One of the things that struck me about the sites in Istanbul is the amazing tile work. While I know that we were seeing the locations where the rich and powerful were, and we were seeing some of the best examples, it was still very impressive and very interesting. Also, not what I was expecting for some reason! I would love to see where the tiles are made on my next Turkey trip!
We started the day with a trolley ride over to Taksim Square. To get to the square from the trolley we had to take an underground funicular up the hill. It was the first one that I have been in that is underground. The square itself is not very interesting but when you begin to walk down towards the Galata Tower down Istiklal Cd. you find that you are walking along a major shopping street. The first half is just your typical shopping street, but towards the tower it begins to get much more boutique and interesting. We even found an Obey Giant sticker. Beth and I had just seen one of Shepard Fairey’s shows in Moscow so that was a pretty cool find. This is also the point where I realized that I don’t really look closely at street art, but Beth does!
We stopped for lunch at the Guney Restaurant very near to the tower. We had a nice meal and Beth made a new animal friend!
After lunch we got in line for the tower. After about an hour’s wait we made it to the front of the line and went to the top of the tower. It was very crowded and because the sky was hasy we couldn’t see as far as is probably possible but it was a nice view of the area. It was cool to see how all of the mosques in that part of the city related to each other geographically. The tower was used as a fire observation tower.
We decided to walk back to our hotel and chill for a while. The walk down from the tower to the water was through yet another interesting neighborhood. Then we walked across the bridge where it seemed you could rent fishing equipment and fish right off of the bridge. It seemed to be a popular spot!
After a bit of a rest and recharge we walked down to see the Whirling Dervishes. These are the followers of Rumi a 13th century Persian poet and theologian. The experience was one of an audience watching a prayer ceremony. The dervishes whirl on one foot in a series of movements. The purpose is to get into a trance like state of being. It was a very interesting experience to watch.
We decided to go to the bazaars today. The Spice Bazaar was very similar to the market I went to in Oman the Muttrah Souq. There are small stalls lining the aisles where nearly anything you want as far as turkish sweets, spices or trinkets can be found. It is very well lit and has wide hallways. While we were there we walked up onto some sort of filming. It was funny because I was like “hide, hide now!” and Beth was like “what there’s a camera? Point the way!”
Next we went to the Grand Bazaar where I was hunting for some specific beads for a friend and Beth was hunting for carpets. Well I found my beads and I ended up buying 2 carpets! Beth bought 0 carpets! I was not looking for nor in need of carpets! I tried not to buy them but when the carpet spends 20 minutes saying “look at me” well that’s how you end up buying a carpet!
One of the funny things that happened in the bazaar was that more than once the vendors looked at me and started speaking in Turkish. After the second one did it we finally realized that they thought I was Turkish and taking my non Turkish friend around the market!
We began the day by going to the Şerefiye Cistern that was across the street from our hotel the Sultanhan Hotel. The cistern has only recently been opened and serves as an even hall and art exhibition site. This cistern is much better lit, than the Basilica Cistern, so it was easier to see what it was like in the past. Also to see its scale! The cistern was built by Roman Emperor Theodosius II between 428 and 443 to store water supplied by the Valens Aqueduct and is 45 by 25 metres (148 by 82 ft) in size and supported by 32 marble columns about 9 metres (30 ft) high.
The roof From the outside
We then walked to the Süleymaniye Mosque which I am glad we visited. This is the first mosque site that we went to that was fully opened and not under renovation, and it was beautiful. The mosque is very near to the Istanbul University so the neighborhood was super interesting with wooden houses which I didn’t expect because they looked like they would have fit right in a beach town in the US.
You can just see the pointy top of the Galata Tower.
The day ended with a flight to Izmir airport and a taxi ride to Kusadasi. Even though it was dark I could tell that the area looked a lot like Sardinia, the landscape, the houses, everything!