Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Istanbul:Day One

If you would like to subscribe to this blog, please enter your email address in the box to the right of this blogpost.  This will ensure you never miss a post!

WOW! What a week it has been.  It's been emotionally and physically exhausting, but a ton of fun.  We've been gone for the past week, so instead of doing one huge novel of blogpost, I'm going to do one for each day over the course of the next week.   We spent two days in Istanbul with another Olmsted Scholar, Jason, who is going to Brazil and then parted ways before Mike and I went to Cappadocia, while Jason headed to Bulgaria to meet up with other scholars.

First, let's back up to last Wednesday.  We went wine tasting in Urla and had a blast.  When we got home, we packed our stuff and settled in for an early bedtime since we'd have to leave for the airport around 5:00 the next morning.  Unfortunately, sleep was not my destiny that night.  I think it was a combination of our air conditioner being broken and just overall anxiousness about little miss Emma, but whatever the reason, I just couldn't fall asleep. The hours passed and it finally got to the point where I had worked myself up and started thinking thoughts like "If I fall asleep now, I'll only get (four, three, two) hours of sleep."  It was rough.  I finally fell asleep around two thirty and woke up a couple hours later, but it was not the restful night sleep I was hoping for the night before a week long trip.

Mike and I grabbed a cab and headed to the airport around five thirty and luckily made our way to Istanbul without much of a struggle.  It's only an hour flight and I slept for about 20 minutes before we landed.  We wanted to check in to our hotel or at least drop off our bags before meeting up with Jason.  We grabbed a taxi and made our way to the hotel.  When we plan trips like this, we usually use because it has tons of customer reviews and we have always found great hotels for cheap prices.  After a few loops around the block, we finally found our hotel. I was immediately skeptical since it didn't have a sign and almost looked like an unfinished construction sight, but the address was right and when we knocked on the door, we were greeted by the front desk man. As it turns out, the hotel was relatively new, which explained the unfinished look.  Our room was pretty nice, very clean and even had a little kitchenette.  We dropped off our bags and headed out to meet up with Jason.

We found Jason at a little cafe and had some Turkish tea, hummus and pita. So Turkish.  Since it was Mike and my first time in Istanbul, we were as much of tourists as Jason was.  We headed out to the Topkapi Palace, which was an Ottoman Palace for over 400 years.  It was EXTREMELY crowded and I don't think any of us were prepared for the lines. There are multiple buildings and museums within in the palace and we bypassed the longest lines to save time.  The gardens and the outside of the palace are beautiful, so I didn't feel too bad about missing the museums.  We did go in to the portrait room, which was pretty cool. Mike has Turkish ancestors, so we're always looking for their last name in museums.  We've yet to find one, but we're pretty positive that they'll show up in some museum somewhere. 

The view of the city from the top of the palace
We went into the weapons museum, which was pretty cool, even for a non-military person like myself.  Mike and Jason were loving it and stopped to examine every sword, ax, etc.

After the Topkapi Palace, we grabbed some lunch before heading over to the Aya Sofya (Hagia Sophia) Museum.  The Aya Sofya is an incredible sight and definitely worth seeing, but it definitely has not been maintained and there are many parts which are worn or destroyed.  I was still amazed with what remained, but I think Mike was pretty underwhelmed.

After the Aya Sofya, we headed to the Grand Bazaar to kill a couple of hours.  It's quite the place and definitely worth going, even if you don't plan on buying anything. Jason collects plates everywhere he goes, so he was on the hunt for one and eventually found one he liked.  Mike and I haggled for some hot plates because we "needed" them.  Plus, they were pretty. 

 Jason said that he wanted to do a boat tour and we just happened to run into a guy who was selling tickets, so we jumped on the opportunity.  We managed to haggle the price a little so that it was only about $7 a person, which made the tour worth it.  

They offer tours all day, but the night tour was around sunset, which made the city look even more beautiful.  I think Mike and I were expecting a more lively tour, but this was definitely a sit and listen to the tour guide type of tour.  It was fine, but I'm glad we haggled the price down.   The city is beautiful and buildings like high schools look like magnificent palaces.  Definitely a life of luxury.

By the time the boat tour was done, we were starving, so we ended the night with a late dinner followed by drinks.  It was a great first day in Istanbul.   We had a ton of fun exploring the city with Jason and were amazed at the history of the city and the attention to detail that went into all of the architecture. 

My sangria came with fire spewing. Never a dull moment...