Day 11- Istanbul – Galata Tower, Beylerbeyi Palace, Küçüksu Palace, Anadoluhisari, & Suleymaniye Hamam
Day 11 was all about various forms of transportation it could easily be subtitled: A Tram, A Trolly, A Bus, A Ferry, A Funicular, Taxis and some Walking
When we arrived in Istanbul the people who sold me the SIM card for my phone told me that it would work for less than 2 weeks unless I registered it with the government and gave me the name of the tax office and said my hotel could help me. Alas they had no idea what I was talking about and just Googled for a tax office that was pretty far away. My search with Google didn’t fair too well either and the few phone company stores we went to were all clueless. So I looked for the closest tax office (even though I suspected it was wrong) and we started off the day by going there.
Of course no one spoke English there – but someone did point me to another tax office. A short walk later we found someone else who was able to help us and basically I handed him the phone and 100TL ($62) and he handed me a receipt and indicated I needed to go back to a telephone company office (even though they had no idea what I was talking about). When I arrive at the telephone office they saw my paperwork and told me they needed more money (funny right) and then took all the paperwork. I had to demand they give me copies though – I mean they weren’t even going to give me a receipt – they were going to take every scrap of paper I had about the phone from them and from the government and just say have a nice day!
Long story short – it is week 3 and my phone still works.
The next stop was a little unusual – it was unusual because we were going in an round about way and a round about time but I really wanted to visit Galata Tower as close to solar noon as possible. You see ever time I go to the tower it is near sunset which means the wonderful view is only good from one side and worse the side you want to see (the Golden Horn) is the one you can’t see well. So we took a tram to the funicular to Taxim Square and then the trolley down to the Tower. This may seem like a lot of travel but the Tower is at the top of a VERY VERY steep hill and its better to travel up and then back down using public transportation then just walking up to it.
We arrive at the absolute perfect time of day – the sun was right overhead and the Tower wasn’t that busy. Its a great tower with an elevator to the top (or near top) and a fancy restaurant inside. I wound my way around the Tower to take a panorama – it can’t be perfect because of the tower itself – but as you will see it gives a pretty good view – I will spend time back in the states doing a better job stitching it. Great views of Topkapi and the Hagia Sophia and the entire Golden Horn – it was exactly what I wanted.
In fact the rough panorama is available here:
Panorama of Istanbul from Galata Tower
After we had a snack in the tower but it the rice pudding tasted like salad – I wish they had plastic wrap!
Next we headed back downhill and caught a Tram to the Ferry stop where we took a Ferry and then a taxi to Beylerbeyi Palace. We were going to take a taxi because I wanted to save time but the bus was right there. Beylerbeyi is actually on the Asian side of Istanbul so we were back in Asia! The palace is nice but you have to go on a guided tour and no photos are video is allowed (see photos in the gallery – thank you camera glasses). So they told us we had to wait an hour for the English tour group which I was upset by and Amanda suggested we just go on the Turkish one anyways since I had been there twice and could tell her what was going on. Not a bad plan. As I went to implement it we saw a group just entering and the guide was speaking English so we got in the back of that group. Of course this was a private group but no one said anything and we lingered in the back. Since she was a private guide she also didn’t watch the group carefully and a lot of people took pictures when they shouldn’t have and I was able to really lag behind taking photo and video. When it was over we slipped back away and stopped for a quick lunch at the palace.
What I wanted to add to the trip was just down the street and so this time we got a taxi to drop us off at Küçüksu Palace. They filmed part of the James Bond film – The World is Not Enough here (and in other parts of Istanbul). Made me a little sad because my late Uncle Leonard would have loved it he was such a Bond fan too. The building was closed and I took pictures outside of the cast iron gates (it looks like a wedding cake) and then people started blocking my view and we realized that the gate was open so we ran in and got some photos and video – on the way out I get yelled at and they asked if I opened the gate – I said I found it open (which was true) and was leaving – and they suggested I come back the next day (but I did what I wanted to do). I didn’t get to go inside but that is ok – sometimes you just see a place from the outside – first I saw it from the water but now I got much closer.
We weren’t done with Asia yet though – we walked 5 minutes back up the road to Anadoluhisari (The fortress of Asia) which is a 14th Century Ruin across the Bosphorous from Rumelihisari (the fortress of Europe) which is 15th century. Its pretty much a ruin so a quick few snaps and off to find our way back to Istanbul where I had made reservations at a hamam that our hotel had recommended.
The problem is that in our hurry to get from place to place – I didn’t buy a bus ticket and you NEED a bus ticket to get on the bus (I had only gotten enough for the first bus trip). So I played dumb and when the bus came he kept saying he couldn’t take the money and we needed tickets but we looked sad and he let us ride for free! And it was a long trip!
So after our free ride we headed to the Suleymaniye Hamam. It is a famous hamam (though not the most famous in Istanbul) and more importantly it is co-ed. Now I know that this isn’t as authentic experience but sometimes its ok to have the tourist version. Also its by appointment only and for couples and groups only so it has a good reputation. We went in and they handed us out clothes – though Amanda scoffed at what they asked her to wear (she had prepared her own outfit) and they sent us into hamam which looked like ‘Spring Break Istanbul’ it was filled with young men and women in bikinis and swim trunks loudly laughing and having a good time splashing each other. As older and respectable adults we sat in the corner where I splashed ice cold water on her. 🙂
They took them into the side rooms 2 by 2 and gave them the exfoliation and bubble massage treatment – to be honest they were pretty good – and then after they wrapped us up and sat us to cool down – nicely offering us beverages (that we would have to pay for on the way out).
The only bad part of the day was the scary walk to the tram station. To be honest – it got really dead and dark right there and we didn’t want to walk all the way to the tram station. So we quickly zig zagged through some streets and I grabbed a taxi to take us home. Quiet an adventure.
To my mom (and Amanda’s mom) please know that the most dangerous part of Istanbul is not the climbing or the walking or the people – its the insane drivers! Riding in a car and cross the street – that’s the danger.
We had dinner back near the hotel (mmm Bass) and headed off knowing that Day 12 would be another crazy day!