Istanbul Archaeological Museum
We slept in a little bit today before showering and heading up to the top floor of the hotel for breakfast. Once our stomachs were satisfied, we walked from the hotel (downhill this time) to the tram stop. Our destination was the Istanbul Archaeological Museum near Topkapı Palace. The tram dropped us off near the museum and we enjoyed the short walk through the quiet streets in the early morning. We were one of the first people inside the museum, but that quickly changed as assorted tour groups filed in. We spent most the morning there, wandering through the artifacts from Ancient Turkey, Greece, and Mesopotamia. We reached a point where we were hungry and our eyes were glazing over, so we headed back into the old city.
Sweets in the Egyptian Bazaar
Wanting to pick up some of the good apple tea we had on the boat yesterday and some turkish delight for family back home, we headed back tot he Grand Bazaar to see what kind of deals we could get. On the way, we stopped at a little gyro place and each got a big chicken gyro. Boy was it good, and cheap! As we entered the Grand Bazaar this time, I tried very carefully to make sure I knew where we were at all times. We went up to a shop that had the treats we were looking for and so I tried out my bargaining skills. The guy pretty much refused to lower his price, so I just chuckled and walked away. The next guy we found was a different story. His prices were high, but we talked him down to about a third of his original price.
The Basilica Cistern
We ended up getting turned around inside the bazaar after all and just decided to exit on the completely other side than we had come in. Now being on the north end of the bazaar, we continued north to check out some of the mosques in the area. We didn't even try to go inside of any of them, but we were able to admire the beautiful architecture from the outside. We had heard and read about a cistern built by Constantine back near where we got off the tram this morning, but it had been closed the day before and it just didn't seem too busy on this day. Plus, the entrance was a little building - what could they possibly have in there?
Our curiousity got the best of us, so we changed direction once we reached the water and headed back south.
On the intercontinental bridge
Along the way we passed once again through the area known as the Egyptian Bazaar so I could take some photos for you - and smell the spices again! We reached the cistern and once again debated going inside because the price seemed a little high, but we went for it anyway. After going inside the little building, we walked down a stairway underneath the streets and were completely shocked by what we saw. As we reached the bottom of the stairs, we were looking out over a massive underground waterway that had been used as the source of drinking water for the citizens of Istanbul (or Constantinople) for over one thousand years. At that moment we already knew that we were going to get our money's worth! The dimly lit room stretched further than our widened eyes could see.
Selling chestnuts on the street -
It was strangely serene down there, with faint music playing in the background. It was one of the most spectacular sites in the city, and yet it seemed like not many knew it was there. As we walked through the site, trying to capture the essence of the place with our photos, we found signs referring to medusa statues. In the back of the cistern, underneath two of the columns, are large medusa heads. No one knows where they came from or how they got there. One additional layer of intrigue!
Upon leaving the cistern, we had a little time to kill before we had to get back to the hotel for the transfer to the cruise ship, so Cathy and I chose to walk all the way back from the cistern to the Asia side of the city. The walk took us well over an hour, across the intercontinental bridge and up the hill to the Galata Tower, then through the pedestrian street and back to our hotel.
The MS Cristal
We made a quick stop at an internet cafe to send a note back home, and made it back to the hotel with time to spare - but we were still yelled at because the driver had been waiting for us. Oh well, not our fault he got there so early. I would rather have walked to the cruise ship, but it was a quick drive through the winding streets. We got out of the car, went through the security station, and found the check-in area for our ship. After we had all our boarding information, it was a short walk to the ship and an introduction to life on board.
This was not a huge cruise ship by any means, but it was big for us. This 10 story boat dwarfed the 3 floor boat we sailed on down the Nile, which was our only other cruise experience.
On the cruise ship
Needless to say, we were both excited for something new. We entered the room which would be our home for the next 7 days, unloaded our things, and let our a contented sigh. It was already close to dinner time, so we spent the time we had walking around the ship, finding the restaurants, hang out rooms, reception, and look out decks. I definitely like to do things at my own pace, so I was leary about being on a schedule. Meals were at a certain time, and I knew it was going to be hectic each time we tried to disembark at a new port - how can 2,000 people fit through one doorway in a timely manner? I gathered up all the information I could on docking times and began to study the optional excursions, which were way too expensive and too structured for me. Like I said, I like to do things my way!
We had our first dinner in the buffet restaurant, and I was not disappointed! Lots of food, even some on the healthy side, and lots of fruits for dessert. I found myself eating way too much even on the first night, but isn't that part of being on a cruise?