A few weeks ago, exhausted and grouchy, and thinking “Why should I let the toad work / Squat on my life?” we escaped our responsibilities for a few days. We’ve returned, refreshed and rounder of girth, after a relaxing break.

We wanted to get as far as our (pretty meagre) resources would take us, so we aimed for the edge of Europe, for the city that has one foot in Asia – Istanbul.

Istanbul

Although we were only there for four days, we managed to cram our time full of incredible experiences, sights and tastes. Byzantine and Ottoman architecture dominates the city, an order of magnitude greater than the shops and apartments that line the narrow streets. Hagia Sophia and Sultanahmet were particularly stunning, as was the tiny church of St Saviour in Chora – crammed full of exquisite mosaics and frescoes. The bazaars were saturated with colour and texture, and we overcame our inhibitons enough to barter for some goodies. We ate until we were full, and walked until our feet hurt – and then hopped on a ferry to explore the city by water.  (More photos of our trip here).

Kürkçü Han: wool seller

I even managed to do a spot of yarn shopping (!). The winding streets between the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar are lined with shops and informal stalls where many of the locals buy and sell their wares. A narrow opening from Mahmutpaşa Street leads to an enclosed courtyard bazaar – Kürkçü Han – which houses several dozen yarn and linen stores.

This rainy picture was taken from the first-floor corridor that surrounds the courtyard. Make sure you explore upstairs if you are coming here – the corridor is lined with yarn stalls.

This guy had a great little shop, crammed to the rafters with all sorts of yarns. Most of the offerings were vibrant acrylics and cottons, but I found some pure undyed wool crammed into a plastic bag in front of his stall. I bartered with the owner, but he was persuaded by one of his other customers not to budge in price (in fact, I think she was pushing him to charge me more than the stated price!). I came away with ten hanks of creamy worsted weight wool, for the bargain price of £5. This will be yarn for dyeing, I think.

We came away from Istanbul reluctantly, but spent the rest of our break relaxing with family around England. We’re back at work, and holding onto our renewed energy levels. And we’ve learned our lesson – don’t wait until you reach breaking point to take a break. Even a few days away can make a world of difference!

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