Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Exploring, Discovering, Enjoying.

The Grand Bazaar.

There's only so much sightseeing that you can do before you reach overload. I've learned that with Bro and I, every other day or so, we need some downtime. That doesn't meant not doing anything. Instead, it may mean that we just wander about town without a specific agenda in mind. Such was the case after visiting the Aya Sophia, the Blue Mosque and the Basiica Cistern this morning. Rather than packing in more sightseeing, I left our afternoon open.


Emerging from the dark of the Basilica Cistern, the first thing we did was to buy some corn from one of the many cart vendors that ply the tourist zone.  I had Bro buy an ear of the roasted corn which we shared.  Perhaps the corn was better the last time I was here or maybe I was hungry that day but I recall a delicious ear of corn.  This one was tough and dry.  Not good at all.  On the plus side, it forced us to find a place to sit and eat so we got a short rest for our feet.

We then spent a few minutes strolling the area around the Aya Sophia and Blue Mosque.


Looking up Divan Yolu Caddessi, the main street that runs through the heart of the tourist zone in Sultanahmet. 
The Aya Sophia is behind me and to the left.  The Sultanahmet tram stop is about 1/2 way up the street as seen in the photo.

The Aya Sophia in the background.  I don't remember seeing BigBus buses back in 2008. Tourism really has picked up here!

Located adjacent to the Blue Mosque is the Hippodrome which back in Byzantine times was used for sporting events.  Now, it's a pretty little park like area.



At the northern end of the Hippodrome is the German Fountain.  That's what the guy in the photo below is taking a picture of.  The fountain was constructed to commemorate the second anniversary of German Emperor Wilhelm II's visit to Istanbul in 1898. It was built in Germany, then transported piece by piece and assembled in its current site in 1900. The neo-Byzantine style fountain's octagonal dome has eight marble columns, and dome's interior is covered with golden mosaics.

Aya Sophia on the left, German Fountain on the right.

The underside of the dome of the German Fountain.  Photo taken by me in 2008.

At the southern end of the Hippodrome are three historic monuments.  Bro wasn't interested in walking down the Hippodrome so the photos I have of the monuments are ones that I took in 2008.

Looking towards the southern end of the Hippodrome.

Obelisk of Thutmose III.
They are an odd pair, to say the least.  One is the Obelisk of Thutmose III which was originally erected at the Temple of Karnak in Luxor during the reign of Thutmose III in about 1490 BC.  In  the 4th century AD, Emperor Theodosius I had the obelisk cut into three pieces and brought to Constantinople. The top section survives, and it stands today where Theodosius placed it, on a marble pedestal.

The base of the Obelisk of Thutmose III.

The second monument is known as the Walled Obelisk which was built in the 10th century AD by  Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus.  The obelisk was originally covered with gilded bronze plaques, but they were sacked by Latin troops during the Fourth Crusade.  All that survived was the stone core.

The Walled Obelisk in the foreground and the Obelisk of Thutmose III in the background.



The last monument is the Tripod of Plataea, now known as the Serpent Column, cast to celebrate the victory of the Greeks over the Persians during the Persian Wars in the 5th century BC. Constantine ordered the Tripod to be moved from the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, and set in middle of the Hippodrome. The top was adorned with a golden bowl supported by three serpent heads. The bowl was destroyed or stolen during the Fourth Crusade. The serpent heads were destroyed as late as the end of the 17th Century, as many Ottoman miniatures show they were intact in the early centuries following the Turkish conquest of the city.  Parts of the heads were recovered and are displayed at the Istanbul Archaeology Museum. All that remains of the Delphi Tripod today is the base.  To me, it looks like a large bronze casting of a fusilli pasta.  No disrespect intended.
From the Hippodrome, our next destination was going to be Istanbul's famed Grand Bazaar - Kapalı Çarşı, Turkish which translates as *Covered Market*.  But first, we had to make a stop at Sultanahmet Köftecisi, a restaurant that specializes in köfte.  My Turkish friend, Ayşe, had suggested we eat there if we could and since we were already in the neighborhood (it's located right on Divan Yolu Caddesi, stone's throw from the Aya Sophia), it was a no brainer to go.


The restaurant has the smallest menu of any place I've ever been to.  I think there are literally 4 items on the menu.  We did the basic köfte which comes served with a white bean salad and bread.  For Bro and I, this was a good late morning snack.  I'm not a köfte aficionado so I don't really know a good köfte from a bad one but I can tell you that the white bean salad was delicious - the beans were so creamy.



This guy assembles the salad.  Just one salad.  That's all he does.  He does it well but what a boring job.


After our quick bite, we continued our walk along Divan Yolu.  Some of the same establishments that were here in 2008 are still here.  I recognized the pharmacy I went in to get anti-itch cream I needed to battle the tortuous itching I was battling from the bed bug bites I picked up in Cappadocia.  Ugh! I smiled when we passed by the Mado store that helped soothe my nerves when I was battling those bed bug itches - ice cream always makes things better!

I was leading Bro towards Çemberlitaş Hamamı, a famous, historical Turkish bath that's located near the Grand Bazaar.  I wasn't taking him for a bath but from the hamam, I know how to get to the Grand Bazaar.  It's my location marker :-)

Along the way, we made another stop.  What's a light late morning snack without a light late morning dessert to go with it?  We stepped inside Baklavacı Said where I drooled over every morsel of baklava. 


My weakness is for anything stuffed with pistachio - like those green log shaped pieces in the photo below.  Oh yes, those had my name written all over them.  We picked out a couple of pieces to share and then continued our walk.


