Sunday, June 13, 2010
OK, here it is. Over the last week or so, I've wondered exactly how to frame this post. Should I go into detail about Istanbul or should I sum up? I'm gonna opt for a summation. My trip, super-fabulous up until this time, became even better once I set foot in this amazing city. This is my fifth time to Istanbul, but I saw so many different sides of the wonderful metropolis, it was like I was there for the first time. Just in my first morning there, I took more pictures than I'd taken in all other places in both Ukraine and Turkey combined. Yeah, there is just that much to see and remember.
I did all of the standard tourist stuff: went to Topkapi Palace, went to the Grand Bazaar, took the Bosphorus cruise, strolled around the Hippodrome, etc., etc., but you know what? Those things are always excellent. Here's some advice: when staying in Istanbul, there's just one place to be. Here it is:
Sultanahmet is Istanbul's Belltown. But unlike Belltown, people are extremely friendly - perhaps the most welcoming in all of Turkey, I kid you not. Sure, some want to sell you carpets (more on that later), but most are just friendly. It takes a while to get used to, especially for a Seattleite coming from Ukraine. So basically, I was this even-keeled guy arriving from a very xenophobic country. I was deposited in the midst of all this friendliness. The thing is that people became even nicer as the trip wore on, culminating in the Sultanahmet experience. Sure, there are other districts where you can stay. Many prefer Taksim Square. Russians seem to flock to nearby Aksaray, but honestly, Sultanahmet is the absolute touristic bomb. If you can find a place with a roof terrace, all the better. The hostel where I was staying had a decent terrace, but by far, the best place was the Hotel Byzantium. Here's the evening versions of the Blue Mosque, Ayasofia and the Sea of Marmara:
Those views never get old. Like I said, this was my fifth time in Istanbul and I had a sensational stay.
Here are some photos from "museum day." I hit three major places in one day: Topkapi Palace, the Archaeological Museum Complex and Istanbul Modern. Unfortunately, they don't let you take photos at the last place, so you'll have to content yourselves with all this old stuff. Here goes:
And one last museum day item; this pretty much sums up Turkey's historical legacy. Here in the U.S., if a museum is lucky enough to have a shard of geometric pottery, well, that's an entire display case right there. Here's what you get at the Archaeological Museum:
Their entire mezzanine level is trays of pottery shards. I'm fairly certain that they have whole warehouses full of such items in and around Istanbul. There's so much history that they've run out of space to display it.
One thing I always do is take a Bosphorus cruise. Touristy, yes, but a wonderful way to recover from museum day. It all starts from Eminonu, which is this total chaotic jam of boats:
Ferries swoop in, linger a few minutes, then take off at full speed to other stops. The cruise that I took was actually by public ferry. It had five stops along the way. Our captain's landing technique was quite unique in that it involved ramming the dock. Well, that's one way of doing it. Here are some photos:
The place above, Anadolu Kavagi, is at the entrance to the Black Sea and exists only to serve people on the cruise lunch. If you feel so inclined, you can climb up to the castle. It was raining, so I camped out at a bar near the dock. The rain stopped and the trip back was gorgeous.
The rest of my stay was equally as tremendous. I really have to say, though, that my last day there was probably the best day I've had anywhere. Yes, among other things, I did spend an afternoon selling carpets - actually trying to sell carpets - with the owner of my hostel. He was really quite the salesman, but we didn't move any product. It was all very weird. The day actually got weirder from then on. Like I said in an earlier post, you'll just have to take my word for it, as I'll have to wait till everybody connected with all these events is dead. Yeah, it was that kind of last night there. I didn't sleep a wink and didn't need to. I had the kind of time that only one of the world's great cities can offer.
And then I came back to Seattle. More on that later.