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Istanbul, second day

Yesterday evening’s dinner was open seating, though I was suprised to find that it was still in two sittings: 6:15 and 8:45. However, the arrangement was that diners could arrive at any time after the start of the sitting for 45 minutes. All diners were seated at an appropriate table as they arrived – normal tables weren’t in operation.

We were sat with two French-Canadian ladies, and they were everything that their compratiots of the first evening were not. The conversation flowed in a combination of english & french – mainly english I have to admit as one of the ladies spoke excellent english – but we had a go with our memories of school French, and between us we all got on very well. Alll in all an extremely enjoyable meal. After dinner I thought it would be interesting to go out for a walk into town – the gangway was open overnight – and I decided to walk across Galata bridge, to see what could be seen. What could mainly be seen were hundreds – quite literally, several hundred – of Turkish men fishing off the sides of the bridge. They seemed to be catching just small fish, and keeping them – I got a strong feeling that this was economic fishing, not fishing for sport. There was a strong fishy smell, too, so I didn’t linger. None of the men fishing looked well off, so this was a reminder that things can be pretty precarious in Turkish society, and that in comparison I was a rich westerner.

This morning we went back to the main historic district and visited the Hagia sophia. Again, I won’t write too much about the building, other than to say that it is every bit as stunning as I had expected. From the outside it looks quite confusing, with the shape of the dome almost obscured by other structures, including some heavy buttresses erected by the Ottomans to support what had become by that time a dangerous structure. But inside it is simply a huge open space, beautifully proportioned, and with that colossal dome in the middle. There was one little disapointment: the paintings on the surface of the dome are being restored and to do this there is a very large scaffold rising from the floor to the dome ceiling, and this did affect the vistas through the basilica. But a building this old must need constant maintenance so I won’t complain. Both today and yesterday at Topkapi we saw signs indicating that Istanbul is Europe’s ‘City of Culture’ in 2010, so it may be that the work we saw at both sites is in preparation for that.

After Hagia Sophia we simply walked back to the ship, handed in our boarding cards, and had lunch. So all we saw was the Topkapi Palace & the Hagia Sophia, but I don’t regret not seeing other things. First, they’ll still be there should we ever return to Istanbul, and second it was very enjoyable being able to take our time over both visits; lingering over some parts and moving quickly through others.

Sailaway was at 2 o’clock and we departed on time. As we sailed out, P&O’s Aurora sailed in. She was a few minutes late – she was due to dock at 2pm and it must have been 2:30 by the time she even approached the quayside. But this gave the two ships the opportunity to sail slowly past each other, and Aurora looked very much the classic ship as they did so. Up on Solstice’s Sunset Bar I heard a few appreciative comments about Aurora. This afternoon we’ve just relaxed on board, mainly inside. It’s been cloudier since lunchtime, in fcat we sailed through a rain storm at one point. It did’t last but the cloud has and it’s been a lot cooler than on previous days.

Finally, I think we may have found our ‘comfortable bar’ – the one where you feel at home as soon as you sit down. It’s the Passport Bar down on deck 3. Thanks to being near the sea we could see the waves through one of the windows, so that please us a lot. We’ll try it this evening for the pre-dinner cocktail.

One Response to “Istanbul, second day”

  1. pauline says:

    Tom I am really enjoying your blog. You re making it very interesting and I am getting the feel for the places you are describing. I am looking forward to your next installment.

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