And on the fourth day ... It snowed!! (Istanbul - Day 4)

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January 7th 2013
Published: January 7th 2013
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Brrr, it is really, really, really cold today!! Saturday was positively mild by comparison. We met Yalcin and our driver in the foyer about 9.15am this morning and headed to Topkapi Palace. We had much better weather when we visited on Saturday morning, today it started to snow not long after we arrived!

Although we had already seen the palace we were happy to go back for a return visit. We didn't hire audio guides on Saturday because we knew that we would be back on Monday with our tour guide. Sure enough, Yalcin was able to tell us about the history of the palace and we even saw some things that we missed on Saturday. At the weekend, when we went through the building housing the royal weapons and armour we didn't notice all of the information about the building having being built over the top of an earlier Byzantine Basilica.

From Topkapi Palace we walked over to the Blue Mosque in the snow. It was still a bit too early for visitors to be admitted so we continued on to the Hippodrome, the Byzantine chariot racetrack. I think I started to turn blue as Yalcin told us all about its great monuments. Finally we retreated to a cafe for hot drinks so that we could thaw out a bit. The snow's quite pretty to watch from the window of a warm building. It's just not very pleasant to be outside in it!!

After warming up a bit we headed back to the Blue Mosque so that we could finally see all of the blue Iznik tiles that adorn its interior. Known in Turkish as the Sultan Ahmet Cammi, the mosque was commissioned by Sultan Ahmet when he was only 19. With a main dome that is 23.5 metres in diameter and 43 metres high supported on four giant columns five metres in diameter the interior is quite spectacular.

Our next stop was lunch. We were all so cold that we chose very hearty lunches. The girls all had the layered eggplant, chicken and mashed potato dish while Bernie opted for the beef stew. Yalcin had chicken and chips!!

After lunch we went back to the Egyptian Bazaar. Today we even made a few purchases. We bought some original Turkish Delight made from pistachios and honey - rather than the jelly-like Turkish Delight that neither of us like. I also bought a mug so that I can use my immersion heater to make tea in our room. Our final purchase was some red pistachios with lemon salt. He wanted us to buy a kilo, but we settled on 300 grams.

Our final stop for the afternoon was the Süleymaniye Mosque. This Mosque was the creation of the Ottoman Empire's greatest architect, Sinan. Süleymaniye Camii was built in 1550-57 for Süleyman I. We had to take our shoes off to visit both of the mosques. Rather than having to leave our shoes on a rack outside, we were able to put our shoes into a plastic bag and carry them with us. This removed any worry that our shoes might be gone when we returned for them!!! But today it was a challenge taking our shoes off and putting them back on outside the mosque while keeping our socks dry.

Yay, back to our lovely warm room at the hotel to thaw out and spend a couple of hours before dinner writing up the travel diary and processing some photos.

We met Meredith and Alex at 6.30pm and ventured out for some dinner even though it was still snowing. We only went around the corner and down the first side street as Bernie thought that he recalled there being quite a few restaurants along there. The tout outside the first restaurant secured our custom - mainly because it was too cold and miserable to spend time comparing restaurants!

The meal was very slow to come, but quite tasty when it arrived. We were all a bit stressed about the extra food that we didn't order, didn't want and didn't eat. The worst part though was the number of young girls in the restaurant smoking. It is a long time since any of us had to eat in a smoky restaurant. All in all, not our finest dining experience since we arrived.

After Googling Turkey's smoking in public places policy back in our room we have learnt that smoking has been banned in restaurants and bars since 2009. Maybe next time that we encounter smoking in a restaurant we might be assertive enough to remind them of the law??? Probably not.

Steps for the day: 10,006 (6.99km)

Additional photos below
Photos: 8, Displayed: 8


7th January 2013

Thinking of you
Hi guys, well your trip came around at last, great to read of your adventures. We could even swap a few of our hot days just for something different....are you are missing the summer weather yet? We are currently planning an 8 week trip with a few others up to Cairns, over to Normanton, Tennant Creek, down to Alice, Coober Pedy, Bourke, and work our way back. The dogs will come this time and they will stay a few days at Alice Springs while we do the highlights in the national parks. Enjoy, all the best. Wade and Val.
8th January 2013

No Smoking???
Hello, I am conducting a little research for my upcoming move to Turkey and the possibility of writing a blog about my experience. Yes, you read that correctly…Move. I am moving to a small town in Turkey for six months so that my two boys (ages 7 and 9) can go to school and learn the Turkish language. Oh, and as my husband puts it…learn about the culture. You see, my husband is Turkish and I am American. We live in the luxury of American suburbia. Somehow we think if we force our children to become expats, we will weaken the spoiled force field that is growing ever so stronger around them. I realize that we could do this at home but hey, why not go full out! A strong dose of reality may just be the prescription we are looking for. I had to comment on your smoking research. During one of my first visits to Turkey I balked at the sight of a group of men leaning against a wall at the airport, chatting, and smoking cigarettes. Behind them, lined on the wall were a half dozen No Smoking signs. Granted the signs were marred by the cloud of smoke. Through my cultural lens I could not believe that anyone would disobey a sign, OMG. I have been with our uncle when he has asked someone to put out a cigarette in a bus. The scene was not pretty. Additionally, during our last visit the boys being from Southern California are not accustomed to cigarette smoke. We were in a posh little coffee slash sweet shop and a couple next to us lit up. My obnoxious American children slapped their hands over their mouths, and cried out smoke, smoking is bad for you! This scene was also not my proudest moment. Side note…I have learned a choice few Turkish swear words due to our many antics in Turkey over the years. So from my experience I implore you…hold your breath, balk silently, and eat some extra antioxidants. Keep going, I will read on. P.S.S—Order Iskender Kebab. Yummy.
8th January 2013

Turkey in Winter !?!
Have been to Turkey 3 times now but NEVER in Winter. You are sooooo brave [or just plain crazy !!] Perhaps you should go to the Turkish Baths [one is near the Hagia Sofia] and stay there for several hours. You\'ll soon be warmed up after a brisk scrub and swim in the heated pools. I LOVED the experience. Happy travelling.
10th January 2013

Hey you guys!! Another fabuloous-sounding trip - WOW!! Look forward to catching up when you\'re back as I\'ll be in Melbourne, so...Tracey....give me a buzz for lunch/coffee/whatever. CHEERS! DEB

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