Turkey 2013

NOTE:  When Sharon adds comments, they will be in {curly brackets}.  Comments added AFTER coming back to San Jose are in [square brackets].

 

Report 17. Day 17.  Monday, October 14, 2013. A Day in Istanbul.

NOTE:This is an enormous long report. Maybe take a nap first..

A preview of this report follows:

Below is a map overlaid with photography pins, showing the GPS location of almost all photos taken during the day. At lower right is the Asian-side ferry we picked up in Kadıköy‎. You see the northwesterly path, then curving down and southwest to our landing in Eminönü. We walk to the tram, then take it to a stop near a former hippodrome and the Blue Mosque. Then we transport to the Grand Bazaar, and finally walk to the Spice Bazaar. Finally, we take the tram back to Eminönü, the ferry to Kadıköy‎, where we have dinner. And finally we take a long, many-stop bus home, sitting on the second deck right in the front row, with seats fit for royalty. A great day. So sit back, relax and follow our travels, if you will. If you are human and alive, you will get tired of following our travels. When that happens call timeout, have a nap or something to return your mind to working order, then come back and finish. If you have it in you. Good luck.

/each red pin is one or more photos taken at that spot, using built-in camera GPS capability and automatic recording.

 

When we get to our ferry port in Bostanji‎, about 2/3rds the distance from our apartment to Kadıköy‎, our intention is to take a ferry to Kadıköy‎, then another ferry to the European side. But it's the start of a bayram (Turkish word for holiday), and today the ferry is not stopping here. So Tara gets us to a taxi dolmus, which is a large van. Everybody has a seat. There is another bus in Turkey, very common and very popular, called just a dolmuş, which is superpacked, and after the seats are filled, people stand. They are cheaper, slower, and way more crowded than we want to experience. Anyway, our taxi delivers us to the ferry terminal at Kadıköy‎, and it's a beautiful day for photos. {This is the big day we planned for Rachael and us to tour old Istanbul}

 

Tara has a reloadable transportation card, which she waves four times at the turnstiles and gets us all through, then onto the boat, after waiting for it to unload all the incoming passengers. Our gate opens and off we go, to the upper deck and outside, so we have no windows between our cameras and the scenery. Rachel and Tara are right next to a rail. As we head out, we pass a colorful light.

 

This used to be the train building, and was to be torn down, but the new idea now is to save it and use it as a station for the new fast train being built. I love the colorful tugboats that ply the harbors of Turkey.

 

We leave the harbor and begin our journey up the coastline on the Asian side, which you see below. A container ship is being loaded, below.

 

Very soon, we get good views of Topkapı Palace, and another tugboat, pushing water before it. There are gulls everywhere.

 

We approach the European terminal, passing a big cruise ship, and have great views of a nearby mosque -- but not one of the two famous ones..

 

The waterfront is a great photography and taxi center.

 

After disembarking, we walk a bit, get a tram to a former hippodrome/chariot race track, and get a nice view of the Blue Mosque's minarets beyond a fountain. After finding and using a semi-permanent toilet setup on the side of a hill. The area below the steps is enclosed with panelling and we hear a kitten, who has gotten itself trapped inside. The hole he used to get in is a long distance from where he is now, and we don't know cat for "You have to go back to the hole you came through," so we finish at the rest rooms and amble on. {Hard to leave that kitten mewling so plaintively.}

 

We like this cascading series of pools ending in a one-shot fountain below. Then we come to a thin, very long race-track-shaped oval, {The hippodrome}where the long parts are straight, not curved like in an actual oval. The key feature here is a very old obelisk, carved from a single piece of granite, which you see below. There is another obelisk behind it.

 

Sharon gets a shot of the obelisk story, and below you can see the intricate characters carved into the sides.

 

Sharon takes a closeup photo of the carving and of the base, which contains 30-40 heads. Count them if you like. {An egyptian obelisk set on a Roman base.}

 

The sun is backlighting a minaret, making my photo look black-and-white. Sharon displays another object, but I'm not sure what it is. Probably something about the world going round and round. {Not too sure, but I think the Romans melted down some greek bronzes and made this spiral coumn which used to have gold? figures on top that were stolen or put into a museum.}

 

Below you see the courtyard containing the big obelisk, known as the Egyptian Obelisk, and the other one, known as the Walled Obelisk.

 

You can see above and below lots of irregularly-placed holes. These were used to secure bronze plating around the obelisk.

 

As we continue around the old hippodrome, Sharon likes an old house.

 

Next are a series of stores. One sells earrings and harem pants, as I have named them.

 

Through iron grillwork, we can see the grounds of the Blue Mosque, which borders the hippodrome.

 

We continue till we come to the main entrance to the courtyard. I love the black and white and red of the couple pushing their baby carriage through the entrance.

 

We enter and Sharon likes the old, old doors. As we go inside, I like the ceilings of the arcade along the perimeter of the courtyard.

