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TURKEY
These pages document my time spent flying balloons in Kapadokya . . .
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Chapter 38
Istanbul
I had spent another restless, sleepless night in Selçuk, but in the morning I felt like I could make the drive back to Izmir. Once again, I did not eat breakfast. After thinking about it, I really haven't ate since I left Kapadokya. I had the one sandwich on the plane (which is looking more and more like the reason I'm sick) and after that not much. Just enough here and there to make sure my jaw still works. I may as well have been just chewing gum. We get packed and I make an apology to the hotel owner and his wife. They were great and we enjoyed our stay it's just that I wasn't feeling well. Once again, I will recommend this place for anyone wanting to visit Selçuk and the surrounding area. It's the Nilya. The link will take you to their website. Anyway, we make the drive back to the Izmir airport and return the car uneventfully. Another test of our trip organizer is passed without issue as we catch our flight to Istanbul. Once we get off the plane, grab our luggage and start heading for the door, we realize the one little thing our travel agent left up to us. Transportation from the Istanbul airport to the Otel Mavi Ev (Blue House Hotel) , which is where we have our reservation for our stay here. As we were walking towards the exit, I remembered that our travel expert had said that it will be easy to get a taxi and won't cost much, its not worth paying to have us set up your transportation now. I also remembered he said something about how to not get ripped off by the taxi guy too, but of course right now I can't remember just what it was he said about that. Well, we do get a cab fairly easily, and whether or not we got ripped off.... well it really doesn't matter now. I have to remember that we're in a big city now (with an official population of 12.8 million, Istanbul is the 5th largest city in the world) and to be a bit more on the aggressive side. Especially when trying to get a cab from the airport.
The "Blue House Hotel"
Sultanahmet Distric circled on map of Istanbul
None the less, we're in the cab headed for our hotel.
Sure enough, just as advertised, it's a blue house. It's actually quite nice, nothing lavish like some of the more modern hotels, but 5 star and yet very traditional. The best part is its location. Within walking distance of all the sights to see in the Sultanahmet district.
We've got two days here as well, not including our arrival day. The day we arrive, it was late afternoon/early evening by the time we got checked into our hotel and up to the room. We've got a little bit of down time to relax before we go try to find Joanne something to eat. I was better than the day we went to Ephesus (which was the worst of them all) but I still wasn't feeling real well, so dinner was a scary prospect. I know I need sustenance, but do I risk eating someplace I'm not familiar with and get worse just when I'm about to get better? I know it's hard to believe, but I'm not all that hungry anyway. We find a little spot close to the hotel and I do manage to eat a little bit. I ate as much this night as I did in all the days we were in Selçuk put together. Still not much, but I'm finally starting to feel better. It's still fairly early, but we go back to the hotel so I can rest before we go sight seeing tomorrow. Our room had this great view of the Blue Mosque.
The view of the Blue Mosque from our room
As you can tell, our hotel was quite close to the Blue Mosque. So close in fact that we heard something that we hadn't heard since we were in Kapadokya. The call to prayer every few hours. Like I wasn't already having a hard enough time getting rest with being sick and all, now the chants are so loud there's no way I'm going to get much sleep. We decide to visit the Blue Mosque anyway. It's actually the first place we went, since it was the closest. We were going to go inside, but Jo didn't bring the proper attire. Not that big a deal to me and the outside is still quite impressive. You can see more photos of the mosque in our Istanbul gallery here.
Next up was the Hagia Sophia. This place was the largest cathedral on the planet for over 1000 years. The Blue Mosque was built to rival it. This place has no dress restrictions, so we are able to tour the inside. I think what was most impressive were the tile mosaics on the ceiling.
The Hagia Sophia from across the street
One of the mosaics on the ceiling
You can see more images from the Hagia Sophia in our Istanbul gallery here.
From there we went a couple of blocks and entered the Underground Cistern. This too, was built by Justinian in the 6th century B.C., to hold water that was brought from the forest about 12 miles away. They have done a great job with the lighting down here and the effects are dramatic. Two of the columns use Medusa heads brought from Didym as their base.
The lighting effects can be dramatic
Jo standing next to the Medusa head
After coming out of the cistern we headed to Topkapi Palace, which is where the Sultans that ruled during the Ottoman period lived. Kind of like the White House of the Ottomans. No pictures, as I was getting tired and did not find this too interesting. Mostly Muslim stuff from what I would call the middle ages, 1400 - 1500 A.D. For some it would be more interesting, but to me, not so much. Lots of opulence there however. Seemed like everything was gold. Well, that was a full day! Tomorrow we will head to the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar.
The Grand Bazaar is just that. A huge indoor market place with over 3000 shops. Can be a little overwhelming. And it is certainly 3000 times worse than having used car lots lined up down the street and the salesmen paid on commission only. It took the hard sell of Kapadokya to a whole new level. I'm glad we went just to see it and not to get souvenirs. As it was, by the time we left (and we did not spend a whole lot of time there) Jo was pretty done with the whole thing. Bless her soul, I know women that would spend the rest of their life in there! Not really my thing, but it was neat to experience it, I don't think there is anything quite like it anywhere else.
Jo standing outside the Grand Bazaar
A shop full of Turkish Delights
inside the Spice Bazaar
Everyone will tell you that the Grand Bazaar has been around since 1461. But that's just the building part of it. Traders and merchants have been doing business on this site in Istanbul for way longer than that. The Spice Bazaar is the second largest covered market in Istanbul (obviously the Grand Bazaar is the largest) and dates back to the 1600's. Both of these places are huge and be prepared.... the experience is exhausting. The Spice Bazaar was actually a bit of a walk, through one of the oldest parts of Istanbul, where the streets are narrow and crowded. It wasn't the easiest to find either, but we did manage. Looking back, I wonder how after having such a hard time finding it, then spending probably an hour and a half inside, I ever found the way back to the hotel. I know we were both tired of walking after that day. Big cities really aren't our thing anyway, so we were definitely ready to come home.
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