16 June 2009

Skyrockets in Flight, Turkish Delight!

We got up this morning and headed upstairs to breakfast at our hotel’s rooftop patio. There were rolls with rose jam, salami, cucumber, cheese, olives, honeydew, plums, cherries, yogurt, cookies and Turkish tea. After taking some beautiful pictures of the Bosphorus, the Blue Mosque and Aya Sofya, we headed out to explore the old part of the city.

First stop was the Blue Mosque. It was absolutely stunning. Personally, I think it rivals the Taj in regards to beauty. After only minor difficulties with my borrowed wrap, we headed inside to get a peek. Then we made a brief stop to the Tomb of Sultan Ahmet I, which is right next to the Mosque.

Then we walked across Sultanahmet Park to see Aya Sofya. Once there, we discovered that it was closed. *insert sad trombone sound here* So we headed across the street to see the Basilica Cistern, but after seeing the price gouging they were doing if you paid with Euros we decided it was time to get some Turkish Lira. It took us forever to find an ATM that would take our cards but after waiting 10 minutes in line we were finally 200 TYL richer.

Next we did a brief tour of the Grand Bazaar. It being the oldest and largest covered market there was no way we would be able to visit all 4,400 stores. We wandered for a bit and then found a restaurant recommended by Lonely Planet, Havuzlu, where we had stewed eggplant and beef. With full bellies we headed out to find Topkapi Palace.

We didn’t leave the bazaar the same we came in, leading us to wander the streets for awhile trying to get our bearings. But once we came to the palace it was worth the wait! Per our guidebook’s recommendation, we headed straight to the harem for the tour. It was completely different from anything I had ever seen before. It was really neat to see. We then made our way through the rest of the palace, making sure to see the Topkapi dagger and Spoonmaker’s Diamond in the treasury.

After relaxing in the shade Mecidiye Kosku, we left the palace and split a water in Gulhane park. After resting for a bit we walked along the Bosphorus on Kennedy Cad before coming back to our hotel for a nap.

The hotel’s book exchange became a real life saver when we found Rick Steves’ Istanbul book. While we had a few copied pages of Travis and Yvonne’s Lonely Planet, Rick has great walks of the city. I ran upstairs and grabbed the book I had acquired back in Hidelburg and hadn’t read and traded it right away. With knowledge now in hand, we made our way across Sultanahmet Park to grab some dinner.

We first headed toward a restaurant Rick had recommended, but thought we could find something cheaper and headed up the street. We didn’t have to walk far! We found a great Donner restaurant and got Chicken Pide Pitas. Delicious! Then for something sweet we walked a little further and got a sampling of Turkish Delight which we ate overlooking Aya Sofya and the Blue Mosque. Then we crossed back into Sultanahmet park to get some roasted corn.

While the sun was setting we made our way back into the inner courtyard of the Blue Mosque for some more pictures. Then we walked along the Hippodrome and viewed the obelisks there.

Then following Rick’s recommendation, we got apple tea at Havuzbasi so we could see a whirling Dervish. It was definitely an interesting experience. Charlton and I are both hooked on the tea now too! We slowly made our way through the streets of Sultanahmet back to our hotel before we called it a day.

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