Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Istanbul, not Constantinople

So, it's been a jammed-packed couple of days here in Istanbul. Yesterday, we took a tour of the city. We visited several famous sites, like the Blue Mosque and the Grand Bazaar. Something of note that I have to mention before moving on is that Istanbul seems to be guarded and/or overrun with cats. The same was true for Greece, but it also had packs of dogs everywhere. Wierd. Anywho, the sights were amazing. We had to remove our shoes to enter the Mosque. There were cats inside.

We got a lucky treat during our visit to Topkopi Palace. (Every time I hear this pronounced (Top Copy) I immediately think of Dave Chappelle's Pop Copy
training video. But, I digress.)

Apparently the mayor of Istanbul,
Kadir Topbas, was wisiting the palace along with a stateswoman and decided to stop for a photo op. Mike and Brianna got their picture taken with the mayor.....eewwee......fancy!

We also visited a few other Mosques and museums and ate lunch at a local hotel in their rooftop restaurant. I ate vegetarian but everyone else had meat. They had some sort of thing that looked like a meatball. Whatever.

Last night we walked around Taksim Square looking through shops and trying to find a restaurant that served something that resembled American fare. We had no such luck. We ended up coming back to the hotel and eating there. I had tomato soup. Not that I think you all are interested in my eating habits, I just want to share....;-) I'm just sayin'.......

Today we took a full-day tour that included a boat ride on the Bosphorus Straight. Turkey is actually situated on two continents: Europe and Asia. The Bosphorus is the body of water separating the two continents. It was actually a pretty cool little boat ride. We got to see the city from a few different persepectives. As I stated in my previous blog, we are staying on the European side of Turkey, but today our tour took us over to the Asian side of Turkey. There we visited (or wisited--as the tour guide pronounces it) Beylerbeyi Palace. It was built as a "summer palace" for Sultan Abdul Aziz. Must be nice to have yourself a "little summer palace," uh? We didn't have to remove our shoes, but we did have to put plastic coverings over them because they still have original carpets on the floors.

Oh, one thing I forgot to mention, today's lunch was at the same place, but instead of meat today, Mike, Shane and Liz were all served fish. I, of course, stuck with my vegetarian (now vegan, I suppose) meal. Take a look. Does that not just freak you out?!

We were hoping to return to the Grand Bazaar for more shopping but when we arrived it was closed. So we walked around for a bit and stumbled across a bookstore that sold English language books. Mike finished reading his book yesterday and had not brought another book with him and he was going a little crazy not having any new source material, so we went in and he bought a book about Ataturk--the first president of Turkey and the man responsible for democratizing the country. From there we hopped in a Taxi and headed back towards the hotel, in search of an Italian restaurant.

The drivers in Turkey actually drive the way I want to drive. Now, I am somewhat of a crazy driver. But, I'm impatient. I know where I want to go and I know how to get there and when I get behind stupid people who know neither of those things, I get annoyed. I usually handle it pretty well, I think. I know others will have something to say about that, but I guess everyone is entitled to his/her own opinion, right? Here, in Istanbul, people drive with a purpose. If you (be you a pedestrian or another driver) interfere with that purpose, you will get a horn blown at you and you will most likely be driven around and or run into. We were told by a tour guide that here, minor accidents don't matter. So, unless someone is hurt, you better dry your eyes and just get back in the car and keep driving. I love it!

The cab driver honked his way through the million-plus cars on the road and headed back toward Taksim Square. There was a little Italian place close the hotel and I was hoping that was the same one the cabby was thinking about--sure enough it was. He let us out and we had to cross a very busy street......with the drivers of cars as described above. Anyway, we make our way into the restaurant and Mike starts looking around for his book (books are a sort of security blanket for Mike) but it is nowhere to be found. The book was left in the cab! Just as we realized this, I look outside and see the cabby running across the street with book in hand! How awesome was this?! Do you think a NY cab driver would've done that? So sweet!

So, now, it's time to get some sleep and head home in the morning. It's about a 9.5-hour flight. We fly out of Istanbul and land at JFK then head on to Atlanta. This has been a nice trip but I will be glad to get home. Travelling is tiring. Hopefully we'll make home before the new year.

I hope you had/have a great Christmas and wonderful New Year!

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