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We took things fairly easy for our last couple of days in Istanbul. Well, aside from getting lost and arguing with non-English speaking public transit people.
Easter day didn´t really feel like Easter to me. Probably all the "touristing instead of doing homework/easter preparations/last-minute choir rehearsals" thing. Ah well... That afternoon, we decided we´d go to Asia. Less momentous then it would normally be, since this merely required a short, scenic and (we still thought at this point) free ferry ride. (At least the conductors were equally confused when the Akbil failed to work on the way back...). We hiked through a bunch of low-income neighborhoods to get to a little mosque with gorgeous tiling at the top of a hill, which some kind person let us into. Then we wound up taking TWO more ferries to get to Uskudar (Chalcedon, believe it or not...), where we´d heard that there was an incredible restaurant that did traditional Anatolian turnover-thingies and had a good desert menu. Admittedly, finding it would have been easier if Istanbul had street signs... but we did in the end, and it was indeed very tasty, and the women making the tortilla-like thingies in the front window created one for us in less time than it took Grace to go to the bathroom, so we were happy.
Monday, after some more time arguing with transit officials, we took yet another ferry to the Prince´s islands, so named for their traditional role as a convenient place to exile deposed Byzantine emperors--there were a lot of these over the centuries--and other political undesirables whom you wanted to keep an eye on. Apparently they´re still used for this purpose: the ex-leader of the kurdish separatist party is supposed to be imprisoned on one of them. Possibly in something connected with the naval college on island no. 3. For our part, we mostly walked around and enjoyed the pretty scenery and the views from the ferry, and ended the day be taking a horse-drawn carriage (the islands have essentially no cars) up to an apparently still-functional monastery on a small mountain, where we played the "identify the icon" game. It was also an interesting day, culinary-wise, since my lunch was a mackerel sandwich with hot pepper (works surprisingly well), mid-afternoon snack was a pie filled with spiced, candied fruit (mmm...), and dinner was freshly grilled chicken and lamb kebabs at the cafe beside the monastery, with that wonderful, smoky, probably-means-it´s-carcinogenic-but-it-would-be-worth-it taste.
And finally Tuesday, we visited the baths of Lady Hurrem (yet another Sinan, built by Suleiman´s favorite wife, aka Roxelana, and now housing the state Carpet Store), and the former madrasa behind, which theoretically now houses various artisans whom you can watch while they worked. In practice, they were all still drinking tea. So we took a bus into the more uncharted regions to visit the church of Our-Savior in Chora, which has incredibly gorgeous 14th c. murals and mosaics. (Click here if you want to see pictures of the shininess). Then we took a walk over to the walls of Theodosios "which, despite centuries of neglect and some rather unfortunate recent reconstruction, remain one of the most impressive monuments of the Near East" (Mark Whittow, Making of Orthodox Byzantium). Said reconstruction is still going on, and the turks don´t so much believe in guard rails, so we climbed up. They certainly are impressive: 40 feet high, with towers nearly twice that, and built on top of a ridge, originally with two more outer walls beyond. Vertigo, we discovered, is worse on man-made structures.
Reconstruction is also going on on what´s left of the late-Byzantine palace at Blacharnai a little further along, so we didn´t get to go in. Should be interesting when they´re done, though, though I wonder whether the end result may be a bit misleading-looking.
Then we went out and had an incredible dinner, and then got up at a hideous hour to catch a plane. The taxi driver was a bit more sedate this time, but we still had plenty of time for the three security check-ins. So we flew to Frankfurt, discovered we were minus an atm card, managed to find bus fare anyway, took a bus and three trains back to Konstanz, applied for a new atm card, and collapsed.
Now it´s nearly a week later. I´ve spent way too much time eating chocolate and playing Civilization III. And I still feel like I need a nap...
choco_frosh: (Default)
Things we have learned:
Do Not arrive in strange airports at 2 AM. Doing so may cause you, in your sleep-deprived state, to leave your card in the ATM, a fact that you may not notice until you get home.
Do Not assume they speak the language.
Muezzins make a great alarm clock…if you want to get up at five.
Two people will go through a 1.5 liter bottle of water in less than a day.
Most streets in Istanbul are unmarked.
Most things Istanbul takes much less time than you think they will, leaving you wondering what to do with yourself. The one exception to this is when you are hungry or in a hurry, in which case the trams will all stop in the wrong place and the guide’s directions will prove useless.
It is foolish to buy umbrellas from street vendors.
The best time to visit the Grand Bazaar is around 9:30, when the vendors are still sleepily drinking tea, and aren’t yet in “frantically trying to sell stuff to any tourists who happen by, regardless of whether they’re interested” mode.

Bazaaritude )

Seragli )
choco_frosh: (Default)
I still think of it as Galata: the former Genoese colony to the north of the Golden Horn, crowned by a huge fourteenth-century tower. It’s at the top of a very steep hill, which we hiked up more or less by guesswork. Beyond it begins Istanbul’s main shopping street, the Iskiklal Cad, which we wandered around before hiking down, through increasingly poor neighbourhoods, to reach Christ Church )
choco_frosh: (Default)
Background: Some time ago, our fearless adventurers decided to take advantage of several days holiday at the archive and visit Istanbul, where we’d never been but always wanted to go. And hey, vacationing in Turkey is a classic German thing to do!
So yeah, our train was delayed by an hour. Fortunately, we found a friendly train conductor who re-routed us by a direct train to the airport. And as it turned out, our plane was delayed by half an hour anyway!
We got to Istanbul at about 2:30 AM. We were mostly asleep on our feet, but we managed to buy our visas, find an ATM, and get in a taxi, whose driver drove like a bat out of hell into the old city, via the Golden Gate (a roman triumphal arch later incorporated into the 5th century walls), and Kennedy Cadesi, to our hotel in the (extremely touristy) neighborhood of Sultanahmet. The drive would have had wonderful views by day; as it was, we got some idea of the splendor earlier, when our plane circled around Istanbul, seeming at times likely to crash into a dome…
Thursday )
Update:
The area in front of Aya Sofya is a square (or maybe a road, or a bus parking lot--it's a bit hard to tell), with some Roman remains on one side and a park fronting the famous Blue Mosque )

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