Tired us… the long walk the night before… Regal and Bacardi….. and above all a warm cosy bed… who would’ve thought that we would be up at 5 am?? Shocking, I know…
The monuments opened at 9am, and we had no intention of wandering about in what we thought was ‘the freezing cold’..Moreover, we roughly had 4 hours ahead of us..What did we do? No we didn’t go back to bed… and since Doubletree does not offer free wifi we were at our wits ends… until we decided that it was high time we give up on our blackberries, and our GPS which was supposed to work in Europe- but apparently didn’t work in Turkey (Bad Garmin.. I carted you all the way from Dubai, only to be let down), and spend 2 good hours researching Istanbul and printing our flight tickets to Izmir. Our password to the internet was sent up to our room almost immediately, ensuring that we didn’t move from the ipad till about half past 7.
On setting out into the cold morning, we realized one thing.. For a Saturday morning, Istanbul was bustling with activity. Walking on the streets leading to Sultanahmet, you will realize that not a block goes by, without a stall/shop selling food- be it corn on the cob, salep, or your regular sandwiches and sweets … We partook of breakfast consisting of simit and pide, might I add, the cheese just melts in your mouth, ( and cheese, I know I’ve not been fond of you all my life, but your Turkish version is mind blowing!), while we walked toward Sultanahmet, using maps on the blackberry to find our way. The walk was extremely interesting, with stuff that caught our eye.
For those of you who do use maps, should you put in a search for the ‘Hagia Sofia’ please note that 2 hagia sofias will come up, one is the huge one which is the tourist attraction, while the other is a small mosque, down steep slopes, which we first walked to.
We finally made our way to the correct Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque.
The Hippodrome (which is now a huge courtyard consisting of the Egyptian Obelisk, Serpentine and Constantine columns) was crowded, with tourists, guides and above all the ever famous vendors selling bric a brac. We were well warned about them and were told not to encourage or engage in conversations with them.. but then..being Indian says it all.. no one really messes with us. They know that we will hardly ever be cheated, and we are known to bargain and play smart.. Result- no one even bothered us once we smiled and said no thanks! (I really wouldn’t wanna play with a spinning top, even if it did remind me of my childhood:p).
A few photoshoots later, we contemplated taking the bus tour. We had a variety of choices, finally narrowing it down to two- the Bosphorous Tours (which had a number of stops) and the usual Big Bus Tour… We finally settled in for the Big Bus, because we got a decent deal of 40 euros per head, on the bus tour plus the bosphorus crusie with a pick up and drop… seemed decent.
Having decided to take the cruise late afternoon, we bought our tickets to the Hagia Sofia and spent a good two hours, amidst beautiful architecture. A guy approached us, stating that he would give us a guided tour (he said he was working at the Museum, and it was his day off..difficult to believe, because the Hagia Sofia is closed on Mondays so why would he have an off mid week.. anyway it could be that he has a 2 day off. I dont k now.. don’t wanna know!). After politely informing him that we were not interested, he went away.
On getting done with the Hagia Sofia, we met him outside and he started again. He seemed decent.. but my inherent nature prohibits me from trusting people like him. Of course he did mention that he would take us to places like MiniaTurk (which we finally n ever ended up visiting), but we decided against him, since our Bosphorous cruise was planned. He was pushy, but those of you who know me, know exactly what happened!
Having said that, we continued on our way out. It was cold and we were tired. Deciding that a quick stop at the Pudding Shop was called for (I will write another post about the Pudding Shop and the Hagia Sofia when time permits), we sat back with a cup of tea and a quick lunch, after which we headed back to our hotel.
Waking up at 5 am is not my cup of tea… so a quick nap was called for……….before our Bosphorous Cruise and the Spice Bazaar!