Saturday, June 09, 2007

Istanbul Day Two

Amazing day. It is so beautiful out. Breezy and sunny. We walked the whole old city. Our hotel has the greatest staff that are so willing to give us suggestions and Seda at the front desk draws what she calls "funny little maps" for us so we can be sure not to get lost. After a breakfast of yogurt, cucumbers, tomatoes, cheese, olives and various homemade breads and sweets we headed off on foot for the Basilica Cistern. Of course everyone wants to know where we’re from, how many kids we have and they speak EVERY language. Afterwards it’s the mandatory…”Come have a coffee of tea in my carpet shop. Just look of course, don’t need to buy…today.” We’ve tried just about every language we know how to say hello in and they speak it all. When I said “konichawa” the salesman broke out in fluent Japanese. So our standard answer has become, “Planet Earth” which confuses the hustlers long enough for us to make a quick getaway.

The Cistern is wild. Under ground and built in 532. It supplied water for the palace and when the Ottomans invaded they did not know of its existence. There are fish swimming around and water dripping from the roof.

Around the corner is the Hagia Sophia. It is under construction but nevertheless quite beautiful, the supreme church of Byzantine empire. The mosaics are breathtaking.
We couldn’t enter the Blue Mosque because is was noon and prayer time People were washing their feet outside, We then walked from there to the Topkapi Palace home of the sultans. The layout reminded us of the Forbidden City in Beijing with it many layers. The Harem was particularly interesting, another beautiful jail, and the tales of conniving concubines even more interesting.

On to the Spice Market. Uh oh … food. I want everything! The spices, olives, cheeses, Turkish Delight and lots of souvenirs much less expensive than the Grand Bazaar. Many locals shop here and we plan to go back. The pounds I gained looking at the food came off on the walk uphill to the hotel. Off to dinner…

Cocktails at 360. First through the metal detector, then on to the lovely terrace. It’s a bit touristy but the views are so beautiful and food seems reasonably priced. Drinks however cost more than the meals. Pashminas are handed out to help with the chill and men as well as women were wearing them. Nice touch! This is a new area of town for us. It is quite modern compared to where we are staying.

We walked a few streets up to a restaurant called Leb-I Derya in the Richmond Hotel. Food was good and view was magnificent once again. This city is so beautiful at night, We stopped at the desk to ask for a cab and we heard the desk clerk say on the phone “you are speaking Spanish…I don’t speak Spanish”. Raf took the wake-up call for six AM and relayed the message to the clerk.