Although it's been 8 years since I was last in Istanbul, I have an exceptionally good memory.  Without so much as having to do a turnaround, I led Bro to the front entrance of the Grand Bazaar!  I am good!

Standing at the entrance to Kapalı Çarşı aka the Grand Bazaar.

Before we entered, I once again set Bro's expectations. Huge place.  So big it has street names inside.  Hundreds of vendors organized by what they sell - jewelry folks here, leather folks over there, pottery folks around the corner, etc.  I also warned him that the place would be filled to the brim with tourists. 


We wandered up and down several of the streets.  Bro is definitely not a shopper and while a place like the Grand Bazaar is typically something that attracts my attention, I already have so many souvenirs from my previous two trips that I really wasn't interested in getting anything.

My pomegranate from the Grand Bazaar.


But, I changed my mind. Although I went in without having a need to buy anything, I some how managed to come up with something - a piece Turkish pottery shaped like a pomegranate.  Considering how many pomegranates we had eaten on this trip, it just seemed like a fitting souvenir to bring back with me.  It also gave us a bit of purpose for wandering about this immense market.

Bro convinced me it had to be a red pomegranate and I wanted a large one but nothing fancy or expensive.  So, with our requirements in hand, we went from one vendor to the next looking at pottery pomegranates and comparing prices.  Eventually, we found a vendor that offered us the most reasonable price and I got my piece.

Unfortunately, we were so focused on getting my pomegranate that I forgot to take photos.  So, here are the two that I took :-)



From the Grand Bazaar, we made our way back to the Spice Bazaar.  This time Bro got the gist of it - just walk down hill.


Back at the Spice Bazaar, the only thing that interested Bro was the Plant Market.  I told him the inventory was the same as yesterday but he still had to check things out.....just in case :-)


I was still obsessing over the leeches.  Seriously strange thing to be selling in a plant market.  Definitely not something I see in our plant nurseries back in the US.


From the Plant Market, we headed back to the tram at the Eminönü stop. We were heading back to Taksim.


Sitting and waiting for the tram to arrive.

On the tram, crossing the Galata Bridge.

We took the tram to the end of the line - Kabataş.  We got off the tram and I told Bro to keep his eyes out for a sign that had the words *Taksim* and *funicular* on it.  While we could have easily walked up to Taksim, I wanted Bro to have the experience of taking the underground funicular up.  I think it's the world's shortest funicular ride - it lasts all of 90 seconds!


Bro bought our tokens and we passed through the turnstile and stood on the platform waiting for the funicular to arrive.  A few minutes later, a train pulled up - it was our ride.


Before the door closed, I snapped a quick photo.  You can see that the walkway is not level.


90 seconds later, we arrived at the Taksim station.  Before we exited, I had Bro pause to look at the pulley that actually pulls the train up and down the hill.  Last time I was here, the wheel was not decorated.  Looks pretty.



We exited the station at Taksim Square.  It was time for a short rest so we found a spot on the curb to sit down on for just a few minutes.  It was good spot to do a bit of people watching from.


Back in Taksim, we wanted to go back to the Fish Market, by Çiçek Pasajı, to see if there were more seafood options for sale.  We had come yesterday and it was a pretty paltry selection of fresh fish considering that Istanbul is so close to water.  Sadly, what was there yesterday morning was what was there today.  Very disappointed. We consoled ourselves by going back to the produce vendor we had bought some persimmons from yesterday to get more today.


I love the way produce is often hung up - a very efficient use of space.


After Bro got his fruit, we walked around and checked out a few more of the food stores around the Fish Market.


Turkish food is not Turkish without olives!


There might not have been a lot of fresh fish for sale but most certainly there was a lot of dried fish for sale!



From the Fish Market, we sauntered back to the apartment, stopping to look at whatever caught our eye.

We came across this one store that sells nothing but pickled vegetables and fruits. 


I was particularly intrigued by what looked to be a bottle of pickled pine cones.  See it in the lower left hand corner of the photo?  I wonder how the Turks eat that?


Istanbul's tram system includes two modern tram lines - T1 and T4 and two heritage tram lines.  The T2 aka the Taksim-Tünel Nostalgia Tramway which runs on the European side and the T3 aka the Kadıköy-Moda Nostalgia Tramway which runs on the Asian Side.  If you are walking along Istiklal Caddesi in Taksim, you'll most likely see the tram passing by.  It's such a cute little tram.  One of these visits, I will have to go for a ride on it!


Cihangir is a really lovely neighborhood. Full of apartments and small shops. It's lively but not loud. Chic but not pretentious. People are very friendly. Each day, we looked forward to returning to the apartment, catching the neighborhood sights along the way.

Bro posing for a photo.  He's about a block away from our apartment.

If there's a vegetable stand, you will likely find Bro standing next to it.  If there's an entire produce store, you will lose Bro in it!


Back in our apartment, we called it a day.  Enough of seeing the sights.  We needed some downtime.  For Bro, downtime often includes a fruit break.





Dinner was back at Özkonak. We were simply too lazy to go out and find another place to eat. Besides, we really enjoy the food here.  The offerings were different tonight than last night so we tried three new dishes.  Very simple but delicious food.  The whole experience really feels like you're eating in someone's home.  It suits us well.  Don't be surprised if we come back for yet another meal :-)



It was another great day today.  Bro finally got to see the three main highlights of Istanbul.  Tomorrow, there will be more so it's early lights out.

Goodnight from Istanbul!