Sad to say, the Doner Kebab is equally rubbish in Istanbul. We’re sort of gob-smacked that this is the reality: In Turkey you really can’t get a decent kebab-in-bread-for-fast-eating. No garlic sauce (or indeed any sauce at all), miserly meat portions, flaccid lettuce and average bread. Even the use of pita bread (instead of toasted white rolls) is an optional extra! Crazy.


Well perhaps it’s not crazy – what they do very well is the sit down, full plate shish kebab. With extra chilli. I guess it’s our Western fast food mentality that created the doner kebab when the Turks arrived in Berlin and started to adopt the “faster, better, cheaper” approach.


Istanbul is exquisite, even in the rain. We really enjoyed the mosques’ minarets reaching into the sky all along the horizon, enthusiastic merchants and restaurant touts, and, well, just the mind bending magnitude of the city’s history. After trying to dig a metro rail tunnel under the mighty Bosphorus strait, historians now believe Istanbul may have been first settled some 8,000 years ago.


From a tourism perspective, this really is a city where you can easily fill your days with stuff you can’t see anywhere else. We’re staying in the traveler ghetto of Sultanahmet which, whilst undoubtedly very touristy, is smack in the middle of innumerable sites of enormous architectural and cultural significance.


What’s nice for the geo-nerd in me is that in a 30 minute / 1.5 Lira ferry trip you can leave Europe and be in Asia. Istanbul is the only city that straddles an ocean and two continents.


Istanbul’s status as a mega-city like São Paulo was of substantial interest to me. It’s orientation on major waterways and hilly terrain make the built out urban area seem to stretch into eternity. Being such an old city means that it’s predominantly low rise in the inner (and I use the term loosely) area. So the sprawl extends even further than I had imagined.

We maintained our enjoyable habit of catching up with friends in exotic places, this time having the pleasure of Georgina and Glen’s company who were just embarking on a Turkey tour.


They agreed that the laneways in the bustling Beyoğlu area make something of a mockery of Melbourne’s self appointed status as the place to go for vibrant laneways. The number and extent of the drinking and eating options (and for that matter every other service) in the laneways were a revelation. Even more so as this was our first escape from the disney-esque tourist district of Sultanahmet (complete with magic carpet photo opportunities).


Turkey also happens to be our final stop on the European continent. The European segment was never intended to be a lengthy one, and with the continual rain we’ve been hit with recently I’m glad we’re moving on.


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