We’ve been in Istanbul about 29 hours now (but who’s counting) and we already decided we love it! It’s quite a change from quiet Clamecy. It’s 22:30 here and the street is still hopping, on Sunday night. Not as much as Saturday night, but there are still people milling around and browsing in shops. We are right on a main drag, on the third floor (which is four stories up since the first floor here is 0), so we can watch the world go by from on high. We are staying in a loft with glass walls so we can see the Bosphorus out one window and the Galata Tower out the other.
“I was under the mistaken impression that the streets were straight.”Steven, when we decided to go “around the block”
Yesterday we just wandered around getting the lay of the land, but today we marched (and in case you’re unaware, this city is HILLY!)(Ok, so there are no flat areas. We are either going up or going down.). First, we tried the Grand Bazaar not realizing that it is mostly closed on Sunday. The surrounding streets are very shlocky, so we may go back when it’s really open. The best part of the walk was the view from the Galata Bridge, which spans the Golden Horn. It was lined with fishers. (We suspect they supply the restaurants that sit one after the other along the water below the bridge. They are part of the bridge, built at the waterline and extend about 1/3 of the length of the bridge on either side). Then, we headed to the Ayasofya (or Hagia Sofia), which was a church, then a mosque and is simply stunning. We stopped in at the Blue Mosque, but it is under construction and very disappointing. Corrugated metal walls cover the most of the interior walls and a drop ceiling hides the rest. Oh well. I looked at these pictures.
We kept wandering and found what we thought was a garden but turned out to be a cemetery for sultans, sooo accidental dead person bingo round 5. There was a cafe and we stopped had a cup of tea (because of course everyone puts a cafe in the middle of a cemetery – just sort of surprised that the French didn’t think to do that) and then visited Sultan Mahmod II and some of his relatives and fellow sultans.
The only hitch in our Istanbul adventure so far has been trying to buy an Istanbulkart, or a transportation card. The machines to buy them don’t give change and you have to have an ID number to get one (for Covid reasons). The app wouldn’t let us put in letters (which the ID number had, so we were temporarily thwarted). I think we have that figured out, so fingers crossed we will get those tomorrow. Instead, we went strolling on Istiklal Caddesi (or Independence Avenue), which is a bustling shopping street full of a lot of the same stores you find on every main shopping street around the world, but with a Turkish flavor. Street musicians, different foods, side alleys full of restaurants and bars.
Finally, we headed back toward home and had dinner at the Smyrna Art Gallery-Cafe, basically around the corner from us. The food was delicious and we met a waiter who was very nice and is moving on to greener pastures (good luck to her!) and a man who frequents the place. Then, when we thought we were completely full, they brought us an extra dish and we had to at least eat some of it. Steven likened it to mint latkahs and I agree. We’ll be going back.
This blog is dedicated to Dana, who lived in Istanbul and gave us many great ideas. Thanks, Dana! (Feel free to send us more!)