|Flaming clay pot containing lamb, vegetables, and spices|
For Sunday our plans were to see the big mosques and palace. We started the morning with the smell of burning plastic and the building across the street from us was on fire. Not a big fire luckily but the foam filled the street. We started out by about 11am and walked through the Hippodrome toward the northern entrance of the Blue Mosque. There was a long line for entry but it moved well. We entered around noon with shoes off (and wet socks from the wet carpet entryway) and were in a fairly small area, slightly smelly. Next we walked through the park toward Hagia Sofia (Aya Sofya). The line was a bit chaotic here (with many people trying to sell tours) but we made it in and really enjoyed walking around here. When we finished we decided to grab some lunch and just stopped at the Green Corner. We got some tea and Turkish coffee and sandwiches, and fed the cats too. It was nice. After lunch we went to Topkapi Palace. There were two different security checks and some serious weaponry by the guards. We toured several different areas, including the kitchens, and also the royal apartments. After an afternoon of walking around, we decided to eat at 360 Panorama Restaurant on the roof of the And Hotel. The views were amazing, watching the sun set on the mosques and their lights slowly turn on was a great end to the day. As it got chilly (or, when it became unbearably cold in Kacey's experience), we moved in side for desserts and coffee.
|After dinner view, Blue Mosque at night|
Monday we wanted to spend time exploring the Grand Bazaar. We walked by the Column of Constantine on the way there; this had quite a story behind it and is quite old. As we approached the gates of the bazaar, we saw the Nuruosmaniye mosque so we entered it. It was newer and bright. The Grand Bazaar just goes on for blocks and blocks. It is almost entirely covered as a full building, which I didn't know. Full of people walking around, leather shops, light shops, rug shops, junk shops, candy shops. There was not much food, which I was hoping for. Kacey did some shopping and we got a light. We considered a rug, but nothing truly wowed us. We also got a couple towels and some pillow covers. One interesting thing we noticed is the shop service that is offered. The shop owners order simple plates of eggs with peppers and spices, as well as coffee and tea. The shop owners will also offer apple tea to people shopping in their shop. This is all free, I assume part of their rent they pay goes to these shops. But you can't buy a drink if you want one! We picked up some take away sandwiches near the bazaar and went to our hotel to eat and relax. We wanted to try a turkish bath, or hamam. We wanted to do one together, though, but the traditional ones always separate the sexes. We decided to get a couples massage at Felicity (at a hotel) instead. Started off with a dip in a small (cool) pool where I talked them in to getting me a beer. Then we sat in a sauna for a bit. While cooling off we had a spot of apple tea. Then was the scrub bath, where your body is abrasively scrubbed and skin is refreshed and rejuvenated after the dead skin is removed. And finally we ended with a massage. It was kind of fun and relaxing. After the debacle of trying to taxi to this hotel, we just walked there and walked back to our hotel. (FYI, don't taxi in Istanbul). The hotel recommended Pierre Loti restaurant on top of a nearby hotel. It had nice views but was filled with smoke so we had to move to the inside room. We searched out Hafiz Mustafa for sweets after that.
|One of the many streets of the Grand Bazaar|
Tuesday we had to check out and then we went to explore the Galata Tower. In the morning we did just a little shopping for souvenirs. We then took the street car across the river to the first stop, then hiked up the hill. The line looked a bit long and we wondered if we would even have time to wait in it. It took about 35-40 minutes but we made it in. We made friends with an Australian couple who ended up paying our way in as we only had euros and credit card. Yes, I paid them back when we got out. The weather was nice and so were the views. We went back to the hotel and ate late lunch next door at Ortaklar of a wrap and mezze. We met our airport ride at 3:15 and arrived to a pretty empty airport with no lines.
We really enjoyed Istanbul and it is a fairly easy city to visit. The food is fantastic and we really enjoyed the spice palate. Do not use taxis and embrace the kindness and warmth of its people.