I’d never been to either Romania or Turkey before my holiday. A new country is always a new experience. In this case, the east Europe is much closer than many places I’ve been to, but I was still very unsure what to expect. Both countries were wonderful, confusing and full of contradictions.
The hassles and bustles of Istanbul came to their completion with a scrum for the one of the regular ferries to the Islands. It turned out to be unnecessary, though because it wasn’t that full and there were plenty of seats. The journey was calm and pleasant except for the occasional waft of diesel fumes and a fractious child behind me.
Am in Crisan, a small village on the delta of the Danube in Romania. It’s a strange village because it is two dimensional; spread out across up and down the shore of a narrow spit of land, trapped betweeen one of the two main branches of the Danube in front and a reed bed behind.
Now in the grandly titled Delta Nature Resort which is about 20km upstream of Tulcea. We were bought here by a bloke called Vlad; fortunately, he had none of the xenophobic nature of his namesake; rather, he was a jovial, engaging man with a slightly old car. He drove us here carefully, except for a perilous moment when he tried for the dubious extra security of his seat belt while travelling at 50kph.
Have been in Istanbul now for several days. Been down the Bosphoros, up a castle and in a mosque. It’s an impressive place. The central tourist trap, Sultanahmet, is also overloaded with places to go and see, from many different ages. From an Egyptian needle (1500BC according to the guidebook, 400BC according to the plaque), through to the Byzantine hippodrome which used to house a huge swimming pool where they raced the beasts after which it was named, to the Palace which housed the Ottomans, through to the Blue and Aya Sofia Mosques. This city, perched across the straits, gateway to two continents has been the centre of several huge empires for many centuries, robbed only of it’s crown when Ataturk decided that Ankara was the place for his capital, on the basis that finding somewhere to erect state buildings in Istanbul was going involve knocking down several UNESCO world heritage sites.