way. The views of the city from the water are the best.
I suppose I must be at the old and boring time of life, because common sense took over and I decided I might not have time.
I did have time for lunch before checking out and getting my taxi. To a Scot it’s always a special thing to have lunch outside – and not have to run inside when the rain starts.
Well, I have another stopover in Istanbul on my way home next week. It will be a wonderful way to finish my trip. I hope the list of the world’s troubles isn’t any longer by then.
And by the way, if you’ve ever felt the urge to visit Istanbul, go for it! My flight was about £200 (€210) return. If you do go, think about staying at the Terrace – and I’m not suggesting that because Doǧan is a friend or because I’m Mr 10%!
ⓒ iain taylor, 2017