Day 6: Istanbul, Turkey
Apparently yesterday I looked tired/not my best/or something, because much like my students in Korea used to do, Memo made the observation aka back-handed compliment this morning of “You look better today”. Haha…why thank you Memo, so very kind. This reminded me of a saying that my well-travelled friend Brian had shown me once, which is ‘in Turkey, I am beautiful’ – Brendan Shanahan. Now, the only Brendan Shanahan I know is a hockey player, so not sure what that is all about, but anyhow, today I look better so, you know, yay.
Today we had a big agenda – Topkapi Sarayi, Aya Sofya, Blue Mosque, Hippodrome, and Basilica Cistern. Well, would you believe it, we ticked ALL of those off our list by about 2:30PM! They are all located quite close to Second Home, within very easy walking distance so we made a loop of it. In fact, by the cistern, we were getting a little grumpy and done with walking around so we actually skipped it, but it’s the thought that counts, yeah? (Sidenote, we have since been told by more than one person that this is actually really cool and we were so totally wrong for skipping it. Oops.)
To be honest, while Topkapi was cool, and I’d probably do it again, it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. You can see the palace as well as some exhibits of old jewels, swords, aigrettes, thrones, etc, but overall I was slightly underwhelmed. There are some great city views from here too however. Beware tho, to go into the Harem, it costs extra.
Next we meandered along and ended up looking at the tombs of Aya Sofya, which are not connected to Aya Sofya, at least for the public. The tombs are free and somewhat interesting.
Just down from the tombs we stopped in the big open square area where you can see the Blue Mosque, and Aya Sofya together on opposite ends, where we had some cheese toast and a beverage, fresh squeezed pomegranate for me and Turkish coffee for Leah. This was a welcome break! Once refreshed, we headed into Aya Sofya, where a fellow just outside the gate asked us first: “do you want to just see walls and columns or do you want to know things?” We looked at each other and in unison said, “walls and columns!” I think we were headed into info overload!
Aya Sofya was very beautiful, but really, really cold! Marble buildings do not lend themselves to warmth. I lent Leah my gloves to wear around in fact! This building is unique because it has aspects of both Muslim and Christian faiths depicted in the walls. There is some history to this but of course, we were just there for the walls and columns.
Afterwards we headed over to the Blue Mosque, which is impressive in size as well as length of line to get in. They provide scarves and wraps for those who do not fit the dress code and ablution facilities. Without too much delay, we headed in to the mosque, where the small boy rolling without pause, along the floor really stole the show. No joke, this kid rolled from all the way at the front of the mosque to the middle and around to the middle. It would seem he has foregone walking for the foreseeable future. But yes, the ceiling is also beautiful!
Once done, we headed back to the hostel via the Hippodrome. We freshened up then headed out on the tram to the last stop across the river where we caught the funicular up the hill to Taksim Square. At Taksim, we found a Starbucks, where I was most unimpressed to learn that not only do they not have blonde roast, they also do not take gold cards. Come on! You’re killing me here! This trip has really been a coffee detox for me. Maybe that’s why I’ve been having significantly more chocolate…
Istiklal St connects at Taksim Sq so we hooked up with that and perused through the shops. If you follow Istiklal all the way along, you can eventually meet up with Galata Tower, so we did that and meandered down a different street on our way back than the one we had the night before. Hence…we found a cotton towel/soap shop and ended up with purchases and a really neat shop called Dogo, with these amazing patterned shoes, bags, clothes, and accessories. Shopping in hand we stopped for falafel for dinner.
With that long day behind us, we headed back to plan out our next few days and sleep!