Istanbul Day 4 & 5 (Turkey Day 24 & 25)

Wednesday – Istanbul Day 4 – Turkey Day 24

After an extensive (and expensive) trip through the Bosphorus on Tuesday I figured we might try and learn some local transportation. Not that I wanted to go all bus crazy but at least to use the tram system. From the cruise I had seen 2 different palaces (on each side of the Bosphorus) and though it might be fun to hit them today.

We took a tram out of the old city to the first palace but when I got there I noticed there were some ferries going across the water. The guy told me they were like $1 and left every 10 minutes. So we headed across back to Asia and then took a very short taxi ride to Beylerbeyi Palace. This was a very very ornate palace (with no heating or kitchens!) and no photography on the inside so I only have one or two shots of the interior. Some gorgeous – well everything. They made us put shower caps on our shoes which was pretty funny (and apparently the theme for the day. After we had lunch and headed back via taxi to the ferry and then via ferry to Europe again.

Once we were back in Europe we headed to Dolmabache Palace – which is enormous (and expensive). We walked the ground for a bit (no photography indoors) and then headed to the Harem section. Most of it was under renovation and everything was by tour only. The good thing was that the tour just meant a group of people with the guide saying little and a rear guard moving along the stragglers (us). It was interesting but short. The clock museum was apparently close but the aviary and Crystal Atrium were wonderful – there were birds just walking around it was pretty neat. We finally headed into the palace proper and got into an English tour group (required) that was too big and most people didn’t speak English. So from the back you could hear nothing and people kept pushing and showing. We stayed in the back (cause otherwise people ran all over you) and these 3 really rude ladies in front of us started arguing with the security guard who was telling them not to linger. The funny thing was – we were behind them so we could take our time and he would yell at them. One of the three had a perfume bottle and every few minutes would spray herself (and the surrounding area) with some lemon stuff. She bumped me really good once and said “I’m sorry” I asked if she was sorry because she did it or because I was upset that she did it. She was not amused. But let me let you after you are behind some obnoxious people for 40 minutes you aren’t either. The rear guard kept looking at me for sympathy and boy did he have it. That aside the palace was amazing and the last room they showed you was this main hall with giant ceiling and huge columns and it was probably one of the most spectacular rooms (that I wasn’t allowed to photograph) that I have ever seen in my life (and think of all the places I have been!)

We were done fairly early and since we had no more palaces to see that day I took my friend Karyn’s advice and headed via Funicular to Taksim Square. It was really an active place though not much to photograph except the crowds. We stopped at Starbucks (which was very grounding) and then started to walk around the Istiklal Caddesi neighborhood. It was just a SEA of people and shopping. There was a sweet shop I was looking for with some Art Nouveau decorations but I realized it was very far away. So we headed back to the square and hopped on the old street car which took us right through the entire neighborhood! We found the sweet shop but it was fairly modernizes and the Art Nouveau decor while great wasn’t worth photographing (not what I do). As we walked we saw some street performers (whose CD I purchased) and headed on.

Eventually we go to the Galata Tower (whose ORIGIN dates back to the 6th century). Its very neat and the inside has elevators to the 7th floor – the views however are from the 9nth floor. When you get up to the top it is lovely but way to crowded – the sun was setting and I got some nice pictures of old Istanbul (and the haze). There is a dinner show at the top that is like 90 Euros (that’s right Euros) per person but he told me if it was cash it could be cheaper. We passed. We went downstairs and had a lovely dinner from the base of the tower – which is very castle like.

We walked back to the Metro and headed home – very tired but much cheaper transportation costs!

Istanbul Day 4 – Summary:
Beylerbeyi Palace
Dolmabache Palace
Taksim Square
Istiklal Caddesi
Galata Tower

Thursday – Istanbul Day 5 – Turkey Day 25

As you can see I travel at quite a pace and we have been very tired. The temp is in the 90s and so is the humidity. Everyday is an ode to how much can I perspire! The trip has been shaping quite nicely. And the goal for today was to hit the outer walls of Istanbul. There was once castle in particular I wanted to see but I also noticed the ruin of a palace both in the guidebook and on a taxi ride and decided we would start there. Regretfully it also started to rain.

We walked in the rain down the coastal walls for a bit and eventually stopped for lunch – we got a late start – which is fine since we are really going through my checklist fast. When we came to the ruin of the Bucoleon Palace it was just cleared for a minute to get some photos of the really nice ruins of windows. It was at this point we ran into some serious trouble. All over Istanbul there are cats. Feral cats. Wild cats. Stray cats. They mostly beg for food and look kinda sickly – some are interesting and most seem unafraid of tourists. I find them all delightful and am amazed at how many there are. Usually you can see momma and babies or brothers and sisters. Well we came across a very very small kitten and it was very very friendly. It was also adorable. I have to note that this is the 100th cat we have seen so this isn’t me just being a pushover it was meowing and mewing and following us and it let Jenny place with her and it was adorable. Eventually we had to make sure it didn’t follow us. Last night I spent a lot of time figuring out the proper legal procedures for importing a cat. It isn’t as hard as you think especially if they are kittens but if you do it wrong they will destroy it at the border. Updates on the kitten situation as we continue our research (and assuming we can find it again if we do decide to rescue it).

We walked (well short taxi then a walk) to the train station and headed to Yedikule. This was an OLD train and (but not like the cable car nostalgic one ) and there were no tourists on it. When we got off I asked some old men where theā€¦ he cut me off and just pointed. One block away and you couldn’t miss Yedikule Castle or the Fortress of the 7 towers. There was a film shoot going on in one of the towers but otherwise it was perfect a big open and empty castle with full access and views of the water and the walls. One of the stairwell has a railing which was nice (though many others did not) and it was a very fun exploration. Plus at the very top you could see all of these ships in the Sea of Marmara it was amazing!

After the castle we flagged down a cab take us to the Church of St. Savior in Chora. Its a little out of the way for most people but inside were the most amazing frescoes and mosaics. Its hard to describe just how breathtaking it all was and Jenny thought they were better than at the Haghia Sofia (and made me upgrade my book selection for the one with even better pictures).

We walked (I say that I lot don’t I) back to the metro station and along the way we stopped and saw the old Theodosian Walls. This was something I wanted to see and it goes on and on and on. Also so do the vagrants who don’t just hang out at the walls but apparently have set up shanties IN the walls. We didn’t stay too long and then we headed back to the Metro station. We found some more cats (a momma and a baby) and then realized we were looking at a very old cemetery with some beautiful tombstones that were cast side and hidden away. I took some photos – Jenny played with the cats (without touching them – these didn’t seem great) and then really headed to the metro and to the final destination for the day: Al Muhiddin Haci Bekir. This sweet shop has been open since 1777 and this is the guy who invented Turkish Delight and its still run by the same family! We went in – had some samples – got some sweets and headed out. We also stopped at a specialty stop nearby that gave us samples till we were full! We did purchase some things there too. We will not be bringing back food presents for people though – its just too much of a hassle.

We found a great place for dinner and their dessert menu was very robust except they only had one item on the entire menu! (Yes Monty Python Cheese Shop jokes ensued). A quick metro back home and my only problem now is that I have filled my computer with pictures and have 2 more days left of touring. I hope you are enjoying this so far I really wanted to catch up on my quick stories.

Istanbul Day 5 – Summary:
Bucoleon Palace Ruin
Yedikule Castle
Church of St. Savior in Chora
Theodosian Walls
Al Muhiddin Haci Bekir – Sweet Shop

[Re-posted from my University Blog & Edited 07/01/2011]