Sunday Susan Wright, Vicki Buholz and I continued our adventure in Istanbul. After breakfast at our hotel (the buffet included olives, lunch meats, cheeses and boiled eggs and for Susan and Vicki, good coffee) we headed out to see Tokapi Palace. We walked out of our hotel and towards the Blue Mosque. There are tulips everywhere right now in Istanbul. It’s the national flower and there were red, white and yellow tulips planted tightly together, rising up through pansies and primroses and the effect is eye catching. Of course we also had to take quite a few photos on the way to the Palace! It was Easter Sunday and a gorgeous day, mid 70s, the nicest day of the nearly three weeks we were in Turkey…that was great…the enormous crowds were not so great. I’ve never seen so many people in Istanbul and the ones that weren’t in line to see the Hagia Sophia were apparently already inside Tokapi Palace. The ticket line wasn’t long but the queues to see the museum were. However, the Palace is situated by the Bosphorus, Sea of Marma and the Golden Horn, has gorgeous views of Istanbul and the water and the views on such a sunny day were perfect. It was interesting to feel how cool (temperature wise)the old Ottoman style buildings were, they are octagonal with super thick walls, double stained glass windows and tiled from floor to wall to ceiling. All the tile work is beautiful. A few hundred photos and a trip to the museum shop later we were off for lunch and a boat ride on the Bosphorous.
We had lunch at a traditional Turkish restaurant where we sat on low benches and ate traditional turkish bread cooked on a large flat round surface and filled with cheese, meat or vegetables. It tasted like a cross between a quesadilla and a crepe. It was a fun respite from the crowds, since we were there after 3pm.
Next stop was the Bosphorus. It was jam packed even to ask questions at the information booth and so we took a flier on going with someone hawking 90 minute Bosphorus tours. Vicki and Susan were a little worried, but went gamely along. We had a 5 minute van ride to the boat…which was small but still seated about 50 people. It seemed tiny compared to some of the huge ships in the busy Straight, and we were rocked by waves at times, but it all worked out fine. We saw some palaces along the way from the water, a lot of ferries, tour boats, and freighters. After we got back, we went (along with everyone who wasn’t still at the Tokapi Palace, Blue Mosque or Hagia Sophia) through a passage way densely populated with shops hawking their wares (including mechanical flying birds) to the Spice Market. There Susan was taking a photo when a seagull tagged her (and my vest which she was wearing). I was buying some pistachios at the stall next door and heard this cry and didn’t connect them till I saw her. Fortunately, Vicki had some cleaning wipes and got the damage out of her hair and sweater (the vest will need more attention). Susan was a good sport and we continued on, but the market was closing.
We decided to walk back to the hotel but on the way stopped first to try out the corn on the cob that was hawked everywhere, along with roasted chestnuts. Susan wisely, as it turned out, selected boiled corn; Vicki and I tried the roasted corn, which was interesting…very chewy, but perhaps not as sweet. Next stop was to buy some Turkish delight and baklava. We got a little farther and saw one of the many carts selling cups of fresh squeezed orange, pomegranate or grapefruit juice for either 1 lira (55 cents for orange or grapefruit) or 3 lira ($1.65, for pomegranate). One man was hawking the juice and taking the money, the other squeezing the fruit by hand and his arms looked very strong. The juice was very good. We were then going to head straight back to the hotel as we had to get up at 3am…but one more stop for shopping for Turkish souvenirs and Vicki and Susan bargained for plates and lamps.
One interesting word in Turkish is “USTA” which means: “n. master, expert, old hand, workman, craftsman, adept, artist, connoisseur, constructor, dab, dabster, hand, journeyman, proficient, shark, whizz”, so you see it everywhere…there’s a chain of baklava stores called “Ali USTA”!
We all arrived in good time at the airport early this morning, at 4am, and went our separate ways. I went into the Turkish Airlines lounge and it was amazing…you walk into a library with a pool table and there were different food areas…panini, eggs made to order, and everything literally from soup to nuts. It was a nice way to end my Istanbul stay.