The Sulimiye Mosque is superb, it being the most accomplished work of master mosque builder Sinan, a sort of oriental Sir Christopher Wren. Its secret lies in the almost imperceptible way its arches and columns are hidden and create a sense of tremendous space under its unobstructed dome. Unfortunately I hit it at prayer time and photos werent allowed anyway. I settled for a more enduring visit to the adjacent Turkish and Islamic Art Museum but it was a bit underwhelming, saved only by a section on the unrelated but interesting Kirkpinar oil wrestling tradition from hereabouts.
Time to leave Edirne and I spent my last morning clearing up a few loose ends, like checking out the Macedonian Tower just along from the pension. It was quite large and in good nick but just an empty shell and I could only guess at its story. It was adjoined by ruins from both the 2nd and 10th centuries. Not far away I found some traditional Ottoman style houses in good nick and across the road was the Kirkpinar House, a museum to the Oil Wrestling tradition which holds its championships in this town annually. I had hoped to catch a wrestling match here, it is allegedly their national sport after all, but bizarrely there is actually no league or whatever, the prospective contenders simply turn up once a year to fight it out. Whether they practiced the rest of the year remained a mystery to me but judging from the photos of recent victors the boys certainly worked out. It had evolved from a tradition of sparring between medieval soldiers in these parts and had been contested every year since 1640. True to history though its original site now lay in neighbouring Bulgaria. Grown men of all sizes dressed only in cropped black trousers and covered in grease grappling with each other, I reckoned they were missing out on a top tourist attraction if nothing else.
Out of time, I jumped on a bus to the Otogar and then a coach for the 223Ks to the big smoke itself, the one and only Istanbul. The express only took about 2 and a half hours which was just enough time to watch War of the Worlds in Turkish. Through fairly flat farmland which could have been Scotland (it had clouded over after all!) I travelled along my first toll motorway and there was barely another vehicle on the road. I wondered if the road would ever be paid for at that rate, you certainly saw plenty of half finished building projects around the country and the run in to Istanbul was a case in point, whole new townships lay eerily empty, incomplete shells. The urban sprawl started a whole 30Ks out and just went on and on. I also happened to spot the Olympia Stadium where I had hoped to catch a Galatasaray match, it would most probably be a complete bitch to get to. We transferred onto a waiting dolmuş for the run into the centre and the guy drove like a maniac through the rush hour, Anna clearly still had a few things to learn. I sat beside him on the inadequate front seat made for 3 and contemplated whether I would end up through the windscreen or just break my legs jarred up against the dash.