 

Sharon can't get enough of old doors, and there is something magnetic about them. Well, not magnetic maybe, perhaps splinted, er splendid. One of the minarets is gorgeous against the brilliant blue sky from the courtyard.

Wait! What? Shaon hears first the sound of a type of bird we've seen in more reasonable locations. She points upward, and I see it too. It's green and it's a parrot or parakeet. We will check tonight and see if we can get an ID. We surely already have this species.

 

The gold lettering overhead shines in the sunlight. {Most of these are verses from the Q'uran} We are going into the mosque and to do that, we have to exit the courtyard through the doors you see below, temporarily inhabited by three familiar faces.

 

Before I exit the courtyard, I get a shot across the grounds of one of the arcades, with its tall ceilings and cool roof. {The outlying buildings used to be hospitals, schools, libraries and such which form the entireity of the mossque. Now some are museums.}I then pass through the doors, and catch the view of a minaret towering overhead, with a nearby tree supplying picturesque greenery.

 

This is that tree. Sharon loves old trees, and is probably wondering how many doors can be made from it. We then come to a slow-down, where people do two things. 1) All shoes come off, go into plastic bags, which we carry through the mosque interior. 2) All women must wear scarves over their head. They supply scarves for those who don't have their own. You can see the transparent plastic package the man in the white shirt is holding in his left hand as he enters the mosque, underneat the rolled up canvas of the doorway.

 

Inside is beautiful, between the stained glass windows, arches and domes, with lots of blue tile work. In fact, Sharon tells me, it's not the dome color that gives the Blue Mosque its name, but rather the blue tiles famous from Izmit. {Only foreigners call this the Blue Mosque. Turks call it by its proper name Sultanahmet Mosque, named after the Sultan who commissioned it.}

 

Below and above, you can see the wonderful deep red carpet we are walking on.

 

There are lots of wires hanging from the ceiling above to hold up different arrangements of ironwork. I love how they form the shape below, right.

 

Sharon shoots one of the huge columns used to support the ceiling. She says where the column contacts the floor is known as an elephant's foot. Tara watches a man walk up to a column, slap it a couple of times, bang the bottom of his fist on it, then nod his head a couple of times as if to say, "Yep, good job."

 

I blew up this panaorama to give a big overview of the interior. Notice all the electric lights, hung from the ceiling, or from structures which themselves are hung from the ceilings.

 

NOTE: THIS IS A GOOD PLACE TO TAKE A BREAK.

As we exit the mosque, we get a wonderful view of the Hagia Sophia, or Aya Sofya in Turkish, framed by an exit arch from the Blue Mosque. Sharon gets this excellent shot of palm tree leaves in the foreground and the big mosque beyond.

 

We walk around a bit, taking in the scenery. {The Aga Sophia is closed today as it is Monday and all museums are closed.}

 

This looks like a support for a giant wall door from ages past. At right is a sidewalk with various cities and distances in kilometers. We can't help but notice the one that says, "NAIROBI 8560." {This is the "Million" column, all that is left of an arch that was the beginning of the Roman road out of Constaninople. All distances in Roman travel were marked from this arch and now the sidewalk lists distances to many cities from here.}

 

We get a kick out of the signpost showing distances and directions (we engineers sometimes call these vectors) to faraway cities. Our tram will look like the one below, not going in our direction.

 

We take our tramride, then get out near the Grand Bazaar. There is a curious stone tower with metal backets shoring it up. Some ruins I imagine. And then we come to the entrance to the Grand Bazaar. I ask the ladies to stop for a photo.

 

Our immediate objective, upon entry, is to find a restaurant that Tara knows about -- named Havuzlu , which means 'pool'. There is a pool just outside the restaurant. We get instructions from several different sources, as we work our way through, and finally wind up at Havuzlu. We are directed to the ordering place and my order is donêr and mashed potatoes. "Look, Mom, just like home. Meat and potatoes. Heaven. I'm in heaven...".

A group of people come in after we're seated and have our food, and there's a lady with a hat I can't quite believe. I lean way out into the aisle to see around a column to get the photo below. It looks a little like, well, like nothing I've quite seen. So this is something that can definitely use a caption.

At right is a rug which grabs one's attention by its uniqueness. {It is different colors of cowhide woven into this beautiful design.}

 

 

Then we get to the jewelry shopping. Tara and Cihan have this great friend, Murat, who gives them the best prices possible, and by association, he gives them to us also. Awesome. His English is excellent as are his manners and attention to us.

 

As we're exiting the store, on our way to the Spice Bazaar, we stop at the store of an old friend of Tara and Cihan's also, and I remember him from 2000. His name is Timucin. He supplied Tara with pashminas --elegant cashmere scarves, when she was in that business for a while, about ten years ago..

