Thursday, January 21, 2010

Blinded By the Light

By Claire
The temperature doubled today to 6° and we even had some blue sky! We watch the weather carefully and planned for this to be a wandering day, my favorite kind! But first, breakfast! The hotel breakfast is so great that we fill ourselves and then pass on lunch. Our usual fare is yogurt with honey, fruit salad, sesame bread with plum jam, hard boiled egg, olives, tomatoes, cheese and tea.

We bundled up again and were completely comfortable but had to get used to the glare of the sun!

We started with a tram ride across the Golden Horn to the end of the line where we picked up the funicular taking us uphill to Taksim Square in the New District. It marks the beginning of modern Istanbul's trendiest business and residential neighborhoods.

The beautiful, clean, quiet funicular

We spent the rest of the day walking through the New District, then sliding into the old world of shops and tea houses.

Turkish bagels

Remember the sink stopper we were looking for? Well we found a guy who looked at our words that Chuck had carefully written out from our Turkish-English dictionary, smiled and rewrote the right ones. Then he sent us across the street to a guy who looked at the words and immediately handed us a sink stopper. Good communication is such a blessing!

Need to weigh yourself? This man will help you.

Shoe shine

Man with a load

Need any hardware?

Juice bar--they're everywhere

Chuck has been looking for some metal rings to sew onto his gloves so he can attach them to a shoelace around his neck when he isn't wearing them. We've tried a number of places but it's very difficult to explain what it is we want. We decided to try a Trek bike shop and wouldn't you know, the guy spoke English. When he asked what the purpose was he chuckled and told us about a man from Spain who had lost his gloves so he thought it was a great idea. He suggested a couple of plastic cable ties. Chuck figured out how he could make them work and when he asked how much, the man refused any payment. We talked about Trek bikes and I told him I had one. He said they are the Turkish distributor for Trek.

Wandering on, we found a place that sold awards and heavy key holders that hotels use. Chuck went in and was able to get two key rings, again no charge. He has since punched them through his gloves and they work!

Working our way along, dazzled by all the sights and sounds and just having a really good time, we came to the Galata Tower and went to the top.

The Galata Tower has the best view of Istanbul and we had a great day for it, at least compared to the other days we've had. Not only that, the call to prayer had just begun and it was amazing to be up at the top of the world hearing that and seeing all of Istanbul. It was hazy though so the photos aren't the best. But, it definitely was a sensational view, if a little windy and cold.

The Bosphorus

The Galata Tower is the oldest tower in continuous use. It was re-built in stone by the Genoese in the mid-14th century and has been used over the centuries as a fire tower, barracks, and dungeon. Inspired by Leonardo da Vinci, Hezarfen Ahmet Ҫelebi, a 17th century aviation pioneer, built his own set of artificial wings and "hang glided" several miles from the top of the tower across the Bosphorus to Üsküdar in Asian Istanbul.

We continued towards the Galata Bridge, the one we missed driving into Istanbul. Our plan today was to walk across, which we did.

Galata Bridge

At one point, we walked down several levels to a platform right on the water and met some cute boys who wanted their picture taken.

There was also an old man, enjoying the view.

We made it to the other side where there were lots of boats cooking and selling fish for 4 TL. We passed but had our picture taken by a nice couple.

On the Golden Horn

We easily found the Spice Bazaar and going in with low expectations, (just how interesting can spices be?) we found that we loved it! They sell way more than just spices.

Olive heaven

There were so many things to look at and there was no pressure. Chuck spotted some Medjool dates and bought a quarter kilo. We walked over to the side to sample them and decided they were so good, we needed more! He bought half a kilo this time.

The guy who makes the change

The guy who calls out and pulls people in

We really had a great time wandering around. It was crowded with locals and all I could think of was what it would be like to have all this at home! And why did we not bring half the clothes for the trip and instead bring an empty bag for all the things we would have loved to buy in Istanbul!

Suits for little boys

As I was putting on my wool long johns this morning, Chuck realized he forgot to pack his. Naturally, a place selling wool underware appeared and he was able to find a pair for only 10 TL. The only drawback? They smell like mothballs.

We decided we might as well check out the Grand Bazaar, it wasn't too far away and on the way home. After our experience with the Spice Bazaar I had really high expectations. First we stopped for tea and were appalled at the 10 TL bill! It should have been no more than 1 or 2 TL. The fancy tea cups and the tiny cookie should have been a clue. Next, all I could think of was that it looked like Istanbul Las Vegas. We hated it. It was just a big shopping mall with windows full of jewelry and expensive clothes. We zipped through it but I took some photos anyway of some of the more interesting areas. It seemed to be full of tourists.

Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe. ~ Anatole France


Diane said...

We agree with you about the Grand Bazaar--so much glitz and touristy beyond belief. We went to the Spice Bazaar at the height of Ramadan and got caught in a crush of people beyond belief. The sights and smells of all of it are indescribable. One needs many weeks (or months) in Istanbul to fully appreciate this ancient and very modern city!

Karin said...

Chuck, you are very innovative! Spice Bazar: when we were there we commented it was about the ONLY place where no one bothered us about buying this or that! We thought maybe the Turkish government had FINALLY told these guys that tourists don't like being hassled so much. As you know, we didn't get into the Grand Bazaar due to Michael being pickpocketed between the entrance to it and the tram we just got off! Guess we didn't miss much, although am sorry we didn't see it. Are you going to Topkapi? Glad the day was sunny for you.

Carol said...

Claire and Chuck,

I really liked your pictures of the spice bazaar. I could almost smell the tantalzing odor from your pictures. Your pictures of the Grand Bazaar reminded me of many, standard, enclosed marketplaces that many cities have. Nothing special. Glad you got to enjoy a bazaar that truly was special.