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Published: April 29th 2016
: Our next door neighbor at the hotel had a small child who cried when they returned from dinner at 11:00 PM, so we did not sleep too well. Up for a great breakfast on the rooftop and a long conversation with the owner of the hotel. A very intelligent and quick individual who understands the economy and has done well in a HUGE downturn due to terror fears amongst tourist nations. He noted that he dropped his prices (we benefited tremendously) while other hotels kept their summer season price structure. The result is 80%!o(MISSING)ccupancy for this hotel and 20%!f(MISSING)or many others, with a norm of around 80-90%!i(MISSING)n other years. Very sad.
We saw the results of the downturn in tourism everywhere, with no lines at the Aya Sofia or crowds at the Grand Bazaar and Spice Market. We walked right into Aya Sofia and enjoyed the world the way it was 20 years ago with few tourists and lots of space to take pictures and enjoy the views and the mosaics. The space was impacted by scaffolding but so what, it is an extraordinary environment. We wandered and were again taken by the beauty of the
architecture and the uncovered mosaics from the time of Constantine IX. Outside there are some of pieces of the original structure from 550 AD. Quite incredible based on the size and complexity of the carved stones. After about 90 minutes we made our way to the street trolley and went down to Eminonu where the ferries come in and the New Mosque and Spice Market are located. We wandered around the garden market (lots of seedlings) and the bird market (lots of tweeting) and then proceeded into the Spice Market. Again we were amazed at how few tourists there were … and how many people accosted us to come into their shop for “special deals”. We loved their come-ons, including “you came back”, “we’ve been waiting for you”, “my store has just what you want”, “you haven’t been in my store yet”, and as we walked by “I am missing you already.” John’s hat caused some stir concerning cowboys, horses and baldness. There was even some salesperson at the bazaar who wanted to buy it and John proceeded to offer it for US$250 “and I am willing to bargain.” Some of their own medicine caused some wonderful conversation and even
some talk about the economy and tourism.
We stopped at one of the ottoman architect Sinan’s most impressive mosques, Rustem Pasa, near the Galata Bridge. It has the most beautiful Iznik tilework along with a octagonal structure with minimal support pillars. A calm spot in the midst of all the bazaar activity. From Rustem Pasa we made our way to one of our favorite restaurants, Hamdi, which has spectacular views of the harbor activity and terrific food. We ordered two different minced veal and lamb with spices as well as their special baklava, while watching the world go by. We ended up in another interesting conversation with our neighbors about the US and Sinan and the state of the economy. They invited us to dinner at their home and we politely refused as we were already tired from a morning of activity.
After another trolley ride we took a little rest and then went to look for a Turkish jacket for Peggy to wear when giving tours at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. It was a fun process and we found exactly what she wanted and more. We finished off the day with a drink at
the Four Seasons hotel bar where we played backgammon and chatted with other patrons, specifically an English attorney who wanted to know about Trump and what is happening in the US. We could only apologize and hope things will work out in the end … then walk home and go to bed.
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