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Lesley Childs goes to the bazaar city of jewels. sweet tea and spice and finds it bustling from dusk till dawn.

Take a deep breath and plunge. There is no better way of dealing with the friendly chaos that is Istanbul For this is no mummified city living on the glories of its past. but a place ofbursting vitality. alive and kicking.

From a vantage point on the (ialata Bridge. the minaret-spiked skyline appears along the shores of the (iolden llorn (not to be confused with the Bosphorus. though the mistake is constantly tnade).

The city‘s great monuments. names that conjure memories of dimly recollected history lessons. rise from a tangle of latter-day rooftops Aghia Sophia. once a church. then a mosque. now a museum; the 'I'opkapi. palace of sultans. alluring. with an aura of Arabian Nights: and the Blue Mosque. a cascade of domes and half-domes surrounded by its six sentinel minarets.

But quiet contemplation never lasts more than a few seconds. The modern city impinges as a voice cries over the blaring horns. ‘You like. look. very good price.‘

Learn to barter fast. The street hawkers are ‘pros‘ and that ridiculously cheap bottle of(‘hanel 1‘). despite the authentic packaging. was scooped from the muddy waters of the Bosphorus.

I.acoste shirts. suspect Levis. unusual pastries. plastic toys and bird seed are all on offer. while shoe-shine boys career after you promising instant transformation of all footwear —» sneakers and flip—flops won't save you.

In the huge covered bazaar. negotiating prices has become an art. The barest flicker of interest in a carpet. or a gold bracelet will set the merchant stalking his prey. But this is a civilized pursuit. involving conversation and tea served in tiny glasses.

()utside. in the labyrinth of winding streets and dim alleyways. vendors smoke hookahs while porters struggle under mammoth loads and conservative w omen peer at the world from their enveloping black robes.

Somewhere in the warren is the spice market. The scent ofginger. cinnamon. nutmeg and jasmine leads tltc way. wafting out from narrow open-fronted shops. It‘s hard


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Getting There

Flights departing Heathrow are available for £256 return. Cheaper fares are on offer from Trailfinders. 42—48 Earls Court Road. London. (01 937 9631). Student and young person flights to Istanbul cost £125 return ex Gatwick. Contact student specialists Campus Travel. The Hub. Hillhead Street and 90 John Street. Glasgow (041 357 0608 and 041 552 2867) and the Edinburgh Travel Centre. Bristo Square. Edinburgh (031668 2162) lorfurther details. Eurotrain and Transalpino do a return fare of £215.80 for under 26s (departing London).

Getting In

UK passport holders don't require visas.

What To Know Before You Go

Background: Istanbul is located at the junction of south-eastern Europe and western Asia. Known in antiquity as Byzantium. later as Constantinople and finally as Istanbul. the original city grew up on the seven hills of a peninsula washed by the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus. Across the Golden Horn liesthe

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Galata District established by the Genoese; this is still Europe. Asia stands across the Bosphorus where the Asiatic suburbs. once separate settlements, have grown rapidly since the opening of the Bosphorus Bridge in 1973. Climate: Winters can be cold with the odd snowstrom. The average temperature in January is 5C. Summers are often muggy with an average temperature in August of 24C. The best time to visit is spring when the cherry blossom is out along the Bosphorus or autumn when the leaves turn. Population: About 3 million. Currency: Turkish Lira. The current exchange rate is between 3000-3500 to £1.

Where to Stay

Istanbul offers a wide range of accommodation from deluxe to simple inns.

Getting Around

Taxis are cheap. all have meters and are required to use them. There are also line taxis (dolmus) which travel fixed routes. Fares are posted at the dolmus stands. Buses are even cheaper. usually packed. and cover an extensive network.

Whatto Do

Istanbul has developed into

somthing of a shopper‘s paradise for Western visitors. Particularly good value are jewellery. carpets and leather goods. butyou will be expected to bargain —so enjoy it.

Take advantage ofthe numerous boat trips. For the Bosphorus run. boats leave from Eminonu harbour station (south end of Galata Bridge). Cruises along the Golden Horn leave from Yemis lskelesi (west of the south end of Galata Bridge).

And no visit would be complete without indulging in a Turkish Bath. The most famous are Galatasaray Hamami. Turnacibasi Sok. in the Galatasaray/Beyoglu District; and Cagaloglu Hamami. Hilali Ahmer Cad. 34 Cagaloglu. in the Suttanahmet area.

Useful Addresses

In Britain: Turkish Tourist Office. 170 Piccadilly. London. 01 734 8681.

In Istanbul: Tourist Information Offices in the Hilton Arcade. the Covered Bazaar and the Maritime Passengers Terminal

Useful Pubhcahons

Turkey: A Travel Survival Kit (Lonely Planet. £7.95). Baedeker's Guide to Istanbul (The Automobile Association. £5.99).

to resist a few purchases from the sacks of dazzling coloured powders.

Activity slows momentarily at prayer-time. Along the outer walls of the New Mosque (built over three centuries ago). the faithful gather. Seated on stone benches by trickling taps. they carry out the proscribed ablutions— hands. face. feet before leaving their shoes at the entrance and penetrating into the cool stillness.

Mosques abound in Istanbul and offer a place of refuge from the teeming streets. frenzied trading. dust and exhaust fumes. ()nce over the threshold. at world ofcalm and beauty awaits. where richly decorated rugs litter the floor and intricate glazed tiles cover domes and walls. mesmerizing in their kaleidoscope of blues. browns and yellows.

Visitors are always welcome. though arms and legs should be covered and women should wear headscarves. As a notice outside the Mosque of Rustem Pasha says ‘Thank you for your co-ordination‘.

If the all-encompassing quiet make you reluctant to face the world outside. a boat trip along the Bosphorus offers a different perspective.

As the metropolis disappears into the hazy afternoon light. the boat tacks back and forth between Asia and Europe. past palaces and fishing villages. under the spectacular suspension bridge completed in I973. and past the faded elegance of the ‘yalis'. majestic wooden dwellings built by the aristocrats of the last century.

The final port ofcall is the Asian village of Anadolu Kavagi. dominated by a (ienoesse fortress that offers stupendous views over the mouth of the Black Sea.

Returning to the city. further relaxation can be found at the hammam or Turkish bath. Hammams were originally built as part of the mosque complexes and consist of two rigorously segregated units. one for men and one for women. Once an integral part of daily life. they remain popular. and scores ofbaths. historic and otherwise. still exist.

After gently sweating in the domed opulence of the hot room. a scrub will wash away any vestiges of grime. and a massage completes the sybaritic experience.

All paths seem to lead back to the (ialata Bridge. but as night falls. the traffic is as heavy. the crowds are as great. Outside the pontoon restaurants. waiters tempt you in to try the local ‘lufer‘ or bluefish. Across the water. tiny vessels scud between the silhouettes of tankers and container ships.

The mosques are picked out in gentle lights. and an itinerant salesman tries for one last L‘tlslomct' while the final call to prayer echoes across the city. As the cry of the muezzin dies away. a stillness fills the air and for a few brief hours Istanbul takes a rest.

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