Saturday, July 26, 2014

Two More Days in Istanbul

Today, Saturday, June 7th, we have signed up for a guided tour. It's starts in the Old City at a mosque down by the river. Although we have visited several mosques it's always nice to have someone explain something about what we are seeing. More than one minaret means it is a Royal mosque. Red is the royal color. We admire some nice tiles, then leave the mosque and go back into the Spice Bazaar briefly where we end up buying some saffron. We'll have to make paella when we get home, what else can you do with the stuff?

Now the main attraction of this tour, a cruise of the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus. Many many factoids crowd my brain. We get a good idea of the size and scope of Istanbul and see a lot of the city that would otherwise be impossible to cram into a week. We end up on the Asian side for lunch, and then take a bus to the highest point in the city, Camlica Hill .

There are amazing views from the top, and the other tourists and visitors are interesting too. There are many more traditionally garbed women up here, not wearing burkas, but covering their hair with colorful silk scarves. They wear black or brown long cotton coats, or versions thereof. I am accosted by a group of school children, young teenagers wanting to practice their English on me for a school project. They ask me a series of questions and mostly understand my answers. Better practice would have been for me to ask THEM some questions!

The final activity on this tour turns out to be a private tour of the Dolmabahce Palace. This turns out to be worth the price of the tour itself. Even though I couldn't take pictures of the interior of the palace, I'm glad we didn't miss it!

The next day, our last in Istanbul, Lee wakes up with a cold. I run along the sea and ruminate on the lack of female runners, dodging stray dogs, wondering at groups of men swimming in the sea. After a late breakfast in the square outside the Blue Mosque we take the tram over to the other side of the Golden Horn. The tram is super easy to navigate and only costs three Turkish lira a ride. We exit the tram and take the funicular to the top of the hill and Taksim square, scene of the protests of the past year. There is no sign of protesters now, just families having picnics and walking on the dusty paths. We stroll down Istiklal Street. It's a nice walk, supposedly the Turkish equivalent of the Champs Elysees, but it's really just a shopping street in Anywhere, The World. Mango, Zara, H&M, you get the picture. As we descend into the older portion of this part of the city we attempt a bit of a Frommers walking tour. We see the Galata tower, narrow cobbled streets, a glimpse of an old synagogue. We make a stop for ice cream and espresso and then walk back over the river to the hotel to rest. It's our last night in Istanbul. On to Ephesus tomorrow.

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