Our last five months in Istanbul has seen lots of sunshine and temperatures high enough to make us wonder at our decision not to continue cycling east. As we stay in touch with some of the passing cycle tourists we have met their photos of snow clogged roads, frozen tents and icy rain have seemed a long way from our toasty warm apartment and serve as reminders of what we were trying to avoid by sitting out the winter.
As our own departure date draws nearer the weather seems to have taken a fickle turn for the worse with temperatures falling, weeks of grey skies and the odd flurry of snow making the now temporary warmth of our home seem all the more precious. We are also gripped by a feeling of needing to see all the sights and museums we promised ourselves that we would visit before we left.
We have an overflowing pile of read books waiting to be delivered to the local book exchange and have managed to befriend the local cats with fresh fish suppers, but as far as sight seeing goes we still have many promises left to fulfil.
In an effort to get our tourist heads back on, last weekend we headed out for a walk along the historical Istanbul wall. The chilly wind seemed to cut through my layers of clothing like a hot kebab skewer and my un-gloved hands were quickly glowing like they had been freshly broiled. I found myself huddled in my coat wondering what the young men on the streets with slicked back hair, designer jeans and thin cotton jumpers thought of my snowboarder/Michelin man look.
We had taken our queue for the walk route from a quick glance through a few different blog posts one of which reads:
Fréderike Geerdink Sunday 30 Dec 2007
Catching a suburban train from Sirkeci station we began our walk at the Yedikule Hisari end where we left the heated train carriage for the damp muddy streets around the wall. Sticking our heads into the Yedikule Hisari museum revealed a bored looking attendant, an entry charge and a windswept courtyard none of which struck our fancy. We headed North keeping the wall to our left and winding through narrow back streets with our hands deep in our pockets and our heads well hooded. The wall itself was a mix of crumbling masonry and sections looking like the set for a low budget western but without a cowboy in sight. In places the restored arches were home to groups of people huddled around fires spewing acrid smoke and flickers of heat as their beer bottles clinked together.
Climbing a set of stairs to the top of the wall revealed a stream of typical Istanbul traffic on the far side of the wall where the honking of horns mixed with the shouts of a football game in full swing. The purple and orange jumpers of the football players stood out against the grey skies and mud covered pitch as they slowly chased after a sluggishly bouncing ball. The ground was littered with broken glass and the path we had followed quickly turning to a narrow slippery mud track so we headed back to ground level and continued on our way.
As we reached the half way point of the wall we broke open our emergency caramel buttons with numb fingers and greedily sucked the sweet sugary filling. Ahead of us there was a further 3km of wall still to explore but between us and the remaining wall was a warm tram that could deliver us nearer to home. Our heads switched rapidly between the wall, the tram and each other before we both sheepishly but decisively headed for the tram. Not the best start to our preparation for a life outdoors or to tackling our list of Istanbul tourist sights but as we told ourselves best to make the most of trams, warm apartments and being able to easily opt out of unpleasant weather while we can. As far as we know they don’t yet have trams in rural Mongolia and while our tent is many things, a warm apartment she is not.