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Istanbul

I drifted in and out of consciousness all morning, sometimes a jolt from the bus woke me, others the pain in my neck or the agony of my knees slowly filling up with fluid. We eventually arrived at the Otogar in Istanbul at about 7am and transferred into smaller minibuses to the Sultanhamet, only my bus didn't go all the way to Sultanhamet. My driver stopped somewhere else entirely in Aksaray thinking no one would notice. Sultanhamet! He called out and watched all the backpackers get off the bus. Asshole. I thought and got off the bus and transferred onto a tram. I was still quite a long way from Sultanhamet, it was actually five stops on the tram.

Still at least I know where I'm going when I get there, which is more than I can say for everyone else on the bus. I got off at my stop and walked down Divanyolu with all my stuff, through the old Roman area and back onto the strip (Akbiyik Cadessi) and into the good old Sultan and checked in. Check in time here is 11:30 and it was only 8am, so I went and sat outside and used the Wifi and enjoyed the cool morning breeze and people watched for a bit, before heading up to McDonalds for breakfast.

I know fast food in Turkey is terrible, but even bad fast food, to me at that point was better than another Turkish breakfast of tomatoes, olives, cucumber, an over boiled egg and some dried bread. The McDonald's wasn't great, they use chicken patties here in their sausage McMuffins, but it still left me feeling full. I walked up the street to the lamp shop after breakfast and paid a visit to Kalim and sat in the shop with him for a bit. It is getting close to the end of Ramazan here and everyone is looking a little worse for wear after their month of fasting, so I thought I would leave Kalim alone and head back to the hotel and check in at this point.

I was now excruciatingly tired, as I had not really slept since 3:30am yesterday morning and had now been awake for over thirty hours and endured the bus ride from hell. So even though I was in a dorm, I lugged all my stuff into the room and passed out for about four hours.

I woke up and had a shower feeling much better and decided to take myself down to Eminou to the Spice Bazaar, which I had not seen. I hopped on a tram and found it easily enough down by the water. It was much more traditional than the grand bazaar and the smells were amazing, no cinnamon thank god, but the smell of curry, turmeric and cumin were everywhere, which really made me want Indian food!

One man offered to take a picture for me, which of course meant I got dragged into his shop, turns out he was from Syria. I told him I was a tour leader, this seems to work a treat as you can get out really quick by asking for a few business cards. He did tell me that I could visit to Sultan Pasha Mosque, which sits in the middle of the market. I'm not dressed appropriately though, I said. They will give you a scarf, said the man. That's useful info, I thought. I like visiting smaller mosques, so I went up the dark tunnel that led into an open court yard to see it.

The mosque was closed to visitors at this time, as it was prayer time and I could see all the men praying with their heads to the carpet. Prayer time doesn't really go for that long, so I sat in the courtyard listening to the call to prayer and waited for prayer time to finish. It was lovely to just sit there and listen to it and have a rest. I went into the mosque, I always feel really honored to be allowed into places like this. I actually picked up a free version of the Koran. That will be something for me to read on the night trains, I think it will also make an interesting read and should be enlightening about the Islamic faith.

I chose to walk a back to the strip, even though I had come four tram stops, it wasn't hard, just follow the tram lines. I briefly checked out Sirceki station, in case I should find myself in the position of needed to use it. I walked up the hill and got into a conversation with a man named Tarik, who I only stopped for because his English sounded so Australian, he sounded like one of us! Turns out he had lived in Australia for twelve years, which made sense and I got dragged into his shop next. He did have some pretty cool glow in the dark ceramics, but I excused myself on the pretext of needing to do paperwork.

I got back to the hotel and had a very large Efes and did some writing and sent some postcards before heading back up to McDonalds for dinner. The chicken nuggets look like something one would get out of the No Frills section at Woolies, but at least the cheeseburger was decent. After dinner I walked back down to the Sultan and went off to bed and slept like the dead.

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