experiences that I would rather like to forget.
In most instances I have travelled on my own. As a result you will not see me giving details of the night life in my destinations. I am quite happy to spend the day absorbing everything, and evenings with a good book.
Istanbul was my second visit to Turkey. The city did not disappoint me in my expectations - on the contrary.
My first impression on the day I arrived was of the Grand Bazaar where I went to exchange money. It is massive. It is colourful. It is heaving with people and fragrances. I went in at the entrance closest to the tram station and walked to the furthest end. I confirmed that I had my bearings. Then I decided to explore the side alleys - still heading back in the general direction of the entrance near the tram station.
Two hours later I emerged, two tram stations further. I had read that there are about 4 000 shops under one roof, and trust me, it is quite possible. There are spices, pottery, pashmina wraps of every possible hue in cotton and silk - even bamboo - more variations of turkish delight than I could count, shoes, leather clothes, did I say people and more people?
And you don't just buy - you are expected to haggle so that the merchants can show their "generosity" by giving you a massive "discount". I saw a lovely pink pashmina wrap and asked about the price. I was quoted 35 Turkish lira - about £9. Obviously it was way above the asking price, and obviously I was not wearing a burka, therefore I was a tourist. I just laughed and walked away. The merchant ran after me and offered me the same item for 20 Turkish lira - about £4. He had a sale. I would have found a similar item on a street market for about 15 Turkish lira, but not that same shade which I loved.
I quickly discovered there is only one way to escape the relentless salesmen in the Grand Bazaar. Normally my escape is to speak Afrikaans, but I gave up on that when two or three of these salesmen greeted me in Afrikaans. I don't know whether they even understood what they said to me, but it gave them an opening to pursue a possibel sale. My next move was to simply say nothing and make no eye contact. Being a female and not wearing a burka advertised the fact that I was a tourist - and having green eyes was an even bigger give-away
The spice bazaar (also called the Egyptian bazaar) was very similar, except that there was more food and less clothing - and the same heaving mass of people, both locals and tourists.
Istanbul is a massive city. To give you an idea, you can take a ferry and travel 33 kilometers down the Bosphorus river, and all the way there are occupied high-rise buildings on both river banks and up the hills.
Istanbul is a city on two continents - half of it is in Europe, and the other half is in Asia, and the two sides are divided by the river. When the concierge first suggested that I spend a day in Asia, I expected a long trip - not a ferry ride of about 15 minutes.
Here is a picture of me on the ferry, with Asia in the background:
More about the history and pitfalls later