Our last few days together in Istanbul flew by. The weather had changed from cold but blue skies to stormy and snowing, and this completely changed the look of the city. It was incredible to walk around Sultanahmet and find it looking completely different. Even the friendly cats were hidden away, hopefully somewhere warm and dry.
We took the tram and funicular up to Taksim Square in order to wander down Istiklal Boulevard, and I regretted that I hadn’t yet replaced my ancient, worn-out Doc Martens. I was slipping around something shocking, relying on my umbrella as a walking stick half the time. That, and the snow was seeping up through the holes in the soles and freezing my feet!
It looked beautiful covered in snow. We stopped at a church, one that I’d visited previously, and saw that they still had their neon Christmas display all lit up.
We stopped for coffee and cakes and hot chocolate in a little cafe, a welcome respite from the snow outside.
Following Istiklal as far as it went, right down to the Bosphorus and the bridge, we stopped at Mum’s insistence at a haphazard fish market. We didn’t buy any fish, but Mum seemed to enjoy looking at it! Walking over the bridge it was almost bereft of the usual fishermen, the weather discouraging anyone from hanging around too long. The view over to the other side – Eminonu – was lovely, with the white skies making all the bright coloured lights of the boats stand out intensely.
We wandered back to Yeni Camii [the ‘New’ Mosque] where Mum took great joy in chasing the hordes of pigeons that congregate there for the free food. I guess all food is free if you’re a bird.
We [by ‘we’ I mean Mum] did lots of shopping at the Spice Bazaar, and then the Grand Bazaar, making sure that she had plenty of teas and spices and sweets and gifts to take home. She bought a number of beautifully framed paintings, mostly of boats and animal scenes on old paper covered in Arabic script. I’d bought her one from the old book market in Istanbul in 2010 – plus a couple for myself – and she had loved them, so we had to find some more. We bought Afghan spice boxes and old Turkish tribal headpieces, scarves and trinkets and costumes and all sorts of things. How we carried it all back is a mystery! And, on top of this, we had to stop off at a post office to collect some of the carpets Mum had purchased weeks earlier!
Thinking we might be safe, we stopped one evening in a cafe for some mulled wine. I went out to find a postbox, and somehow Mum then got whisked away and vanished, leaving me trying in vain to figure out what shop she’d been dragged into. After about 40 minutes someone came down the street to find me, telling me that Mum had gone into a leather shop and was waiting for me. I went upstairs and found her trying on all sorts of jackets, trying to decide what she wanted.
The workshop was fascinating – everything was tailor-made, and card patterns hung in batches along the walls. Ancient sewing machines and overlockers littered the benches, and piles of leather were stacked in metal shelves. Of course, the actual shop part wasn’t so interesting – just lots of clothes. Mum decided on a jacket and they took her measurements, promising it would be ready before she had to return home. Thankfully, it was.
On our last night we returned to the restaurant we’d been for Mum’s birthday. We knew the food was good, the atmosphere warm and friendly, and Tom and Jerry would be on the TV. It was a lovely last meal together, in the same place we’d almost started our trip.