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Pole to Pole

Day 43: Istanbul

Istanbul, Turkey 
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At the dockside: modern bridge - traditional catering.
Michael Palin - Pole to PoleWoken by the distorted sound of a pre-recorded muezzin calling the faithful to prayer. It's 5.30. Breakfast of orange juice, cereal and honeycomb - things I have not seen since Helsinki, three weeks ago. Fraser has had a nightmare in which he had to wire every minaret in Istanbul for sound.

Istanbul is a very noisy city, much of the noise from a huge construction programme. A companion to the famously crowded Galata Bridge across the Golden Horn is almost complete. A last massive section of its six-lane highway, waiting to be lowered into position, rears up at a right angle, a huge phallic symbol of regeneration. Sevim says the reconstruction is going on at such a pace that her husband, given a month's notice of redevelopment, went in to work one Monday morning to find his shop had gone. There are those with reservations about the pace of change. One is Altemur Kilic, a Turkish writer, diplomat and friend of Turgut Ozal, the President. He remembers Istanbul only thirty years ago as a city of 750,000 people, home to a flourishing number of foreign communities - Greek, Jewish, Armenian and what was known as the Levantine, comprising Italians, English and French who had lived in Turkey all their lives. He himself went to the English-run Istanbul High School for Boys whose headmaster, Mr Peach, he knew affectionately as Baba (Father). The teachers caned him regularly. He smiles happily at the memory. 'My father authorized them to do so. It helped my character.' In between canings Altemur played cricket, read the Boy's Own Paper and grew up in an Istanbul which was small enough to give him 'a sense of rather being somebody in a big city'. Now the city population has swelled to eight million and the real Istanbuliots, as he calls them, are very few.
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  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 43
  • Country/sea: Turkey
  • Place: Istanbul
  • Book page no: 94

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