Monday, December 2, 2013

Days five, six, and seven

There hasn't been a blog for a few days, but Saturday was a horrendous day and yesterday was a late night, but I will catch you up on our explorations and pic spam you to death, so let's get to it....

So Saturday we decided to hop a boat for a long cruise down the Bosporus. We passed all kinds of gorgeous scenery and interesting sights before docking just shy of the Black Sea. we grabbed a taxi to take us to the top of the hill, where the ruins of Yoros Castle sits overlooking both the Bosporus and the Black Sea.

Descending the hill, we were about half way down by the time we started running into other people from the ferry, so I realized how smart the taxi had been. We made our way back to the little fishing village, stopping for me to experience the joy of an elephant foot toilet.

We stopped in a cafe for some appetizers and tea before hopping a ferry to the European side. That's when things started to go wrong. We headed off in search of a restaurant someone had recommended, but couldn't find the restaurant. When we decided to give up and just find the bus stop, we wound up having to walk over a mile to find one. We finally got on the bus, but the ride was slow and more and more people kept getting on. After Rome we knew how bad things can get if too many people get around me, and though it was very, very close I managed to keep it together. After we got to the end of the line, there was no way I could have gotten onto another tram and hubby refused to get us a taxi, so we wound up walking a couple miles, stopping for dinner at a mediocre cafe on the way. Then when we were still about half a mile or so from the hotel, hubby's blood sugar took a dive, necessitating an emergency stop for a Coke. Once we finally got back to the hotel, tired and cranky, I wanted nothing to do with anything, crawled into bed and read myself to sleep.

Sunday was my birthday, so I got to call the shots. I decided to have a slow paced day, touring Dolmabahce Palace. Though it was pretty and all, I think we should have skipped the harem. When they say stick with your group and wandering off is forbidden, they aren't kidding. I watched three people try to slip away and then get escorted out. At the end of the palace tour, in the Grand Ceremonial Hall, you get to see the world's largest chandelier, and the world's largest carpet.

After that we came back to the hotel and grabbed lunch at the hotel where I confused our waiter with the concept of sharing an appetizer and wound up getting no meal. After some rest and Skyping with my baby (who is quite mad at us for leaving and refused to acknowledge us) we headed to Istiklal Street, which is a wide downhill walk filled with all kinds of little shops and restaurants. We tried the wet burgers at Kizilkayalar's, which really might be the best two lyra you'll ever spend. We headed down the street, stopping to pick up some Turkish makeup, have a beer while listening to music, and grab a doner kabob. We found a souvenir shop halfway down the hill where I found the most perfect gift for my friend, as well as one for myself. There is no name on the outside of the building, but the name on the receipt is Saban Aydin. His prices were incredible, and I highly recommend it, whether you're looking for lamps, chotchky, or tea cups.

Today we decided to head to the spice bazaar for some tea, then headed to Suleiman's masque. The engineer porn of this place was that the architects managed to place the support structure for the massive dome in such a way that you barely notice the pillars. The weather was miserable, so we grabbed some tea in the cafe before heading to the cemetery. I thought it was wonderful seeing rose bushes and other flowers on many of the graves. There were a couple mausoleums there that had stained glass windows, tiles and possibly even gemstones and crystal (according to the guidebook; we didn't see any). From there we headed down the hill into the Grand Bazaar, looking for some jewlery. I always get something on my vacation, and it's part of our travels I look forward to most. We also were looking Hubby spoiled me, buying me a pretty pendant, a gorgeous necklace and an awesome bag.

We grabbed lunch at Tatseven, where the owner informed us he sold over 1100 1/2 chicken meals. It was what I had, and it was very good. From there we hopped the tram and went to Chora Church. Built in 1077, though the mosaics date from the 1300's. It was originally an Eastern Orthodox church,  but when the Ottoman took over the city they plastered over the murals. Hidden from daylight until the 1940's they were beautifully preserved.

