We spent August in the camp in Küçük Çekmece. Afternoons and the two weekend-days were free. Often Tony and I, with one or two or more of the other “teaching staff”, took the suburban train into Sirkeci station in Istanbul, mostly for sightseeing, occasionally for a meal and once for a movie. Back to my diary:
There is a good electric train service into Istanbul, roughly 20 km, taking only about 40 minutes. Istanbul itself is in some ways a wonderful place — so much to see: towers, mosques, museums, markets and so on — but it is so large and dusty and hot that one gets tired very quickly. — We have had two excursions at weekends.
First, to the islands in the Sea of Marmara (Burguzadas1 adalar)
— a two-hour trip on a not-very-clean but largeish boats. They are very pretty spots (we were on Büyük Ada, “Large Island”) and we took a two-hour carriage ride (like a surrey but very bumpy)
Tom in shade at rear Tony on haunches front left
across the island and then climbed to see an old Greek monastery, quite (but not very!) interesting. The day was marred for me by a bad attack of diarrhoea!
Our second trip was to Bursa.
Packing the bus.
Bursa was absolutely lovely, a fine weekend and a very cheap spot. Moreover the travel here is very cheap as it is state-owned and heavily subsidised. The boat from Istanbul to Mudanya (a very good boat, too, an average 3-hour trip) costs 3½ lira fora single journey.
(There are 3 or 4 different exchange rates of exchange. The official one is 15 lira to £1 — so the boat trip officially cost about 5/- — but we have found a rate of 40 lira to £1!)
Bursa is a beautiful place, reached by ramshackle bus from Mudanya. We found a cheap hotel: 3 lira a night, and CLEAN! The mosques in Bursa are some of the finest in Turkey, especially the Green Mosque:
Emir Sultan Mosque
We did not have time to visit them all, esp. because we went to a Turkish Bath that afternoon, the best TB’s being in Bursa because of its natural hot thermal water. The one we chose was “the old bath” (Eski Kaplic1 Hamam1), 500 years old.
We disrobed and walked via one medium-hot room to the very hot room. One washes at the side in little alcoves, which drain off to the sides, and in the centre under a large dome (all fittings marble) is a pool of water almost too hot to dive into, but not quite, where we swam and sat around for some time. It was a real pleasure to be clean: we swim every day at camp, but apart from that cannot wash properly.
Scenes in and around Bursa:
The Sunday we spent climbing the hill behind Bursa (one of the reputed “Mount Olympus” sites).
We could not get to the top on account of the thick jungly vegetation that we had to force our way through (everything is lovely and green around Bursa) but enjoyed being energetic for a change!
This is the map I sent to June; and here is a modern tourist map:
Some impressions of Istanbul
- The long distances to be covered
- Tünel — the oldest underground railway in the world (1873), weird, short and rattly.
- Istiklal caddes1, the main street (the far side of the Golden Horn), like a backstreet in Venice or Nairobi (one of our fellow teachers knows Kenya).
- Taksim Square: the main square, very very ugly.
- The Park and the Hilton: two new, very modern hotels (useful for their toilets!)
- Galata Bridge — quite old, turn of 19thC., — always thronged with porters carrying loads on their backs (wardrobes, bedsteads and so on)
- Covered Market: huge (the largest in the world) but since it was rebuilt after a fire (1954) not interesting architecturally.
- Aya Sofia (St. Sophia): the centre of the city befofre the Turkish invasion: spoiled by its mosque appendages but still impresive and peculiar
- The really magnificent Blue Mosque. Nearly all the mosques are magnificent!
- University — hideous!
- The Fire Tower — a breathtaking view down into Istanbul, Golden Horn, and so on. One old fellow rushing around scanning for fires, stopping us from taking photos!
One interesting event I still remember is the evening we (some of us) went to the cinema, and had some trouble buying tickets (there was no open seating, we had to choose row and seats by number.) Even Tony’s Turkish wasn’t up to it, so we tried English, then French and German, and finally I tried Russian — with success! The Russians then in Istanbul are mostly the descendants of those who fled after the 1917 Revolution, see https://www.dailysabah.com/feature/2017/07/07/tsarist-russians-in-istanbul: “The supporters of the tsar fleeing the Bolsheviks took refuge in Istanbul under great difficulties. Among them were people of all stripes, including generals, famous artists, professors and businessmen.”
On Galata Bridge
Entrance to Saray (Seraglio)