Last weekend in Istanbul

Sue and I had a busy week with work and all, so we decided to spend this weekend doing nothing. We woke up late, sat around drinking coffee and watched TV for three full days.

Not.

Friday our plan was to have street food for lunch, then head for the Dolmabahçe Palace, then walk over to the  Ortaköy Mosque and finish the day off with kumpir (potatoes stuffed with all sorts of interesting things) that you buy street vendors near the mosque.

We relaxed a bit in the morning, and then headed down the big hill to grab lunch. Sue had a takeout balık ekmek (fish sandwich) from a place right on the Karaköy pier and I grabbed a chicken dürüm (a chicken wrap), which we sat on a stone wall overlooking the straits and ate. Yummy.

We rode the tram to the Dolmabahçe Palace, which was simply amazing. It is huge and while it was only completed in the 19th century, so it isn’t old, what it lacks in age it makes up with splendor. You are not allowed to take photos in the palace (seems a little odd that taking pictures in mosques is OK, but not in the palace). (Also, I think we were the only ones following that rule.) It is situated right on the Bosporus Straits and views are incredible. My uncle David would describe the décor as early French brothel, but I would be a bit more generous and say it was decorated fashionably for the time. The chandeliers are incredible. The tour also includes the Harem; which I always thought was only for the women. In reality it is the private quarters of the Sultan, his wives, concubines and his mother. It was pretty amazing and along with everything else there is an audio tour that is well worth getting.

The Ortaköy Mosque

Once we had finished poking around, we headed to the Ortaköy mosque. Sue’s friend, Dana, recommended seeing the mosque, which is also built on the waterfront, and then eating kumpir from one of the food stands. We figured it was only a “short” 3km walk so we thought it would be a nice stroll along the waterfront. The walk was nice, but like everywhere in Istanbul, it was very crowded. We arrived at the mosque at about 5. .pm, went inside for a quick look and then decided to have a drink and a short rest. We bought freshly squeezed pomegranate juice from a stand outside the mosque and sat down on a bench. Neither of us was particularly hungry but the next thing on our agenda was to eat kumpir. We wandered around the town for an hour or so and then decided to head back to the AirBnB. We just weren’t hungry enough to eat and there didn’t seem to be a good reason to stick around for another hour or so.

Our plan was to catch a ferry. We had looked at the schedule the day before and planned taking a ferry from Ortaköy to Karaköy (which is just down the hill from our AirBnB). Unfortunately, we apparently misunderstood the directions because no such ferry existed. We put our heads back into our Trafi App (the official Istanbul public transit app) and found we could go from Ortaköy across the straits to the Asian side and stop in Üsküdar, then transfer to a ferry from Üsküdar to Karaköy. We smiled, knowing we had solved the problem and got on the ferry to Üsküdar. Once there we asked about the ferry to Karaköy; only to be told it was not running. We had somehow misread or misunderstood the directions. A very gruff, but nice man who was working the ferries, told us to wait for about 45 minutes and then there would be another ferry. Another ferry guy told us that there was a different Karaköy so we walked over to that, once again, to find that it was not running. But there was a ferry leaving for Eminönü in 20 minutes. Eminönü is just across the bridge from Karaköy. So we hopped that ferry, walked across the bridge and by the time we got back home, it was 8:30 so we headed out for dinner.

One day, 10.6 miles and the equivalent of walking up 65 flights of stairs. Whew.

Saturday we decided to only go to two places. First a museum call the Sakıp Sabanci Museum and then on the way home, we were going to stop at the Rumeli Fortress.  Once again, we examined our trusty(?) Trafi app and determined that the only way to get to the museum would be to take a bus. We headed to the bus stop and waited. The bus we were supposed to be on did not arrive at all, so we grabbed another that would get us as far as Ortaköy. We quickly amended our plans, and decided that once we were in Ortaköy we would grab lunch. Sue could have kumpir (the loaded potatoes that we wanted to try) and I would have another dürüm, this time with lamb. My potato was delicious!

Once lunch was finished, we waited for the next bus. Once again, the one we wanted didn’t arrive, but another one that would take us to the museum did after about 15 minutes. Back on the bus and after about a 30-minute ride, we reached the museum. It was great. Sue enjoyed the art and furnishings, while I found the rooms on calligraphy fascinating. We somehow thought it was going to be small because it is associated with a university, but it was large and on beautiful grounds.

After a couple of hours in the museum we decided to walk about 30 minutes to the fortress. The walk was really pleasant. It was mostly flat (YAY!) and along the waterfront. The fort was the first incursion by the Ottoman Empire into Europe. It was built in 1452 in order to facilitate the siege of Constantinople. Amazingly it was built over a four-month period and it is situated in the narrowest point of the straits.  The ramparts and towers were closed for renovations, but we wandered the gardens and climbed up to the top of the inside of the fort. The views over the straits were amazing.

Once we had our fill of the fort, we mapped our way home. We had two choices. First option: two buses that would take an hour and 10 minutes, if they came on time and if we managed to get on the right ones. Second option: 20 minute walk to the Metro then a 30-minute Metro ride. Seems like a pretty easy choice. HAHAHAHA! Well what Google did not bother to tell us was that the 15-minute walk was – you guessed it – uphill – all uphill – 400 feet vertical climb over 2km.  The least steep portions were the stairs. As Sue led us on our latest death march, I reminded myself that I chose this option – and that I should check to make sure my life insurance was paid up. We finally reached the top of the hill, found the Metro and (I at least) collapsed into (my) seat.

The Funicular

Another 6.5 miles and 57 flights of stairs.

Sunday we really did decide to take it easy. We walked down the hill just so we could ride the funicular up to the top. We had lunch and then walked to the Dervish museum. It was well done, as all the museums we have been to here have been. We learned about the history of the Dervish and the philosophy. Once we finished that we avoided the draw of wandering through the adjacent cemetery and headed home for the day. Steven neglects to mention that we also decided to get some snacks for our upcoming plane ride even though Turkish Airways actually feeds passengers and we ended up with enough dried fruit and nuts to see us through getting back home in November.