So we decided to spend 3 nights in Istanbul although we actually left after 2. I had noticed my brake pads at the front worn down to the metal in Bulgaria so Istanbul seemed like the last chance to get some new ones for a while. I was concerned they would not be available here but was surprised when we found a street full of bike shops, the second of which had the pads. I was even more surprised to find they fitted and that they were decent sintered pads although not surprised they were a little dearer than home.

In turkey it seems they are fond of putting all shops of a type together, hence the street of bike shops. There were also streets of phone shops (where I got a battery to fit the intercoms) and in the grand bazaar we were surprised to find an entire street of buttons. I am still not sure how they possibly make money given the immediate competition just next door over something with a low price like a button but business seemed ok nonetheless.

another feature of a big city of course is the touts. Istanbul is no different to anywhere else although with tourists around everyone was out trying everything with varying degrees of success. “hello – spiro“. eh? ah spirographs. I haven‘t seen those in a while. There were a few people selling them in different parts of the city too. It led me to wonder where they get this crap from. There must be a website that sells it somewhere. maybe. Complete with a phrasebook of just enough english/german/french/etc to sell it. this years trend is spirograph apparently.

Yet somehow you can‘t blame them for trying. Behind the façade some powerful economics are at play. If they were not making money from it they would not be trying, and life in the very big city seems tough for some. It left me not sure how to feel about it.

We did the tourist thing and saw Haga Sofia (another 20 eur) and the blue mosque (free). Haga Sofia was interesting although crowded with the same people taking the same photos of the same things. I bet flickr is full of them so I gave up and instead turned to taking pics of Helen in the crowds. Someone was making a lot of cash off the place that was for sure. It was fascinating to see the clash of two major religious ideologies here in the middle of the city which bridges two continents. Perhaps the driving here was always crazy. The blue mosque was beautiful both inside and out although the guy outside who tried to sell us carpets after duping us by seemingly offering us help with our visit seemed to be the last straw for Helen.

I fitted the brake pads in the street and gathered quite an audience in the process. I admit I can be a little short when my concentration is absorbed on the bike so having Helen to distract people was a welcome break for a while. Plenty of people came to look and then the word spread it was a diesel bike and seemed almost like Chinese whispers. Perhaps the T-shirt didn’t help. Job done with a huge tin of grease left over that I only used to grease the pins on the caliper. It seemed the pistons were sticking but that was not a roadside job so we left under cover of darkness at 5am…

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