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The Blue Mosque at night

The Blue Mosque at night

Well, we are back home. Our trip back was fairly uneventful. The car we had scheduled to pick us up was bit late, and it was scheduled a bit later than would have been ideal, so it was a little anxious. However, we had no problems getting to the airport in plenty of time. After a brief stop at the Duty Free to blow our few remaining Lira (when ended up bringing home only 0.50 TL), it was off to the lounge to await our (45 min delayed) boarding. The flight itself was as good as a 10 hour flight could be. (I did manage to watch a total of seven movies between the two flights.) We were quite impressed with Turkish Airlines and would definitely fly them again, aside from the fact that their only flight from the US is to Istanbul.

We encountered no delays once back in the US. However, on the drive home from JFK, traffic was horrendous. It took us almost two-and-a-half hours for what would be maybe an hour without traffic. Of course we knew traffic would be bad, so we had a car service pick us up instead of asking Mary Lou to drive both ways through rush hour. We were exhausted, but had a great trip.

One More Day

Rumeli Fortress on the Bosphorus

Rumeli Fortress on the Bosphorus

Today was our last day in Istanbul. Since we had seen most of the highlights we wanted to hit earlier in the week, we decided to sleep in a bit. We eventually got going around 10:00, popping down to the Arasta Bazaar to check it out. Next we headed back up Divan Yolu where Suzanne wanted to stop back by an inexpensive, small “Target-esque” store to pick up some tea glasses. (Six were only $2.) After a tram ride to the ferry port of Eminönü, we hopped on a boat for a 90 minute cruise up and down the Bosphorus. It was a nice time, but got quite cool and windy. (Suzanne moved downstairs where it was enclosed while I stuck it out up top for photos.)

After a brief stop for lunch, we walked back to the hotel to drop off some purchases, stopping a few places on the way. We then decided to hit the Mosaic Musuem, in the Arasta Bazaar, which was a nice way to spend some time. The 6th century mosaics are from the Byzantine Palace and are very impressive. Some final few shopping stops and we ended up back at the hotel, doing a few things before dinner at Mozaik, which was quite good. I made one last stop for a döner kebab as I hadn’t had one yet (and had them for lunch nearly every work day for the last several months I was in Marburg). It was good, but I prefer the German style meat which is mixed lamb and beef and not so strongly flavored. Back at the hotel, it was time to pack for our return trip.

It was a very nice trip and we really enjoyed Istanbul, even with the pushy shopkeepers and restauranteurs. The layers of history are quite impressive, and, in some ways, far more apparent than Rome. I think our 3 1/2 days was a good length to at least scratch the surface and we saw most of what we had planned. Coming in the off-season was a bonus, aside from the cool weather, as the crowds were very manageable. (Admittedly, we lucked out having only one day of rain. Last week it rained almost every day.) Will we come back? Probably, but probably not for some time as there are so many other places we’d like to go. (Also, I think it would be better for Kyle to be older if he were to come.)

Three Faces of Istanbul

Kadikoy Train Station

Kadikoy Train Station

It was another full day. We started our morning at the Archeological Museum, which was a real highlight. There are a large number of Greek and Roman artifacts as well as a very nice exhibit on artifacts from the ancient near east, including writing tablets from 4500+ years ago. We also got to see the famous Greek discus thrower statue for a second time as it’s on loan from the British Museum, where we had seen it in 2002. We then hopped the tram to “New Istanbul”, across the Golden Horn. After a ride up the funicular from Kabataş, the end of the line, we headed up the funicular to Taskim square. We had a decent walk down the İstiklal shopping street, stopping in a few places for gifts.

By this time, the weather had turned kind of dismal, with a light rain. After a walk back down to the Galata Bridge, we decided it wasn’t a good day for a cruise on the Bosphorus. Instead we opted to catch a ferry to Kadiköy, across the strait on the Asian side. We walked around here a bit, but it was kind of cold and the rain was pretty steady. After a small lunch in a cafe, we headed back to the ferry dock and back to Europe. (However, it was successful as I was able to buy some safety pins to “fix” part of the zipper on my camera bag which had broken.)

