The 23rd of October was important around here, a date which many had waited in anticipation of for the last month, a bit like Christmas. It signified the end of Ramazan, one of the most important dates in the Islamic calendar and a big feast. Whilst in the West we have Pancake Tuesday, the Moslem world celebrated what the Turks call Sheker Bayram (Sugar Monday) where everywhere you went shopkeepers offered you a sweetie. It was the start of a 3 day holiday period and so rather had the feeling of New Years Day and Easter rolled into one. Traditionally this meant that people tended to congregate towards their families and did touristy things just like me. It had been one more reason to sit it out till the end in Istanbul, the transport network would be booked solid. One compensation however was that the powers that be had elected to make city transport free for the duration in order to avoid the inevitable gridlock. Rhami and I took best advantage of it, albeit with half the city for company.
We had planned on doing a ferry boat trip up the length of the Bosphorus anyhow and it was just good fortune in the end that we didnt even have to pay for the 6 hour tour. The boat was loaded to capacity mainly with tourists and it was a constant jostle for seats and prime vistas as we passed by numerous palaces, forts, affluent suburbs and under the 2 Bosphorous bridges. It was only upon arriving at Anadolu Kavagi the furthestmost point though that we learned that there would be a 3 hour lay over here and we had walked straight into a beautifully orchestrated tourist trap. We checked the timetable in vain for an earlier return boat but we were clearly the villages soul raison d'etre and there was no escape. There were only 2 things to do here, climb up to the castle and then eat fish, so like everyone else thats just what we did. It was quite a climb up to the Yoros Kalesi through the ubiquitous scruffy military zone and the castle wasnt really up to much. On the way we came across the villages soul cash machine of which Rhami had need. Perversely it lay just inside the army camp gate and upon enquiry it was confirmed as being off limits, absurd! Surprisingly however the locals had stopped short of charging people for the small privilege the castle afforded and there were great views of the mouth of the Bosphorous where it opened out into the Black Sea. As far out as you could see, large ships lined up in turn for the tricky entrance. Either side of grey days we were blessed with sunshine and it made all the difference as we sailed back to Eminonu with the famous city skyline silhouetted aginst a braw sunset.
We thought we would use the last of the light on another short excursion but it proved to be a little ambitious in the end. With no common language Rhami still managed to make some friends for life as we endured the dangerous yet hilarious crush on board a tram up to Topkapi, the stop for the city walls. The area proved to be a little dodgy and it was clearly too far to walk their length in either direction with the light failing in any case, so after passing through the gateway we just jumped on a thankfully quieter bus which took us back to Eminonu. We endured another short sardine tin like tram trip back to Sultanahmet and we filled our faces amidst the nightly Iftar onslaught.