Intro To Istanbul

Trip Start Sep 21, 2010
Trip End Oct 07, 2010

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Where I stayed
Bereket Apartments
Intro to Istanbul

Flag of Turkey  ,
Friday, September 24, 2010

Day 2:  Amazingly, the entire apartment slept well and we all woke up within an hour of each other.  Soon, we had put the French Press to work and we were all caffeinated and ready to explore.  Our plan?  To head, by foot, across the Golden Horn and into the old city.  We had no specific goals other than to find breakfast.

We quickly found that navigating was problem.  Street signs are often absent or found halfway down the street rather than at the corner of where streets meet and many of the maps we brought only had larger streets visible.  After a few kilometers of walking we reached a small cafe that fit our needs and we all ordered hearty breakfasts (essentially lunch or dinner entrees) with Turkish coffee and tea.  The food here is amazing!  Especially, if you are a meat lover.

 Next we made our way to an area called Sultanahmet, the main sight seeing drag.  Here, you can quickly visit the Haghia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Hippodrome, and the Cistern.   Upon approach both the Blue Mosque and Haghia Sophia dominate the landscape.  We headed straight for the Haghia Sophia. This was built as a Christian church by Justinian in 537 AD. It was turned into a Mosque by the Ottomans in the 15th Century. There is a huge dome in the center reaching 184ft and several beautiful mosaics that had been plastered over by the Ottomans.  It was Thursday and crowds were moderate.  We quickly moved from site to site using our guide books (we using a combo of Rick Steves, Lonely Planet, and Eye Witness, the latter having really good maps).  Our favorite part?  Probably standing on the main level and looking up at this massive structure that was built 1500 years ago.  The mosaics of Jesus, Mary and company on the second floor are worth the trip up the stairs/ramp.  Also, make sure to make a wish at the Pillar of St. Gregory the Miracle-worker.  Hopefully we will upload some video on this soon.

From here we were off to the Hippodrome on the way to our Turkish cooking class.  This area is essentially a large oval shaped road.  In its day it was a huge stadium that seated 100,000 people.  Now?  It is mostly a park, with Egyptian Oblesik (made me think of home. DC, not Egypt), and the Serpentine Column, a pretty simple 1500 year old sculpture that was doing great until a drunken Polish nobleman pretty much ruined it in the 1700's.  

We put our heads together and gave ourselves plenty of time to find our cooking class, Cooking Alaturka.  Eveline and Feyzi (pronounced Fezzi) walked us through some amazing, and surprisingly simple dishes (Red Lentil, soup, eggplant braised in olive oil, vine leaes stuffed with minced meat, and syrupy semolina sponge cakes with hazelnuts).  It is a great idea to take a cooking class in a country with wonderful food, and early in the trip so that you are knowledgeable about the ingredients, food and culture for later.  We finished dinner at 9:30pm and made the mistake of having Turkish coffee afterwards and almost all of us had trouble sleeping. Note to self:  No Turkish coffee after 6:00pm or earlier.  

Our first full day was great one!

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