 

I'm getting pooped so I have a seat at a little cafe and I order a soft drink. I like the golden light of the ceiling area. When the women finish with their purchases at another nearby shop, they come over to pick me up, so we can move on. {Do you remember from the last James Bond movie when they drove motorcycles on the roof of the Grand Bazaar and then through the bazaar itself? Wonder how they got all these peope out of here?}

 

Sharon bargained hard for her purchases, and could not get the final % off she wanted, but the guy did contributed a scarf, folded as a carrier for her purchases. We head out, and on the way, Rachel sees something, "Hey, Guys," she yells. I see what she has seen and I call everybody back. She has spotted something very cool that I can't describe in case the person she is buying it for is reading these words. Anyway, good eyes, Rachel! We continue on, toward the exit.

 

We pass through the entrance, and I turn around and capture a shot of that. Wait. Did I already do that on the way in. I think I did. Oh well...

 

So now we're out, and heading for a tram ride which will take us to the Spice Bazaar.

A man runs up, takes my hat off and puts on my head a leather Harley Davidson cap that's about 3 sizes too big. "Looks good!" he proclaims. We keep walking. I take the hat off and say it's too big. The guy doesn't want to let us go. "Yok," says Sharon meaning "no". "What's this 'Yok'? yells the guy. "No Yok. Give me your money!" He finally gives up though, without our money.

Fascinating masks stop my camera.

 

At one point we pause, and as we're waiting, I say, "Hey look, there's the Texas Cafe." They look up and say, "No, that's Teras Cafe." "What the...?" I exclaim, because when I look up it indeed says "Teras Cafe." I blink, and the wind puts the wrinkle back in, making it again say Texas Cafe again. Ah, nice trick. After some more travel, we come to the Spice Bazaar, as seen in the plaque below right.

 

Tara leads us through the bazaar until we come to the shop below. At first, I don't know why she has chosen this shop, but it is very neat and orderly, and a young woman with excellent English helps us buy the things we want. Sharon clicks off the colorful pictures of this store.

 

Tara then tells me that the woman below left, inherited the store from her parents who retired, at the age of 25 (the daughter, seen here). She went to school in Turkey and the U.S. and it seems to me is a marketing genius. She and her younger brother together own and run the shop. She had a tough time in the beginning, in an almost all-male world of the spice business. At first they didn't take her seriously, but with her intuition, training and personality, she became well known and the business is now thriving.

 

Her store sells saffron at 25TL per gram. In 2008, Tara, Sharon and I drove through the town of Saffronbolu, where saffron is made on one of our Turkey trips. I learned that to get the saffron, skilled workers remove the three stamen from the crocus flower, and that's why it's so expensive. Very labor intensive. Anyway, Sharon shot this photo of a crocus flower, showing the stamens. Hmmm. What's the plural of stamen? Stamen or stamens? I don't know. Look it up, I say to myself. I look it up, and am surprised to learn that there are two plurals -- stamens, as one might guess, and stamina, which one might not guess. It's true. You can look it up.

 

We finally exit the Spice Bazaar, and the setting sun lights up the view.

 

We hear a pop, pop, pop, and it turns out to be a fellow who sells balloons. {At the end of the day it appears that he just pops the balloons he doesn't sell.} Oops. We make it to our ferry, and it seems packed. Nevertheless, we climb to the top deck, go out, and again there are seats in the open air, but with a roof overhead. Excellent. I get a great shot of a pontoon plane flying low over our heads.

 

I click off shots as fast as I can while there's still great light. We soon take off. Sharon looks happy, tired and windblow. Just look at that smile.

 

The sun makes the ferry below look like it's made of gold. I like the dark gull forms in front of the lighter mosques, in the distance.

 

We go buy the Maiden's Tower, and before you know it, we enter our harbor at Kadıköy‎.

 

Rachel beams from the excellent day we've had. I scoop up all the sunset shots I can.

 

This weird structure normally supports a big balloon ride. Tara says you get into a basket and the hotair balloon takes you up from inside this structure. Looks like a big antenna.

 

We stop for dinner, and upon leaving, I like these owl figures in a shop across the alleyway.

 

Sharon is intrigued: Do Lays Klasik taste the same as Lays Classic? At right, Sharon clicks this shot of Tara and Rachel across the aisle, and of me using a new GPS app called Sygic on my iPhone as we are sitting in the front seats of the double decker bus that takes us home.

 

The bus leaves us off a few blocks from our apartment, but the weather is wonderful and it feels good to walk in the fresh air, after sitting in the bus for a while. We consult my Sygic app at first, to get our bearings.

After we get back to the apartment, Rachel checks her pedometer, and it says that we walked 6 miles during the day. I believe it.

Sharon gets online and googles Blue Mosque Parrot, and What Ho, Cried Daniel: It's a Rose-ringed Parakeet, also called a Ring-necked Parakeet. And you know what? WE DON'T HAVE IT YET!!! A lifer. Outstanding!!! Write it down, Bob.

So for today, that's our story, and we're sticky toffee,
Bob


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