After the ferry ride, we stopped by a few toy stores by the dock/Spice Market to pick up something for Kyle. A second wander through the Spice Market and we headed back towards the hotel, stopping a few places on the way. After a break, we headed out for an enjoyable dinner at the Enjoyer Cafe, picking up some cake and baklava on the way home for dessert. All in all a good, but kind of wet, day.

(PS, sorry for the poor photo. I don’t have many due to the dreary weather.)

Our First Full Day

Inside the Grand Bazaar

Inside the Grand Bazaar

We had a very full and very nice day. After a good breakfast at the hotel, we hit Hagia Sofia. It’s quite a building, though the Pantheon in Rome remains my favorite ancient architecture. Then it was on to the Blue Mosque and a walk around the Hippodrome. We then headed up to the Grand Bazaar, which was quite an experience. We didn’t end up picking anything up, but it was well worth the trip. We then headed out towards the Spice Market. Thinking we were lost, we asked for help and found out we were just down the street. After a quick lunch, we walked through. It was also a worthy site.

After the visit, we walked over the Galata Bridge and back, checking out the fish market on the Galata side. A walk back to the hotel rounded out our major chunk of the day. We took a break to relax a bit, then I headed out to do some “sweet light” photos of Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque. For dinner, I had made reservations at Sarniç, which is housed in a Roman era cistern. The setting was superb as was the food. It was even decently priced. For tomorrow, we have plans to visit the archeological museum, which we missed on Monday, and then either to head across the Bosphorus to Asia or up to Taksim.

In Istanbul (Eventually)

View of Hagia Sophia from our hotel room window

View of Hagia Sophia from our window

Well, we made it to Istanbul. It was bit crazy getting everything squared away. We had horrendus weather on the Saturday before we left, to the point where Mary Lou’s flight into Newark was canceled. The best she could do was to fly up Sunday, arriving around 12:40. This was fine as we weren’t supposed to leave until 5:30.

When we got up Sunday morning, I took a quick check downstairs in the basement and found that we had some water again. The sump was working, so it wasn’t alot and basically only boxes got wet. However, it really wasn’t something we really wanted to deal with. To add to our problems, Suzanne’s work was flooded in the rain. NOAA had been predicting the Raritan River to crest at 27 ft, which would mean their plant would be fine. Instead it crested at 36 ft, meaning there was several feet of water in some of the building. She thinks her office is likely okay, but doesn’t know the extent of the damage as her nobody had been allowed into the plant before we boarded the plane.

On Sunday morning, we get a call from Mary Lou that they’re going to have to fly around some major storms in our area and would be an hour late. Not a huge deal as we still had time. In the end, she was only a few minutes late as they were cleared to fly their normal flight path. After picking her up and lunch at Jersey Gardens Mall (right near the airport), we headed out to JFK. Checking was smooth. However, our flight was delayed in boarding by 30 mins and then we sat on the ground to 90, eventually taking off 2 hours late. Unfortunately, we didn’t make up any time en route and arrived that late. Let me tell you, when the flight is already just over 9 hours, sitting on the tarmac for an extra 1 and a half isn’t so much fun. I did however end up watching three movies and getting a bit of sleep.

Our arrival in Istanbul was uneventful. The passport control line was quite slow. We had prearranged for a car to pick us up, which worked well. We had to wait a few minutes for a room at the hotel, but it was likely worth it as we have a view of Hagia Sofia. (The room itself isn’t huge, but is fine size by European standards and not the smallest one we ever had.)

After unpacking a bit, we headed out to visit Topkapi Palace, where the Ottoman Sultans reigned until the 1830s. It was very nice. The weather is decent, sunny, but a touch cool. We then walked around some of the main shopping streets of Sultanahmet (the old city), stopping by a grocery store for a few things before heading back to hotel for a break.

Tomorrow’s plans include Hagia Sofia, the Blue Mosque, and the Grand Bazaar. I’ll try and do another update tomorrow night, but we do have 8:00 dinner reservations.