Istanbul to Bigar 77km
To Eceabat 94km
"No thank you I'm not interested."
" Yes I'm impressed that you picked me as kiwi, and know to greet me with "Kiaora", but I'm not interested thanks".
"Why am I not surprised that your brother has a NZ wife from Wellington? No I do not want to visit your shop."
"Yes I am sure you have wonderful carpets, and the best prices in Turkey, and are capable of shipping my purchase anywhere in the world, but I am not interested in buying a carpet".
"I know you are not a terrorist, and I am not running away from you because I think you are dangerous. I am walking fast because I do not want to be dragged into your shop to look at carpets, I do not want to buy."
"Yes I understand that times are hard, and tourists are not coming because your country has problems with Syria, Russia and Iraq, but I do not want a carpet."
"Thank you for your kind offer of tea, warmth and comfort in your shop, but I fear you will just be angry when I refuse to buy a carpet after all your efforts to persuade me, so I will shake you hand and say goodbye."
"Why do I not want to buy a carpet? Because I just bleeding don't, that's why, so stop following me. GOODBYE".
Every time I walked past the carpet street it was the same rigmarole, the same game of dodge and evade. Persistent beggars. But today is Sunday, and although many shops are closed, it's not raining, and the whole population, 14 million, is out on the streets, well in the markets really. I'm out for a last stroll around the old city, spotting some of the sights my hostel mates have told me about. One street, the main shopping street apparently, is a sea of moving bodies. I don't know where they're going..... just out for a walk..... as few of the shops are open. Almost all are in black.....leather, denim, long coats, suede. A black mass......
I see a queue. It's at least 200m long. Perhaps to enter the mosque? Nope. They're all lined up to buy a Lotto ticket, from the "luckiest" Lotto shop in Turkey...... it's sold the most winning tickets. This week's jackpot is 55 million Turkish Lira, just under $20,000,000.
I'm trying to get across a very busy road. There is a tunnel. I make the mistake of starting down the steps. There is no turning back. It's wall to wall people, with shops on both sides of the tunnel, and guys trying to sell undies, bras, and toys in amongst the crowd. I can hardly move. Forget about the Muslim.....don't touch a female rules....... they're the worse. Pushing, dodging, weaving, ducking. It takes me twenty minutes to move 100m. I cannot ever remember being so claustrophobic in a crowd.
And then I break out of the throng, and am in a completely empty street. For the next km, I see not one person..... until I emerge into the Carpet Sellers street..... and the familiar game is replayed.
I've really enjoyed staying in a hostel. I've met a lovely you Chinese girl who is studying in Edinburgh, two young Thai girls exploring Istanbul on their way back to Bangkok, a German Engineer who has done some cycle touring, an Egyptian Banker on a weeks holiday, a German woman heading back to work in Karachi, Pakistan, and a very interesting knowledgeable (bs) American, who had the answer to all my problems. And they all spoke English, something I've been really missing the last few weeks.
But I've had enough of the city, and I'm very happy to have spent a couple of hours in a hydrofoil, and be back in the country, riding on the purring Fiona. Twice today I've cycled beneath swarms of several thousand birds, like bees or wasps. Very amazing. And I've cycled along the eastern coast of the Galipolli Straits, an incredibly busy waterway, linking the Mediterranean Sea, Marmara Sea and the Black Sea. One has to ask, "What country do the two submarines I saw, heading towards Istanbul, belong to? What permissions, and treaties are they abiding to, to enable them to be in such a narrow waterway? And what are they doing here? With all the issues that Turkey is involved in, Russia, Syria, Iraq, seeing war vessels, creates a lot of questions.
The battlefields of Anzac Cove tomorrow. I'm taking a tour, with a guide. Will be well rugged up, because it's pretty damn cold.