The bus would leave at 3 p.m., and so we have some more time to explore the city.
Many of Istanbuls highlights are within walking distance from our hotel. Among them the
huge palace Topkapı Sarayı. Slowly we proceed to the main gate - and are shocked.
A several hundred metres long queue at the ticket counter underlines its popularity. Ticket
prices are hefty, too - € 10 general admission fee, another € 10 for the Harem and,
exactly, € 10 for the treasury. Topkapi palace turns out to be much more expensive than
it was at my last visit in 1995. The palace area is as big as our time is short, and so we postpone
the visit. Hopefully, the queue is shorter when we come back to Istanbul. Another useless
attempt at the Aya Sofya - € 10 admission fee and hundreds of tourists.
Some years ago, there was something like a student's discount for Aya Sofya, a mosque which was turned
into a museum. However, the city was clever - student's discount can only be granted when the students
are accompanied by a teacher. Due to the crowd, we walk to the Sultan Ahmet Mosque, which is
free of charge. A couple of picture postcard selling boys hunt down the tourists on the stairs to the
entrance. The courtyard of the mosque is particularly beautiful, but even more impressive is the interior.
Sultan Ahmet is also known as the "Blue Mosque", but from outside one is pondering why.
It's the interior that makes you understand. Naturally, the entire floor is covered by carpets, with
huge candelabra hanging only a few feet above the prayer's heads. The arrangement of minarets, domes and half-domes
(see picture) outside and the ornated Arab scripts inside leave many visitors with their mouths open.
Picture: Detail of the huge mosque Sultan Ahmet
After that we stroll along the Bosporus with its stony beach, where some Turks are busy trying to
catch some fish or having a refreshing (?) bath. Among them some women - of course not in swimsuits but
in full get-ups. We slowly head to the bus terminal, where the bus to Trabzon is already waiting. As usual, it's
a big modern bus. But there's a significant progress - today, most buses are non-smoking. During my first visit,
it was possible to smoke during the ride, and passengers used that extensively. Even for smokers like me, bus
rides where somewhat of a nightmare because of the bad air. Only around 15 passengers were sitting aboard,
but this changed during the next hour when we zigzagged through Istanbul to pick up more and more passengers
here and there. After another short stop in İzmit, the real ride starts. As on every Turkish long-distance bus,
there's a steward announcing the stops and distributing rather smelly eau-de-cologne after each rest.
This time, it's not a steward but a stewardess, one of the bad-tempered species. Some stops later, we find out that
she's actually a nice person. She introduces us to a young Turkish woman who wants to speak some English.
She's 18 years old, studies in Istanbul and is on the way to Trabzon to visit her relatives. And so we spend the
next stops with her and the stewardess, having a cup of tea or coffee together chatting. The faintest attempt to
pay for the tea is useless - they don't let us. During a longer stop at a restaurant we grab some chicken, rice and
vegetable for dinner. Typical canteen food of poor quality, but therefore rather expensive - € 6 for the two of us
is not what I call regular Turkish eatery prices.