After leaving the church, things started to get kind of miserable. Somehow, Istanbul manages to turn every downhill into an uphill, even though it shouldn't really be possible. By the time we got lost and found our way to the waterfront, we were wet and cold and decided to head back toward the hotel. We arrived just as the ferry was leaving and had to wait an hour, but I was ok with that since I had not one but two kitty friends that decided to have a snuggle with me. On the ferry I had a tea, which perked me up enough to survive the walk to Red River Pub, where I had a contender for the best meal I've had in Istanbul, Lamb with thyme in wine sauce. The lamb was so tender and very flavorful. For an appetizer we shared fried cheese pastries, which we have every intention of going back for tomorrow they were so good. We grabbed beer and snacks and headed back to the room, ready to call it a night despite the fact that it was only seven. Our son talked to us a little more, but he is definitely still mad at us. Two more days to go and we'll be heading home. For now, I leave you with three days worth of pic spam....

Friday, November 29, 2013

Istanbul, Day Four

I may never be able to walk the same again, but if not it was so worth it. Topkapi Palace was such a magnificent experience. I kept waiting for the moment i would walk into a room and not gasp in awe, but it never happened. I can't even count how many Assassin's Creed jokes and references were made today...

We entered through the lower gate which is close to our hotel, so had to walk up the hill. About the time we reached the archaeology museum, which is about halfway up the hill, I realized there was a tram to take us back up. By the time we reached the top I felt like "Eye of the Tiger" should have played while I jumped around with my hands over my head.

We made our way through the Salutation Gate and headed for the Harem. With the cramped quarters it's better to get through there before the crowds get too heavy. There were so many beautifully tiled rooms, elaborately decorated domes and vibrant stain glass windows. Each room was marked with signs so there was no point where I couldn't figure out what i was looking at.

From the Harem we headed to the Museum of Holy Relics. We saw several pieces of the Prophet's beard, Moses's staff, a piece of St. John's skull and arm relic, Kabba keys and gutters, and the sword and bow of the prophet. We also headed through the treasury, filled with sparklies of every color and variety. After wandering through the many outdoor pavilions, we headed to the restaurant where we sat overlooking the Bosphorus and the Asian side of Istanbul. I had stuffed chicken which is my favorite meal here so far, which is saying a lot.

After lunch we wandered through the rest of Topkapi, including the throne room and the Divan, where all the ministers met, and a museum of clocks. There are not enough words to describe all the beautiful things we saw, so instead of trying to tell you, I'll just pic spam it....

Impressive tile and elaborate doorways

Sultan's bedroom

Beautiful stain glass windows adorned many of the rooms.

My husband tried to get an infinity mirror shot

Didn't notice the jewels on this until we saw the pictures

There seemed to be a lot of birds around

Ceiling detail inside one of the pavilions

One of my favorite shots my husband took of the library

Hagia Sophia from th epalace

Entrance to the Divan

Shaded veranda leading to the harem

Pathway details

Stained glass windows in the Harem

Love the window details here, both top and bottom

I swear I didn't see the no photos sign...

The cabinet doors to the left is mother of pearl and a dark wood

Stained glass window inside the library

Another window

Awed by the view, few looked down to see this lovely pond

Not that you could blame them

It was a spectacular view

Royal library... Yah, I need one of these....

Sultan's reception room entry

Fountain outside the library

Sultan's reception area

After we finished at the palace, we started to leave when I realized I had left my purse in the restaurant. I tried to ask the staff for help, but was informed we had to buy another ticket to go get it. Grumbling the whole way, hubby came to my rescue, leaving me to rest on a bench while he hurried back to get it. Thankfully the wait staff had found it and set it aside, so we got it back without any further incident.

We wandered down the hill to the archaeological museum where I was made aware for the first time that something has changed in my thoughts. Shawn is very in tune with the craftsmanship and detail of all the artifacts, while I am more focused on the humanity of them. I actually teared up at the thought that the sarcophagi once was the final resting place of someone's father, or son, or brother. It made the visit a little melancholy for me.

The museum is quite large, with three floors of artifacts, but after our time in Rome four years ago, I was not early as fascinated by each piece, and found honing into the more elaborate pieces. I was especially fascinated by the artifacts from the ships they found while building the new transcontinental subway, and all the amphora they found within them.

For dinner we headed to Kasap Osman, a kabob restaurant. I had the owners kabob wraps, and it was delicious.