Istanbul 2013

     Istanbul was our last stop on the Wind Star and we added extra days for discovery and recovery. Our hotel was close to the Hippodrome and Blue Mosque and central to transportation. We were met at the port by our guide, Funda (http://www.tourguidesinturkey.com/), who helped us negotiate the proper taxi fare from the "sharks" at the port. After a few false starts, we finally found our hotel (www.arensuites.com/) and dropped off our luggage and off we went. We walked down the Hippodrome to the Blue Mosque, then over to the Topkapi Palace, lunch at a small local place (www.sultanahmetkoftesi.com/), and I finished my day at the Hagia Sofia. The Grand Bazaar was also on the list but I left that to the cousin.  

     The list included the usual suspects and as such were packed to the gills with people. We arrived at the end of a long holiday and people were still in tourist mode. With all these sites, it's all about the tile work and calligraphy. In the treasury of the Topkapi Palace, people shuffled from display case to display case in a never ending line. On the small balcony with great Bosphorus view, two men came to blows and had to be separated by other visitors while security guards watched. 

    The next day, we stopped into the Basilica cistern, 1500 yrs old and a maze of marble columns mostly repurposed (stolen) from somewhere else. We hit the Spice Market which was packed and not my favorite experience. I wanted to see the Mosque of Suleyman but ran out of steam halfway to the top so we wandered back toward the Spice Market and the tram back to the hotel. I should have paid more attention to public transportation options. In the evening, we took the tram for a Whirling Dervish performance at the Hodjapasha Dance Theater.

    Our final full day was spent on a morning cruise along the Bosphorus shore. We started off with a revisit to the Spice Market which was much less crowded on a Monday morning. Then we were bused to the ferry/ship area and board our boat. I would have preferred a more modern ferry for much less cost and without the Spice Market visit but that's what happens when spur of the moment booking occurs. I spent the afternoon at two more mosques on my list and just wandering. 

     Overall, I was not swept off my feet with Istanbul but I think there were several factors at work. It came at the end of a trip where I wasn't feeling my best and was stressed out. We didn't stay long enough to be completely charmed.  I think I'll put it back on my list for another trip.

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