Istanbul - Day 2

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January 5th 2013
Published: January 6th 2013
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We didn't sleep too badly overnight. We slept until about midnight/1.00am and then managed another stretch until about 4.30am. After than we only dozed until about 6.00am when we gave up on sleeping and decided to write some more of the travel diary and process some of yesterday's photos.

About 7.00am we hit the shower before venturing down to the mezzanine level for breakfast. After a quick breakfast we headed back to our room to put on several layers of clothing to go out sightseeing for the day. The trouble is that it is so warm in the room we feel really uncomfortable layering up our clothes. Of course that only lasts until we step out the front door!

In fact this morning, by the time we had topped up our travel card at a kiosk around the corner from the hotel, I had to say to Bernie that I wanted to go back to the room to pick up an extra layer. After this pit stop I had four layers on my top half - thermal top, light merino jumper, wind fleece vest and my raincoat (plus a scarf around my neck) - but at least I felt like I would now be warm enough to survive the day.

Our first stop this morning was Topkapi Palace, built by Mehmet II as his main residence between 1459 and 1465 following his conquest of Constantinople (Istanbul). The palace is a series of pavilions arranged around four courtyards. It is said that his aim was to create in stone a permanent structure that paid tribute to the tent encampments of his forebears.

The entire complex is certainly vast and impressive and includes a number of sumptuous pavilions that were added by successive sultans. There are many royal artefacts - robes, jewels, weapons and even jewel-encrusted water bottles - on display in the Treasury buildings. The Pavilion of the Holy Mantle holds several of Islam's holiest relics.

To find our way to the harbour we followed the tramline down hill from the palace. Bernie thought that was the safest bet because he knew that the tram goes down to the harbour. It would be very easy to become lost in the maze of streets here!! We walked past a window where a woman was making gözleme, so we decided it was lunchtime. We both became very keen on Turkish pancakes when we were staying at the resort in Torba last year.

It was lovely and warm in the restaurant, but we were seated on cushions at low tables which was not all that comfortable for us. I realised too late there were tables and chairs that we probably could have asked to be seated at!! Despite having to eat while lounging on the floor (neither of us can sit comfortably cross-legged) we enjoyed our gözleme.

We continued our walk along the tramline and eventually arrived at the ferry terminal on the Bosphorus. Our next challenge was to find the kiosk selling the Bosphorus Cruise on the ferry rather than be conned into buying a more expensive cruise on one of the tourist boats. We finally found the right place at the end of the harbour nearest to the Galata Bridge. Just 10 Turkish Lira each for the two hour short circle cruise.

It was very cold, but we decided to sit out on the stern because this end of the ferry was in the sun. With the sun shining on us it was tolerably cold!! As we waited to depart we were watching dozens of men fishing from the Galata Bridge. They were standing shoulder to shoulder all along the bridge. It looked like it is a very popular pastime to fish from the bridge on a Saturday afternoon. Surely they must tangle their lines from time to time - they are just so close together.

At 2.30pm we set sail with the boat surrounded by seagulls. It seemed that some of the passengers were on board to feed the seagulls rather than see the sights??! As a consequence our photos all include lots of seagulls ... at the moment. I'm guessing Bernie might be going to do something about that in Photoshop!! Our cruise took us past the Galata Tower, Dolmabahçe Palace, Ortaköy Mosque (currently shrouded for restoration works!), the Bosphorus Bridge, Beylerbeyi Palace and the Göksu Pavilion. And then the ferry turned around and we were in the shade - so we went inside where it was warm for the return journey.

Back at the ferry terminal we walked along the harbour front and then over the Galata Bridge where we discovered that the fishermen were catching sardines ... and, oh boy, did it smell fishy!! On the Asian end of the bridge we walked up the hill to the Galata Tower arriving there just before sunset. Hmmn, this afternoon might have been a better opportunity for a sunset photo of the Blue Mosque??! But, we can't be in two places at one time and tonight the plan is to look out over Istanbul as it lights up.

Not the only ones with this plan, we joined on the end of the queue of people waiting to enter the tower. Fortunately the queue was moving along fairly quickly and as the sky turned indigo on the cusp of sunset we found ourselves looking out over the sparkling lights of Istanbul which was spectacular. The viewing platform is very narrow so no tripods are allowed (not that we had been carrying tripods around all day!) so we rested our cameras on the posts and rails around the platform to try to take some reasonably steady night time photos of the enchanting city of Istanbul.

After jostling our way around one circuit of the tower's top we headed back down to street level where Bernie guided us to one of the city's best rooftop bar/restaurants. Thank goodness he had the GPS map app on the iPhone to assist!

We wandered down increasingly deserted (and steep) residential streets, that seemed to be taking us a long way from the tourist routes, until we found this completely nondescript door that was the Kumbaraci Yokusu 57 we were looking for. We climbed a flight of stairs, caught a tiny lift, climbed another flight of stairs and arrived at Leb-i-Derya. We enjoyed our dinner watching the ferries criss-crossing the Bosphorus with a backdrop of city lights which was quite beautiful.

After dinner we walked back down the hill to the tramline. Fortunately we only had to wait a short while in the cold for a tram to arrive. The trams seem very efficient with trams (like our light rail) coming along every few minutes. The trams are quite crowded, usually with standing room only, but tonight we managed to sit down on our way back to the hotel.

Flagging again after being out and about all day, it was pretty much straight to bed for me for another early night!! Bernie was able to stay awake long enough to process a few photos before he called it a night.

Steps for the day: 21,389 (14.59 km)

Note: Fitbit already had 4,956 steps on it when I put it on this morning. No idea how or why unless it went out on its own during the night?? Or perhaps it's having trouble adjusting to a new time zone? Anyhow, today's steps are probably about 5,000 overstated!!

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