Sunday, July 11, 2010

Turkey Day 16 Istanbul

Suze didn’t appreciate our getting up at 7:30 (we didn’t hear the muezzin from the hotel which was remarkable given all the mosques in Istanbul!) The hotel breakfast was served on the enclosed top floor terrace, but since it was raining hard, the view was lost on us. The breakfast was substantial – the largest Suze had ever seen at a hotel!

We took a cab to the Blue Mosque. Phil argued with the driver about the rate, and the cabbie set the meter. However, he clearly added several kilometers by going too far on the Kennedy Boulevard and doubling back! We made our way to the mosque which closes at noon on Friday. It continued to rain as we waited in line. Taking off our shoes at the entrance without getting our socks wet was a challenge! We didn’t take a tour, but listened in on several around us that were given in English. Suze bought a 10 lira clear umbrella from one of the hawkers.
Blue Mosque

I wanted to find a geocache entitled the Blue Mosque which was supposedly close by, but we ended up in a rather bleak neighborhood and I couldn’t find it. Long trudge back to the Hagia Sophia. On the way we stopped at a shop and bought a bunch of little tapestry purses. The Hagia Sophia Museum cost 20 TL each and had almost nothing in it, though its history of being a Christian church converted to a mosque was extensive. It is undergoing massive restoration and needed it. I ran into Dick and Susan Brown from St. Olaf at the entrance and we chatted.

After the Museum we headed off looking for an ATM and a bite to eat. We stopped at a lovely café where Phil and Suze got mains – Phil had eggplant stuffed with chicken and smothered in yummy cheese and Suze had chicken, both with rice. I shared a bit of theirs and had tea. Suze also got a very rich chocolate baklava which she shared.

Then it was off to Topkapi which we couldn’t afford. I looked for another geocache there (and found it just as Susannah said I wasn’t very good at geocaching.) I took a travel bug and left and English coin. In order to get money, we trudged back to the Hagia Sophia museum where we found the row of ATMS just outside. Back to Topkapi where we headed for the treasury. Suze got bored with the crowded rooms. I loved the sultans’ clothes display, but the room was very hot. Phil and I were rewarded by seeing the Topkapi dagger and even Suze liked the Topkapi diamond. I wanted to see the harem rooms (an extra 15 lira each) so Suze went with me after we all had a soda. It was huge!
Then we set off walking to find the Grand Bazaar. On the way we saw a near collision of a tour bus and a tram that took a lot of maneuvering to untangle. We also walked through a cemetery for important sultans and pashas. The bazaar itself was noisy and full of pushy sales people. We bought a few things, including a nice pair of evil eye protector earrings for me.

On exiting the bazaar we tried to head for the spice bazaar. We wandered for a long time through a crowded shopping area where the locals shopped. Stores full of linens, long coats for religious women, scarves, cheap suits, shirts, underwear and frilly bride dresses --- no tourists. Phil’s sense of direction was good and we ended up in the spice bazaar which we liked much better than the Grand Bazaar. Again we bought a few things and headed for the Galata Bridge.

We walked under it past many restaurants all trying to convince us they had the best deal. We sat at one and all ordered fish meals. Because it threatened rain, and the sun was peaking through, the views on the Bosporus were stunning.
Phil forgot our hats and had to go back. We then made our way after a few false moves to buy jetons for the tram and funicular to go to the hotel. After we got to Taksim, Suze needed to shop so we hit a few stores including getting some snacks. Back to the room for a final pack and check of the internet and bed.

See more pics.

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