I’ve been meeting some colourful characters recently – and not in Devon! I told you last week that I was off on a little adventure. Well, this involved spending a long weekend in Istanbul.

I’d never been to Turkey before and was awed by Istanbul’s vibrancy. It was also wonderful to experience some sunshine before winter sets in.

Before dawn each morning I heard the call to prayer echoing evocatively across the city from its mosques. I cruised on the Bosphorus to Beylerbeyi before being driven over the Bosphorus Bridge from Asia back to Europe.

I visited the Topkapi Palace, imperial residence of the Ottoman Sultans for almost 400 years, and learned about the ‘pecking order’ among the Sultans’ many wives. The Palace is now a museum containing a priceless collection of treasure and Chinese porcelain.

I then went to the Blue Mosque, which casts its vast shadow over Sultanahmet Square in the heart of the Old City, where everyone has to remove shoes before entering. I’m sorry to say that the pungent smell of feet initially struck me more forcibly than the magnificence of the Mosque’s interior!

The Spice Bazaar was quite extraordinary. Never before have my senses been assaulted by such an incredible mix of colour and aromas. I found myself wishing I liked Turkish Delight as there were so many varieties to choose from, along with all the spices, Iranian and Russian caviar, teas, sweets – even strings of sponges and loofahs, as well as copious quantities of gold jewellery, to give an extra dimension to the scene!

Tomorrow, if you’re okay with me dwelling a day longer on Istanbul before returning to Devon, I’ll tell you about witnessing the way Turkish rugs and carpets are hand-made and about the Golden Horn … and about why a small boy I saw was dressed from head to toe in a silver robe and turban.




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