Tuesday, May 14, 2013



Fishing off the Galata Bridge 

It was an hour by plane from Cappadocia to Istanbul. We took an airport shuttle to central Istanbul and then got a taxi (a metered one) from Taksim Square to our Airbnb apartment. What should have been a five minute cab ride took thirty minutes and the meter kept raising the fare. Diane began to yell at the taxi driver that he was just driving us around and around. He claimed he was taking us around a construction area and heavy traffic.

Although the meter displayed $40, after we got our bags out of the trunk, I handed him the equivalent of $10 in Liras and left him shouting at us as we melted into the crowd. Welcome to Istanbul!

After a short walk, as planned, we spotted Meredith and Elliot waiting in front of the Galata Towers. The tower is a tall, cylindrical structure with a cone on top and easy to spot from far away since it’s well over 200 feet high. What a great reunion it was to see them both in this unique and historic city.

We met the owner of our apartment in front of the building on a street full of electric supply stores. In the doorway of the building, a friendly Turkish fellow had a fruit and vegetable stand - that should make shopping for food a little easier, I thought.

The following day we made plans to visit the Suleymaniye Mosque, the Grand Bazaar and a few other sights. The walk across the Galata Bridge was colorful. Lots of people fishing, catching tiny fish that they seemed all too happy to catch.

At first glance, the Suleymaniye Mosque was very impressive with its large courtyard, four minarets (only sultans could build mosques with four minarets), lots of marble with an understated and delicate interior. Built for the Sultan Suleyman, the architect, Mimar Sinan, probably was considered to be one of the most talented of his time. He rose from the military ranks by constructing fortifications, roads, bridges, aqueducts and more and became the chief Ottoman architect. Today there are nearly fifty mosques just in Istanbul that were designed by Sinan.

Suleymaniye Mosque courtyard

Inside the Suleymaniye Mosque

The bazaar was colorful, busy and filled with the exotic aromas of spices as well as sweet smells from the colorful Turkish delights (candied sweets). With varied stall sizes, vendors were pitching everything from gold, silver and copper items to antiques and new electronics. There were carpet and fabric vendors galore. I’m reasonably sure one could have found anything of interest or need at the bazaar. It reminded us from our days in Iran, when on the weekend we would head out to the Tehran bazaar.

The Gand Bazaar

Spice vendors
Spices, nuts and sweets

An assortment of Turkish delights - figs filled with nuts 
Unfortunately, I started not to feel well, and after seeing the mosque and a little of the bazaar, I headed back to our apartment for a little R&R. Diane, Meredith and Elliot continued on, later coming home with some treasure troves.

On Sunday morning we took the tram across the Galata Bridge (crossing the Golden Horn) to take in the Sultanahmet neighborhood. This is where most of the tourist attractions are clustered. We headed to the Hippodrome. Although today it is no more than a elongated square, in the Byzantine days it was a place where horse racing occurred, a place where emperors would go watch race spectacles from special their boxes. Today all that is left from all that are two obelisks and a serpent column.

The two obelisks 
Next we walked to the underground Basilica Cistern. It’s an impressive, illuminated 6th century cistern not only because of its size but its architecture. Built by Emperor Justinian in 532 A.D. when Istanbul was known as Constantinople (Byzantine Era) to serve his palace. As you walk underground, you immediately notice the lit rows of huge marble columns. It’s quite a sight.

The lit columns in the cistern 

At the bottom level, there’s a walkway going through it, with more than a foot of water in it (with carp). At the far end of the walkway there are two statues of Medusa, one of its side and the other upside down. No one knows why they’re not right side up.

Statue of the snaky-haired Medusa

Eventually the cistern was abandoned and then rediscovered centuries later when someone noticed that local residents got their water by lowering buckets into holes in the floors of their houses.

From the cistern we made our way back to the Galata bridge and had a fish sandwich from one of the semi-permanently docked boats. It was crowded with locals with some tourists partaking in the culinary delights. It was a tasty meal that could have been a little better if the bones had been removed.

This boat where they cook the fish

After lunch we took a bus to an area north on the Bosphorus called Bebek (Elliot had been told by a friend that it was a nice area to walk around in). Although Bebek is an attractive bay that lies right along the Bosphorus, we found it to be extremely busy with cars and people. It is an affluent area, so there were lots of people trying to rub elbows with the Ferrari driving folks. We soon tired of the scene and headed back to our corner of Istanbul.

No comments:

Post a Comment