Istanbul - A Dream of a Lifetime

There is something beautiful about making someone's dream come true. His mother, Philomena, had always wanted to go to Asia. So he set out to make Phil's dream a reality. We were going to cross to Asia and the easiest place to do so, was Istanbul. Istanbul is an old friend of mine, having been many-er times.
Previously known as Constantinople, after the emperor Constantin, Istanbul is transcontinental city, situated on the Bosporus. Its historical center is in Europe while 2/3 of  its massive 15 million people live "on the other side" in Asia.
Doesn't matter what time of the day or night one arrives in Istanbul, it'll always provide with that memorable image. Here was ours from the hotel roof terrace.

 99% of Istanbul population is muslim, there are 2 800 mosques, pictured above Ayasophia former Orthodox basilica later a mosque and now a museum 

First thing first, before trotting in the streets of  The old town of Sultanahmet district, conveniently situated only within a few minutes walking distance away.
 We tackled breakfast. Turkish breakfast is composed of tomatoes, bread, oil, cheese and coffee. A Turkish cheese board is a camaieu of light yellow to white, sometimes "stringy" generally high in fat, always delicious.
Beyaz peynir (white cheese) is a favourite in Turkey, each region has a different way of producing it. Sometimes it's left in saltwater. 
Zerrin Ersavas was going to be our guide for the day. Described by one of her colleagues as the best guide in Istanbul, she waved her magic wand and bought the past to life.
To a background music of Phil's amazed "wOoows". She told us about the settlement which in the 1st century BC had reach the pinnacle of wealth. She shown us the remains of the Roman hippodrome which could host 80 000 spectators, situated opposite the roman palace, now the Blue Mosque or as to call it by its proper name Sultan Ahmed Mosque.
She told us about the Ottoman empire, an unified Muslim empire whose rulers would not destroy the buildings from other faiths but would adapt them to suit their own faith. Plastering over the mosaic figures, forbidden by Islam. Now coming back to life after years of Restoration of Ayasophia, ex-mosque turned museum.

Zerrin pointed to the  Marmara marble jars bought from Pergamon used to store olive oil, explained the significance of the tulip with blue leaves seen everywhere from carpet to planes' tail: Tulip is a Turkish word and the flower originates from this area. She told also us about the internal immigration in the 50's, when villagers surged across Istanbul, coming from far and near to find work consequently recreating their own village life in the outer districts. 

Her passion for the city kept us going until we couldn't walk any longer and sat down for a cooling drink. 
Various sherbets such as cherry, tamarind, red poppy, rose, pomegranate are on offer. 
Then, we had our lunch in Erten Konak a beautifully wooden house restored with care, now a small independent hotel and restaurant. I do remember the wooden houses district decades ago, being an oppressive warren of blackened crooked houses. They are now mansions of unique beauty arranged around inner courtyards sheltering mulberry trees. Cavidan Erten, the owner waved us in with the warmest of welcoming smile. He and his brother restored their family home and it is now a charming hotel with a courtyard restaurant. The Ertens are Turkish entrepreneurs offering a variety of quality services to tourists.

Lunch bought even more sparkles in Phil's eyes, fresh fruits and fish, slow cook meat, fresh fish and Turkish coffee. By now, we were ready to cross "to the other side," to take the local ferry to Asia, its markets, its open-terraced coffees but before taking you there Click here to hear Phil's impromptu interview and her first impressions of Istanbul. 
In the interest of disclosure, I would like to mention that to realise one's dream took some preparation, my grateful thanks to the Turkish Culture and Tourism Office for taking care of our guide, transfer and our evening entertainment at  Sultana's Dinner and 1001 Nights show,  Ela and her colleagues at Redmint Communications for co-ordinating from the UK and the Erten family for their welcome.

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