In Istanbul the call of the sea can be hard to resist. "in the summer," wrote American ambassador Samuel S. Cox in 1887, "Constantinople is uninhabitable by reason of its stenches, dogs and heat." Things have improved since then, but summer in Istanbul is still pretty hot, and its streets are choked with traffic and day trippers, if not with dogs. The saving grace is that you're never far away from the water. It glitters behind domes and minarets, peeps out between office blocks, waits at the bottom of steep cobbled slopes, and even when it is not within view, you have only to close your eyes and listen, and high above you, oddly harmonizing with the amplified prayer song of the muezzin, you can hear the sea gulls calling.