Istanbul: Ramadan 2013, part II

(Click here for part I)

Even though we only spent three nights in Istanbul, we managed to make the most out of it. The first day we arrived there we were dead-tired, because we reached the city by bus from Alexandroupolis. It was a night-long trip with frequent stops at the borders for passport checks. Still, once we arrived to the hotel and had breakfast, we were revived. Plus, we had about four hours to kill until check-in time.

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That is the garden of the hotel, where we had our breakfast. Great hotel, by the way. We totally recommend it: http://www.sarnichotel.com/

So after the breakfast we went to the Basilica Cistern and the Blue Mosque and then we had lunch to a nice place serving humus and dolma filled with rice. Nothing special, but we were not hungry any more. Then we met about a thousand guides asking us if we would be interested in a Bosporus boat tour and one of them convinced us to book one. Here is what we saw:

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That thing on top is the tent of the ship. It was quite windy and moving around for the best shot wasn't exactly easy.

That thing on top is the tent of the ship. It was quite windy and moving around for the best shot wasn’t exactly easy.

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The next day we took a bus tour. Even though I always made fun of the double-decker tourist buses in Athens, I have to admit that the Istanbul one was worth it. We managed to see places that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise or that would cost us a fortune to get there by taxi. There are different lines with a different focus and you can hop-on and off in specific stops. We didn’t do that though, as we were afraid of delays of the next bus (hours started the trip 45′ after the time they told us it would). Here are some bad bus pictures. Keep in mind that buses go FAST.

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That it the Pierre Loti Hill. You can go up there by cable car and it has a cafe with great views. We didn’t go though.

I think that after that we went to Agia Sofia (but we talked about it already in pt.I) and then we went to the Grand Bazaar (Kapali Çarşı). It also has a website! It is a covered market with many corridors, full of vendors of spices, scarves, antiques, coffee, jewels and all sorts of unidentified objects. I love it because it is loud and vibrant. Keep in mind that the vendors here expect you to ask for a lower price. If you don’t, they will be almost disappointed. Offering to pay half the price is a good start. Here you can find many cute souvenirs for as little as 1 Turkish lira (less than 50 euro cents). You can also visit the Egyptian Spice Bazaar, which is located closer to the Galata Bridge. I am not sure which pictures are from which Bazaar here, to be honest.

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Our last day started out with our feet hurting and feeling exhausted from all the previous days of our vacation. We went to Topkapi palace and had to take several brakes, to keep going.

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Then, in the evening we decided to go ON FOOT from Agia Sofia to Taksim square because, as N. put it “If there is trouble in Taksim, we can smell the fumes in the air and hear the noise of the crowd and go back, but if a taxi takes us in the center of Taksim, we have no way out”. It seemed reasonable at the time.

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BUT LOOK HOW FAR IT IS! And another thing the map does not point out is the elevation of the ground. Steep, steeeep streets… BUT, we did it! And I have to admit it was a great walk. Taksim was quiet, impressive and beautiful.

On the way to Taksim

On the way to Taksim

On the way to Taksim 2

On the way to Taksim 2

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Then we walked down Istiklal avenue (İstiklâl Caddesi). This is a commercial street, full of stores of world famous brands. But the secret lies in all the vertical little streets that go downhill. They are full of little restaurants, bars and pubs and have a unique character of their own. We sat in one of those for a glass of whine and kept walking downhill.

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And then, after a long walk -BOOM!- the Galata tower just shows up in front of us! Without even planning it.

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We walked back home, tired but satisfied, full of images, sounds, smells, colors, emotions.

Goodnight Istanbul. Till we meet again, I will miss you.

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