Turkey: Istanbul Day 3

Sun setting over the Galata Tower
Hanging chandelier at ground floor of Aya Sofia

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1 September 2009:
Today is a mixture of sightseeing and chores. One of the plan of this trip was to switch hotels in Istanbul. The idea is not to experience all the hotels in the vicinity of Sultanahmet, but rather, to move around to get a different vantage point of all the landmarks of the city. It is possible, within some tolerance, to determine if a hotel terrace has a good view in Google Earth. Sometimes it works, sometimes there is a building in the way. So it only makes sense that I stay in 3-4 hotels during this trip. The next two days I will be taking day trips out of Istanbul, so it is only making sense that I move to a hotel that allows me to move around to the otogar or the ferry pier easily early in the morning.

0852hrs: Paid 170TL for the hotel and on my way to Aya Sofia for this morning’s trip. It is starting to rain so it is no fun. It did rain overnight, wet roads and all visible this morning. My window was opened all night long and I was lucky not to drench out the whole room. Woke up early in the morning by the morning Fajr prayer calls from countless mosques in the area. In my state of early morning concussion, I was still able to find my audio recorder in the darkness and recorder the prayer wars between mosques. I wouldn’t politically call it ‘fighting’ but it does seem like there is a small element of rivalry there. But overall the plan for this trip to Istanbul has turned out well, walked the city when the weather was fine in the last few days and just as the weather turned bad, I’ve only got the interiors of Aya Sofia left to go through today. Plus some time wasting walkabouts this afternoon.

0901hrs: Queue for Aya Sofia is already relatively long despite the rain, and mainly made up of private tour groups with special tickets ready. On the way in the entrance is strewn (not exactly true, there are some elements of orderly arrangement) with pieces of the old building that was supposed to be here before the current one was build. I spent a little more time than the tour groups checking all the pieces out , architecturally it seems rather roman, carved marble slabs, columns and arches are all over the place. But if the previous temple was all stone, I wonder how it got burnt down.

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Turkey: Istanbul Day 2

Morning on Day 2
31 August 2009:

0850hrs: Early morning today. Out of the hotel and out to take the tram. Line T1 passes right outside the hotel in Sultanahmet, 3 minutes walking at the most. Was hoping to pick up the Akbil stored value key fob thingy but the ticket office was closed. And the only place selling the tokens required was a corner coffee shop. The sun is out in full force, and when the tram arrived, it was hot as a sauna inside. Evidently the airconditioning stopped working today. Or this is as typical as airconditioning in europe, which is most of the time, not working as well as it should. Which is very unfortunate as I’ve never boarded a tram and drip wet in sweat while inside. Anyway, destination is Yusufpasa and then transfering to Metro line M1 at Aksaray and going to the Istanbul Otogar.

Early Morning in Sultanahmet

The interchange at tram stop Yusufpasa requires leaving the station and passing an old mosque, Murat Pasa Camii (1493AD) with old islamic tombstones that look big enough to be middle age european tomb stones. Anyway, 100m is all it takes to walk over to the Aksaray metro station. Another token is required.

Plain shoplots close to Yusufpasa Tram stop

Murat Pasa Mosque

Aksaray Metro Station

Istanbul Metro

Metro M1 is not that bad. Was expecting filthy and oily smelling european equivalent. Its somewhere between that and a modern asian metro train. I’d say it is half dodgy. Coloured bright orange, just to state its utilitarian existence. Either that or it is made so that people can tell they’re in a Metro and not just some tiled up boring government building. Good news is that a tram token (jeton) also works here at the turnstiles. They look the same anyway, which leads me to the simplified conclusion that the tram and metro has the same owner/operator. Kuala Lumpur: learn from this!

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Turkey: Istanbul Day 1

Turkish Flag at Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
The Bosphorus and Anatolia from Topkapi Palace

30 August 2009:
Had running nose a few days before the trip and on the verge of getting fever. Not such a good idea in this day and age. However, I was recommended a a lifesaver tablet – Actifed to handle the runny nose, with a pleasant side effect where it knocks you out cold. Took it 30mins before the flight and I was sleeping all the way. Had to wake up in Dubai, thanks to the landing, but was asleep again once we took off.

0805hrs: Arrived at Istanbul IST, early in the morning. As I was able to sleep all the way, even with the time difference, I was all full of energy and can’t wait to start the day. I’ve got a small little backpack in the cargo hold, so waiting at the conveyor belt number 3 for my lone backpack to emerge. Not too much time to take in whatever atmosphere is here at the airport, I’m just thinking about checking into a hotel, get a nice shower and then start wandering around Sultanahmet.

0839hrs: Arranged for a hotel pickup since I’m not in the mood to take a taxi. While waiting for the car to arrive, was able to chat with the caretaker over a cup of tea. This is my first cup of authentic Turkish tea made by a Turk, and it tastes like any ol standard Lipton tea left to brew for a long time so that it is thick.

On Kennedy Ave next to the sea of Marmara

The trip from the airport to Sultanahmet is quite scenic in itself. I have been going through the satellite maps of the route a few times, and I could tell which road the driver was taking. The view over the Sea of Marmara with what looks like oil tankers from the Balkans are just confirmation that I’m finally here. I don’t get to see too many large ULCCs here, perhaps because it has to squeeze through the small-ish Bosphorus straits.

The first thing one does in old Istanbul is to stumble upon Sultanahmet Square

Sultanahmet Mosque from the park

Continue reading “Turkey: Istanbul Day 1”

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