Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Walk Through Istanbul

Oct 16 - Our last day in Istanbul and the rain has finally stopped.  We slept in a little this morning and, after packing our luggage and checking out of the hotel, we decided to talk a little walk around the city.  We left our luggage with the front desk and sallied forth.  Making our way across the Tacsim square (always challenging with Istanbul traffic) we started down the pedestrian way.  This is a broad street that is supposed to be closed to traffic, although we did see the occasional car.  It seems that the drivers in Istanbul will do whatever they can get away with.  We also saw a large number of police, some of them in riot gear.  We learned later on that there are frequent demonstrations in that area and that they sometimes get out of hand.

We ambled down towards the water and I bought a dough wad with some black seeds on it to munch on while we ambled - having missed the complimentary breakfast in the hotel.  Our first stop of the day was at the Galata tower.

It is 196 feet tall and dates from the 6th century, when it was used to monitor shipping on the Golden Horn and Bosphorus.  You can go up into the tower to see the view, but the line was longer than we wanted to wait so we continued heading downward toward the water.  Where we were walking there was no direct route down, but I found it very easy to figure out which way to go, mostly because to get to the water you have to go downhill.  After a steep and winding walk we found our way to the Galata Bridge.  The Galata Bridge has two levels.  The top is for cars and fishermen.  The bottom is full of restaurants, most of which specialize in fresh sea food.  There is a break in the middle to allow for shipping traffic, of which there is a great deal.
This is the view from the midpoint, looking towards the Asian side.  That is the New Mosque to the left of the bridge.  We mostly just wanted to walk and enjoy the views but the waiters from the restaurants kept harassing us and trying to get us to stop and eat, offering us special deals and free drinks and free service (as in no tip).  I did spot this restaurant, it was so wonderfully retro, I just had to take a picture.
We also spotted these delightful little boats.  I presume that they take people out for a tour on the Bosphorus, although given the traffic and the waves, I would rather be in something a little larger.
And a tall ship - I have a real weakness for tall ships.  You can also see some of the large commuter ferries that ply the waterway.  The freighters are only allowed passage at night, after the ferry traffic is done for the day.  They all wait in the Sea of Marmara until they can go, and then they can only go one at a time because the currents are so treacherous.  I tried to get a picture of the waiting ships, but it was too hazy to get a good shot.
After getting our fill of the sights we proceeded to the bridge terminus to get transport back up the hill.  It really is not a hill that you want to walk up, trust me.  In the underground we spotted this little shop.

We took the tram to Kabatos and the Funicular up to Tacsim Square.  We then wandered a little until we found a little restaurant - The Peripetie - and had a late lunch of kabob (lamb and chicken) and I fed one of the many cats that inhabit the city.  We ended our lunch with some Turkish Tea.

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