You need to be more than averagely alert to stay on your feet in this neighbourhood. Taksim and surrounds are being torn up by machinery well into the night, and you can round a corner to find yourself in the path of an approaching digger.
Every hundred metres or so on the way down Istiklal the delicious smell of roasting chestnuts hits your nostrils, but the strongest smell comes from the West. This is the big downtown shopping street, the place to buy your name-brand clothes and, if you so choose, the place to demonstrate for your cause, with riot police in attendance. We walked its length at least once a day, often more, but we never saw it less than seething except on our first morning, a Sunday.
That first Sunday in Istanbul was overwhelming though. We did a double take at the length of the line to get into Ayasophya. Another time, we said (we didn't learn until the next day that our residents-only Museum Cards, bought at Bodrum Castle, entitled us to bypass ticket queues).
It wasn't so much the numbers of people that unsettled me, nor the fact that they seemed to be mostly observant Muslims, judging from their clothing. It was more the way people were using technology - their cameras and their phones - to mediate between them and their surroundings. It threw me. I'd been on a boat too long.
Of course, there is colour in Istanbul. There are flower markets, street markets, rug shops, shops selling "Iznik" ceramics and other stuff for tourists.
I'm not a huge shopper, and I could do only an hour or so in the Grand Bazaar before the piles of cushion covers, scarves, gold jewellery, bags, linens, ceramic plates and bowls, rugs, silverware, spices, olive oil soaps etc became oppressive. But it was colourful.
The silky scarves that a certain kind of Istanbul girls wear are colourful too. They've got no style quotient in my eyes, but these girls, who are invariably beautiful and perfectly made up, wear them with as if they were the hippest thing out.
They wear them with tight jeans and boots, fashionable jumpers or jackets, and sometimes a piercing. I don't get these scarf girls at all. I'm told they're part of the "new elite" riding in on the wake of Erdogan's power. I get them even less than I get the tent ladies, or the women in raincoats whose headscarves lack any kind of panache.
|Dome of the Ayasophya|
|Domes of the Blue Mosque|
|Mosaic floor of Byzantine Grand Palace|
I found no trace of humanity in the stripped interiors of the Topkapi palace and its harem. I learned more about Ottoman history from a small exhibition of hugely interesting Oriental paintings held by the privately-owned Pera museum than I did in Sultanahmet's magnificent, but gutted, historic centre.
|The New Mosque|
That's a start on Istanbul. Alex has taken nearly a thousand pictures, so if I pay out more pictures with more stories over the next little while, you won't mind, I hope. Today, back in Marmaris, there's another storm brewing. We've spent the past hour or two, with the help of the marina boatmen, securing Enki with an extra mooring line. No need to look for a cinema though tonight. Our home is cosy and comfortable compared to the cheerless apartment at the back of Taksim. Travel exacts a small price.
I leave you with photos of the Bosphorus...the ones that I couldn't let get away.