At the Boarder of Europe and Asia
Trip Start Oct 24, 2009
30Trip End Ongoing
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(This needs to get published, as rough as it is. Excuse the shoddy writing.)
Friday, 17 Feb.
Frankfurt am Mein à Vienna à Istanbul
$20 for a visitor's visa, good for 90 days.
Guy from our hostel was there to pick us up. He had a sign that said "Tracy Brown" that we saw as we left the baggage carousel area. He grabbed the other two girls’ luggage and we went to the parking garage. There are hybrid recharging stations in the parking garage. We al loaded into a big Renault passenger van and speedily wove through the city to our hostel
Saturday, our second day (first full day) in Istannbul.
Woke up at 8:00 to catch the Hop-on Hop-off bus tour of the city. We ate the free breakfast at the hostle first: coffee, baguette, cheeses, fruit spread, olive tapenade, little meats, and a boiled egg. We walked to the bus stop about 20 minutes away to wait. We got on the wrong tour bus, and got off at the next stop without having paid. As we walked back to the original bus stop, we saw the correct bus approaching. Tracy ran toward it and waved her arms to flag it down. It worked. It pulled over about 75 yards down the road and we got on. We were told to pay at the main office down the line during the tour
At the Blue Mosque, I believe, we deboarded the bus and began our search for the Grand Bazzar. As we searched we did a little shopping, not really buying anything, and stopped at a Starbucks. Maybe a mile up the road from Starbucks was the Gate 5 entrance to the Grand Bazzar. Before that we stopped at the Old Bazzar and looked at rugs, pasminas, and fabrics. That was our first taste of how pushy and aggravating the merchants can be. Actually, it was the restaurantiers the previous night, but things were about to get much worse. In the Grand Bazzar, right from the start hockers and sellers of all kinds of wares stepped to block our path, imploring is to visit their boutiques with a variety of aggressive ploys. We got hooked into seeing expensive Turkish rugs, where I was given a $9,000 discount for being an honest man. Later, the same salesman led us to a larger second-floor "wholesale" showroom outside Gate 5
Islamic prayer blaring all over the area while we walked in search of the tram. Old lady selling socks. Back to hostel.
Sunday, 19 February
Today was our guided tour day. Price was something like 70€ per person, and was run by the same company. Breakfast was at the hostel, same foods. A bus came by the hostel to pick us up and drop us at a meeting point for a larger tour bus. Toured the plaza outside the Roman hippodrome and the Blue Mosque where the snake sculpture and Egyptian obelisks are. The temp. was near freezing and we were all very cold despite being bundled up
As we left the front entrance, we turned right and walked down a walkway to a flight of stairs. We came across a small shopping area with a café at the far end. Briefly we warmed ourselves in a dining tent and sipped on the ubiquitous Turkish apple tea. It helped. When we found our tour group again in front of the mosque, we followed the guide and his rallying cry of "my group, my group, my group" to the destination: the Hagia Sophia
Little time to tour Hagia Sophia. Took pictures, walked around, and left. Went to bathroom. Black cat sitting next to me. Back on bus to rug demonstration and sales pitch. Irritating to pay for tour and have yet more unwanted and forceful solicitations (syn) to purchase expensive rugs. Next was lunch. Back on bus. Vegetable stew and beer at lunch. Pretty good. Talked to Korean cadiologist. Back on bus. Went to another, smaller mosque above a shopping area. This is unusual for a mosque to not be its own free-standing structure. Pretty mosque, but we had to remove our shoes again. Not pleasant. At this point we were all starting to fatigue. The next stop was a sultans' palace. The guide's presentation was wearing on us, as his Emglish was often difficult to understand without exerting great effort. We had lost patience with the dual-language characteristic and all the waiting around this entailed. So we left the group early and explored quickly the palace grounds ourselves. Everything was beginning to look the same. We walked and found a long shopping area where Tracy and I walked from store to store hoping for some nice finds. There were few to be found. Store attendents would not leave us alone to browse in peace, and more often than not they drove us away and out of their boutiques. We did make a few small purchaces, though.
After a couple of hours we left, thinking to catch the tram back across the Golden Horn to the hostel on the new side of Istanbul
The bus came to take us to the Orient Theater shortly afterward.
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