I breakfast on my own as Maria is leaving early to work on the monument. Most mornings Sinan goes to the town of Gokturk to meet friends at Starbucks. On this occasion he invites me along. I get an hours headstart on him as the town is around thirty kilometres away. The road is brand new multi-lane glassy asphalt. There are some reasonable hills, but on such a surface that going is easy.
I arrive half and hour after Sinan. He very kindly buys me a coffee and then introduces me to his friend. I feel a bit out of place sitting with two, well presented, wealthy businessmen. I muse at the contrast between our chosen paths – in full knowledge that I will never reach such places. They express admiration at my position and obviously I at theirs...though I suspect neither of us would be willing to swap. Though we only sit together for perhaps an hour I enjoy the time very much. I suspect I could learn a lot from sitting in on their coffee sessions.
I bid them both farewell and thank Sinan once more for such wonderful hospitality. The closer I get to the city the more the traffic builds. I revel the fact that I'm often able to keep pace with the cars, and on occasion overtake. The road disappears under me at 40kph and soon enough I hit the suburbs that I recognise from yesterdays commute. I stop off to visit Maria and Serkoun. We drink lemonade in the shade of a chestnut tree and I take some more photos of the pair at work. I'm sad I wont get to see the finished work, atleast not on this trip. Here's a link to her website - http://www.mariasezer.com/index.html - though I'm warned it could be a while before the monument features as the website's a little behind...much like this blog : )
With more “thanks” and “goodbyes” I continue on into the city. I'm told I need to head to the Sultanahmet district as his is where the majority of the tourist accommodation is. The signs are easy to follow and it's not long before I'm in the right area. I find and check into a hostel – it's the first I find but seems to tick all the right boxes. With the bike stowed away I get to exploring. Maria and Sinan put me in touch with their son Bora who lives in the city. So first job is to find a phonecard.
In the evening I meet Bora and his wife, and friend Charlie from England. We eat at a great fish restaurant a stones throw from the fish market. Later I'm shown around serveal of the bars that the Taxim area of Istanbul has to offer. Bora runs a website (http://www.beyogluin.com/ if anyone’s interested) which is a free guide to everything that's happening in the city – Parties, gigs, exhibitions etc. I think it's a great idea and it has several thousand follows, so is clearly well used. Taxim has a really great vibe, and seems to be where the locals go out to socialise – nice to dilute the touristic feel. Impromptu gigs can be seen down many of the side streets off the main road. I can see myself returning to Taxim over the coming days. My life has been lacking in live music for too long...