Once again my fellow cadets and I joined the excursion ashore to see this time the sites of Istanbul.
We visited St Sophia’s (pictured above) – the first church on this site being built in 360 AD, the second church was built in 415 AD, the third church was opened in 537 AD and remained a church until 1453 when Constantinople (Istanbul) fell to the Ottomans, and St Sophia’s became a moscue.
In 1935, thanks to Kemul Ataturk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, the building became a museum.
St Sophia might be better remembered by many people, because it was used in the making of the James Bond movie ‘From Russia with Love’, you can watch the scene from the film.
We also visited the Blue Mosque, which is not blue on the outside,
but due to over 20,000 blue tiles inside the mosque.Beside the historic sites of old Istanbul, the one thing that does stick in my mind about my visit to Istanbul was that I nearly sold one of our passengers.
The coach party that I had joined was given free time to enjoy whatever we liked as along as we were back at the coach meeting place at a certain time. We were warned not to wander off on our own, but to stick together in little groups.
Angela, one of the girls on the coach had taken a shine to me (it must have been the uniform), and she had made sure that she was in my small group.
I asked what they wanted to do and Angela, who was I think eighteen, wanted to see the Grand Bazaar, but she was reluctant to go on her own. The coach party had already visited the bazaar, but my small group consisting of myself, another cadet, three girls, and a male student, wanted to return to purchase souvenirs.
The bazaar was crowded – as it nearly always is – so one had to be careful with our wallets and bags, and also of a number of strange characters.
Found this on the internet, so it’s not from 1965.
The girls found the leather area, and started to try on various jackets and to chat to the stall holders.
While at one of the stalls, a middle aged man came up and started to squeeze Angela as if she was a piece of meat, using just two fingers. He squeezed her arms and around her waist.
I moved forward and told him to stop what he was doing, at which point he asked me in broken English, how much. It dawned on me that he wanted to buy her! I thought he was joking, but he wasn’t!
At this point I stated that he must be joking and called the stall holder to help translate. He spoke to the ‘buyer’ sharply in Turkish and pushed him away with much waving of arms.
Fortunately, Angela laughed off the whole episode as a joke, but I think she was glad that she was part of a group, and not on her own.
As foot note to the story – some weeks later, after Angela had flown home, we docked in Southampton, and in the mail waiting for me, I received an invitation from her to a birthday party at her father’s home. Her family lived on a converted MTB on the Avon River in Christchurch.
There were a number of converted MTB boats (see picture above), all converted after WW2, perhaps the owners were history buffs. Both above and below pictures are from the internet.
The picture below illustrates the MTB being converted, but it was not the boat that I visited.
I arrived on board and was introduced by Angela to her father. As we shook hands he said to me – ‘I believe that you had the opportunity to sell my daughter in Istanbul?’
I tried to apologise and say how sorry I was to put Angela in to such a situation.
At the end of my babbling he leaned forward and whispered in my ear, with a ‘smile’ in his voice – ‘The next time you have the opportunity to sell my daughter, take her mother as well!’
I was lost for words as I tried to look shocked, at the same time I could not stop laughing.
We planned to sail from Istanbul in the early evening. Lines ashore were singled up, the pilot was aboard, and the order was given to raise the anchor. We had dropped it during the manoeuver of going along side. If the wind had strengthened it might have inhibited our efforts to leave the wharf, so by hauling on the anchor this would assist us to move clear of the wharf, regardless of the wind’s effort to keep us alongside.
The clank, clank, of the links being hauled through the hawse pipe could be heard on the bridge as I updated the log book.
Suddenly we heard shouts and two strikes on the forecastle bell indicating a light on the port side. The Captain moved quickly to the port wing of the bridge, followed by the officer of the watch and the pilot. I picked up my log book and stood just inside the door of the bridge, on the port wing. I could see a very large well-lit vessel getting closer and closer. One glance was enough, it was a floating restaurant, heading towards us, but the problem being that the restaurant didn’t have power.
What had happened was that our anchor had fouled the restaurant’s under water moorings, and we were dragging the restaurant towards us by raising our anchor. It took some time for us to leave the wharf and sail very slowly towards the restaurant paying out our cable to allow the restaurant to easy back to her normal mooring position. Once our anchor cable was vertical it was easier to slowly gently haul in our cable link by link. Fortunately, we were able to raise our anchor as well.
Farewell Istanbul, as we sailed for Piraeus, which is the port for Athens.