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Istanbul – Day 2

Cold and Raining!

We borrowed umbrellas from the hotel desk and jumped in our bus to the Topkapi Palace, home to sultans centuries.  We saw

  • the imperial jewels — jewel-encrusted daggers, crowns, and an 86 carat diamond
  • jeweled thrones
  • imperial dress
  • sultan’s throne
  • circumcision room
  • and more…

From there, we headed to the spice market.  The pistachios were divine!  We also bought turkish delights (rose flavored), sesame covered peanuts, but no turkish viagra.

Then it was the Grand Bazaar — we didn’t quite hit all 4000 shops — lots of evil eye shopping, but no major purchases.

Finally, we had a lesson on rugs.  We watched the weaver work on a silk rug, then headed upstairs to get a full on sales pitch.  We found the perfect rug that we couldn’t afford and didn’t need, but lordy, was it beautiful!

Istanbul – Day 1

First, we drove across the bridge to the Asian side, where we ate Burek (phyllo and meat or spinach) and drank chai next to the Bosphorus.

Then, back on the European side, we drove the shore to see another panoramic view – this time from Starbucks, if you can believe it!

From there, we headed to Beyoglu, a popular neighborhood that we reached by cable car.  Adnan, our guide, told us that the night life here is fantastic – if I were younger, I’d head to Restaurant Row to enjoy…

We set out for Eyup, site of one of the most important religious sites, where the remains of Ayoub al-Ansari are buried.  We arrived at the mosque in the middle of prayers — it was all I could do to keep the camera off and not snap photos of the men and women in prayer… what a site!  It’s were boys go the day they are circumsized – I snapped a photo of one boy in his white fancy outfit — he seemed to know what was up, since he was very upset!

The cable car goes up to the top of the cemetery, where a fantastic panoramic view of Istanbul and a cup of tea await.  We took the cobbled path down the hill, seeing new and old tombstones — very interesting.

Next, the old city wall — we climbed to the top.

We were ready for lunch, and Hamdi didn’t disappoint!  We ate on the fifth floor terrace, and the view was spectacular.  We ate a shepherd’s salad, yogurt and watercress, kebaps,  and more.

Then, it was time to cross the Golden Horn to taste the best baclava in the world.  I must say, I have never had finer baclava!  The kids loved it, too.  There were all kinds — walnut, chocolate, pistachio, and more.

By the time we reached the Hagia Sophia, it was closed.  Instead, we headed to the Underground Cistern.  The Romans kept water here so they could stay alive during extended sieges.  This one, the 2nd largest of 150 in the city, included Medusa heads.

After a rest, we hiked to dinner, recommended by Adnan.  It was supposed to be a decent budget spot, but I must say were disappointed with this meal.

Despite pouring rain, we hiked back and beyond our hotel to the pretty old street lined with cafes.  The kids had dessert and Tom and I had chai.  The tea here is excellent.

A long day, but we got a great overview of the city.  Tomorrow, more sites in the Old City.  Maybe the Grand Bazaar!

Arrival in Istanbul – Sultanahmet District

We’re here!

It was a 10 hour flight from Chicago on Turkish Air, and every seat was full.  Because of the 7 hour time difference, it was 3:15 pm when we arrived.(actually 15:15 – locals operate on a 24 hour clock).  We purchased our $20 pp visas (yes, Tom, you CAN get them upon arrival!) and waited 30 minutes for our free transfer to the hotel.

The ride in took about 30 minutes — lots of construction and modern structures.  I was struck by the Marmara Sea, where huge cargo ships were everywhere!  Istanbul straddles the Bosphorus Strait, and there’s a big port on the Asian side of the city.  It was similar to a Lake Shore Drive, except the Sea is on the right and an ancient wall stands to the Old City on the left.  What a difference when we drove through the wall — small cobbled streets and wall to wall buildings.  Very quaint!

Our hotel, the Uyan, is a quaint 29 room boutique hotel in the Old City, Sultanahmet.  The rooms are TINY , but clean and very nice.  Inlaid tile floors in the common areas are lovely, and the rooms have pine floors with Turkish area rugs.  Lizzie’s and my room has a balcony overlooking the street (the second floor balcony, if you look at the Uyan website).

We passed an incredible open air fish market on the way in, and Tom is in the mood for fish from the Marmara Sea.  The kids won, though, and we’re going to try a hotel-recommended Turkish restaurant tonight –” very popular and not much money,” according to our very efficient and courteous front desk clerk.  First, though, I have to wake Lizzie, who’s sleeping for the first time in 26 hours.

Istanbul, here we come!

It’s 2 days until we leave —


I have checked our passports 5 times — the expiration dates are far away, so we should have no trouble getting on the plane.

We don’t have our visas  — both the website and consulate told me we can get them once we arrive.

I trooped down to the Turkish Consulate in Chicago – Wacker and Michigan at the Chicago River.  After going through a metal detector (my shoes set it off) and waiting for 15 minutes, I met with someone who told me that I could

  • get them (today) for $ 58 each  (cash only, please!), or
  • I could get them on arrival in Istanbul – $ 20 per person.

I chose to wait.

Tom still worries this might be wrong, and fears we’ll be denied entry.  Wouldn’t that stink?!

I haven’t read much about the Istanbul, Turkey, or Capadoccia — I had great hopes of reading all of Rick Steves’ recommended list, but I guess I’ll glance through a couple guide books on the plane.