Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Two Days in Istanbul - Wednesday June 4 and Thursday June 5

Today we are flying to Istanbul. It is pouring rain in Paris, so it must be time to leave. Our trip to the airport is without incident. We find our seats in the semi empty business class section on our Turkish Airways flight. The sweet young steward in a chef's hat takes good care of us, but we are in for a rude awakening when we land in Istanbul. The hotel is supposed to provide a car and driver, and they do, sorta. No one to be seen, but we do find a sign for the Nill HOTEL, which is confusing.

We call the hotel: "coming 2 minutes".

10 minutes later we call again: "wait over here, someone is coming soon" the hotel insists.

A man approaches, "follow me" he says. He leads us to a disinterested young man talking into two cell phones. They both walk away. After a moment I go in search of the "follow me" man.

"Your man is not helping, he is ignoring" I say. The "follow me" man wrinkles his nose and walks away again. Can you tell by now I am pissed off? If this is Istanbul I want to go home!

Finally we are led out of the terminal into a confusion of cars and shuttle buses. We are directed to a small white car with no air conditioning so it's swelter or get blown to bits. Whatever. At this point I just want to get to the hotel.

The hotel is darling and I am relieved. The Blue House Hotel, right in the middle of the Old City, next to the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia. I am somewhat mollified.

I'm hungry, so it's not long before we are out the door again to find something to eat. The hucksters are everywhere. "Where you from? My brother is from Boston! Come see my shop, eat at my restaurant, marry my daughter, etc etc.". We find the restaurant we are looking for, quiet, friendly, no hard sell. We have a mezze platter and a mixed grill cooked in a clay pot and brought in flames to the table. They wack the top off the pot and there you go, dinner.

Back at the hotel the whirling dervish restaurant next door is playing music and I worry we won't be able to sleep, but after the very loud call to prayer at 10pm I remember nothing else until morning.

Today, Thursday June 5th, we are tourists. First the Blue Mosque. Outside it is stunning. Inside it is majestic, and full of what else? blue mosaics. Then across the courtyard and park to the Hajia Sophia. This building has undergone many transformations, at first a church, then a mosque and now a museum.

Afterward we have lunch at a kebab place down the street. Then we duck into the underground cistern while the line is short and the tour groups are elsewhere. Inside it is cool, wet, spooky.

No we are not finished yet. We walk over to the spice market, then to the river and finally back to the hotel. We go up to theTerrace restaurant on the roof for expresso and Turkish pastries, enjoying the sunshine, clouds, and the distant sea.

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