Visiting the city

Istanbul Travel Blog

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This morning I woke up early to update my blog, but guess what? I was connecting to the Internet with the hotel´s wifi network and everytime I tried to access Wordpress, I would get a message saying: “Access to this site has been suspended in accordance with decision no: 2007/195 of T.C. Fatih 2.Civil Court of First Instante”.

We went down to the restaurant to have breakfast and we had some typical pastry! At 9am we were ready to roll, today was going to be very exciting! I had been playing today´s route for a long time, I even had the route drawn in Google Earth!

Our first stop was Topkapi Palace. You have to buy the tickets (10€) at the main office just outside the gate on your right hand side. Tripods were not allowed so I had to leave it where the security control was.
Going down the hill you find the Istanbul Archeology Museums, but we just did not spend the time going in. Everyone told me you need at least 4 hours to visit the museums plus the palace, so I had to prioritize. We spent almost an hour inside the Palace. There are a couple of things you cannot miss. First thing is the Spoonmaker´s diamond. It is a 86-carat  pear-shaped diamond also knows as the Kasikci. Surrounded by a double-row of 49 Old Mine cut diamonds it hangs in a glass case on the wall of one of the rooms of the Treasury. But also you cannot miss the views you have on the terrace at Konyali Restaurant. We didn´t have anything there, so I cannot tell you whether it was good or bad.

Once we exit the Palace we went straight to Aya Sofía. Everyone says that is the most spectacular building in Istanbul, but I just loved the Blue Mosque. You need to get a ticket at the front door, just facing the Blue Mosque. It costs 10 YTL and here they don´t let you take your tripod with you either. Advice for fellow photographers: don´t take your tripod to Istanbul, it is not allowed inside any of the buildings ☺ I wish somebody tole me before comino ☺
The exterior may seem unattractive, but the interior, with its magnificient domed ceiling is so beautiful that you get literally stunned into silence. I was kind of confused, as they name it in different ways. Sancta Sophia in Latin, Haghia Sofia in Greek and the Church of the Divine Wisdom in English.
Locals call it Aya Sofia. We spent 45 minutes walking around there…

Once we exited we went through Sultanahmet Park until we reached the Blue Mosque. I would say that from the park you get the best photos from it. The entrance is free, but don´t forget to take out your shoes and women have to cover their head, although my mother forgot about it and nobody told her anything. At the exit of the mosque, you can give a donation (we gave 5 YTL). The exterior is just amazing… nothing alike. I fell in love with it. It was not a sunny day, actually it was quite gray, but the photos came out fantastic, as the gray combined very well with its blue color. I haven´t seen it in the summer, but I tell you, it is something worthwile seeing.
Next to the Blue mosque you have the Hipodrom and in between you find the Obelisk of Theodosius.
By the way, in the street you will find some people selling “lllll” Mmmm I loved it. Today I ended up having two of those ☺

Lunch time! Before getting to Istanbul I had already checked the best places to eat in Istanbul, so we headed to Balikçi Sabahattin. Amazing restaurant! You can read my review and check some photos from it. It is quite difficult to get there, as streets are not very well indicated, but it was worth the effort! I strongly recommend you to go there although is a little bit pricy.

My mother was already nervous as she was quite excited when thinking about visiting the Grand Bazaar. But before I proceed let me give you an advice. If you are not in a good mood, just visit it some other day. Thousands of shopkeepers will push you into their stores, so you need to be friendly and very pacient, as it can get on your nerves.
And if you want to buy, get ready for getting into the art of bargaining. Actually, I practiced quite a lot in Africa this summer, so I was ready to play!

It is organized by sections, or at least this was my impression. My mother loves carpets, so we went straight to that area. After talking with several salesman, we started talking to this young guy who was showing us some carpets in the street. From there, he took us to his store, he made us sit down and brought us some beautiful apple tea. (Don´t have to forget buying some to take it back to Spain with me ☺) Then he started showing us beautiful pieces until we found a couple we liked. The first one started at 120 euros, and the second one at 600 euros. Then they asked me how much would be our best price (they assume you are going to bargain).
For the first piece I started offering 60 euros. They laughed at me ☺ For the second I told them I would pay 300 euros, they even laughed harder… well, we took both pieces for 425 euros, which I don´t think is such a bad deal. But once we closed the deal, he took us to see his big warehouse, where they store all different carpets. Once we got in, he introduced us to some people, one was repairing a carpet and the other woman was working in producing a new one. Then, he started to offer huge carpets. Our intention was not to buy one, but he was pushing so hard. He was gooooooood! There was a moment where he said “ok madam, so I understand you don´t have room for this one, but how much would be your best price to give it to someone, give me a price!” This guy said that in the winter there is not so much business, so prices are much lower than in the summer (three times more).
My mother replied she was not interested, and as she was walking out he came with the calculador on his hands and offered the 3x2 meter carpet for only 550 euros!!! My mother kept walking and then he stopped us and said: “Ok, last price, 500 euros, my cost!”. We declined the offer ☺ After this whole process my mother was very tired, as it requires lots of energy… they are very good sales people ☺ although some of them press too hard!

Inside the Gran Bazzar you will find coffe places and restaurants. We had some apple tea and beer in one of them. Don´t recall its name, but I will upload a photo from it. By the way, forget about finding a store.. I believe there are 4000 stores there! ☺ and no signs or anything to guide you ☺ It is an awesome experience! Don´t miss it by any means.

Next stop: Spice Bazaar.
Generally I am not fond of visiting markets, but if you like photography, a visit to this bazaar is a must. The market was constructed in the 1660’s. The rent for the shops you find go to support the mosque and its charitable activities. But what is most impressive is its colours and smell.

I love strolling around the city, but at the end of the day I must say my feet soared. It was quite late and we did not feel like going any place far from the hotel, so we checked my Lonely Planet and we decided to get a taste of the well knows kebabs! Lucky us! There was a place 50 meters from the hotel, so we had a nice meal there. For starters, we had some meze which are usually vegetable based. It reminded me to “mexican fajitas” on a way.
For mains we had kebab and we ended up with a typical turkish dessert. Don´t even ask its name… awfully difficult to remember things like that. I must admit that normally I learn some words, but this time… none ☺

That´s it for today, tomorrow an exciting cruise along the Bosphorus!
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photo by: Memo