It's Time for Istanbul

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March 4th 2016
Published: March 6th 2016
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Because my flight took off at 11:00 pm Boston time, took 9 hours over a 7-hour time change, and Marie and I couldn't find each other in the airport (and to use airport wi-fi you had to have a functioning phone number, which really seems like poor planning for an international hub), we didn't actually get to our AirBnb until about 5:00 Istanbul time. We finally did get there and met our host, who let us in to a very cute space -- nothing I'd want to live in, but plenty for a weekend. Things we learned along the way include: the drivers are crazy, do notjaywalk or you will get run over, and the drivers are insane.

Istanbul, if you don't know, is a city built on hills. Perhaps not as much as Rome, but there's definitely some hiking involved wherever you go. We figured this out quickly, when we walked tonight from our apartment up to Galata Tower. The tower was built in 1348 and was, at the time, the tallest building in Istanbul. There is an observation deck from which I'm sure the views are spectacular, but given that it seemed as though everybody's personal space was approximately nonexistent, we elected to not go up to it. However, we did walk around and find a delicious tapas place where we had snacks and tea to hold us over for the night.

From there, we crossed the Golden Horn onto the south part of European Istanbul. Istanbul is split into thirds by the Bosphorus -- the straight which connects the Sea of Marmara (a small sea between the Mediterranean and Black) to the Black Sea -- and by its offshoot, the Golden Horn. Where we are staying on the north side is "new", while the south side of the Golden Horn is "old." (remember, of course, that Istanbul was founded approximately two millennia before Columbus did his thing, so new and old are very relative). There on the south side, the Hagia Sophia faces the Blue Mosque across an intricately designed, yet modern fountain, while the Topkapi Palace overlooks the Bosphorus behind the Hagia Sophia and has an almost-direct entrance to the mosque.

We plan to actually visit these tomorrow, but at least we got a feel for them and a lay of the land. Walking back, we stopped at a restaurant under (literally underneath) a bridge crossing the Golden Horn, where traditionally-grilled fresh-caught fish were the fare, along with four cups each of Turkish Tea (which is distinctly different from the American style), and a pipe of clean Turkish shisha. When in Istanbul...

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