It’s been a long time coming, but here it is: our final Istanbul blog! We loved Istanbul and had an amazing time tramping around town with TLB.
Tuesday, February 26 – Saturday, March 2: Istanbul (not Constantinople), Round Two
Tuesday, February 26
Easy one hour flight from Cyprus back to Istanbul!
However, as we booked this flight on a budget airline, we flew into Istanbul’s budget airport, Sabiha Gökçen, which meant that we couldn’t take the metro into town, so we hopped a shuttle to the new side of town and planned to take a taxi across the bridge to our hostel.
Had verbal agreement to use the meter with taxi driver before getting into the cab. After he started driving, the taxi driver covered the meter, lied about the drop fee, and added on approximately $10 in additional fare. UGH. So aggravating! Muttered to ourselves, gave the driver exact change and jumped out of the car into the rain … only to have the driver yell at D about an alleged rip in one of the bills. D yelled back that he’d already scammed us and that we didn’t have any more money. Taxi driver spat at D. We strode off.
Taxi drivers are the worst!
Were overjoyed to arrive back at Agora, see friendly faces, and enjoy hot showers.
Wednesday, February 27
Sprang out of bed and skipped upstairs to breakfast to meet TLB, who came to travel with us from New York! Joy!
Traveled out of the Sultanahmet neighborhood to check out the amazing Kariye Müzesi (Chora Church), another church converted into a mosque converted into a museum, but alas, it was closed (closed on Wednesdays).
Headed back into town, snacked on street food, and relaxed with tea and nargileh at the çay bahçesi we stumbled upon the previous week before exploring the incredible Istanbul Archaeology Museums. Gawked at ancient sarcophagi and the oldest love poem in the world, etc. Very cool.
Bonded with TLB and our new Argentine friend from our hostel, M, over a cozy dinner at Istanbul Anatolia Cafe. Good food, pleasant and jovial staff. M is from Buenos Aires and has an Argentine passport and an Italian passport and currently lives and works in Paris and speaks a smattering of three to four languages. It’s always so interesting to talk with people from other parts of the world. Same, same, but different.
Thursday, February 28
Kariye Müzesi (Chora Church), take two! Made it there, made it inside! This church turned mosque turned museum is an incredible example of beautiful and well-preserved Byzantine frescoes.
Gnoshed on more delicious street food!
Wandered through the Grand Bazaar again before T and TLB split off from D to get our hamam on. In case you were wondering, a “Turkish bath” really does mean “adults being bathed by other adults.” Hee! That said, once we realized what was happening, we settled in, went with the flow, and left feeling quite relaxed.
Fabulous dinner at Ciğeristan, a restaurant recommended by Agora – excellent lentil soup, delightfully fresh and unlimited mezes, and according to D and TLB, delectable kebab meats. Another delicious authentic meal. Had one of our favorite encounters with locals on this trip (there were so many though – Turks are so friendly!): the chef brought us extra chai and a house specialty, pistachio tea, sat down with us and we had a conversation with him about America and Islam halfway via him typing questions into Google Translate on his phone and halfway through a young Turkish couple sitting next to us and translating. And then the chef and our server came outside with us to take photos with us. We’re always hopeful that when we have interactions like this, we leave our companions liking Americans a little bit more.
Friday, March 1
Sun! Our first and only day of sun in Istanbul! We’d been saving Topkapı Palace and Harem for a sunny day as a good deal of the grounds were outdoors. Short list of wonders: incredible gems in the Imperial Treasury, gorgeous views of the Bosphorus, amazing mosaic tiles everywhere, including in the Harem.
Girls afternoon of shopping (scarves and soaps) at Jennifer’s Hamam! Yes, it’s owned by a Canadian, but she works with Turkish weaving families (everything is made on traditional looms with organically sourced Turkish fabrics). Also: her shop is fixed price, which of course, is perfect for a girl who hates bargaining and refuses to negotiate.
Wound down our last evening in Turkey with beers and sunset watching from cushioned seats on the Galata Bridge.
Relaxed with a final nargileh and wine on our hostel rooftop, chatting with TLB and M about travel.
Saturday, March 2
Up at 0430 to catch our cab to the airport! At the airport bright and (before) early for our ten hour flight from Istanbul to New York City.
Exchanged the last of our lira, slurped coffee, and boarded our (second to last) flight of the trip
arrived in New York City around noon, jumped on the LIRR to Penn Station, bought tulips, and sprinted out of the wind tunnel that is 34th Street into S’s apartment!
Lunched with S and P, checked out a bar that actually had enough seats for people to sit in, played improv with S, P and DN, ordered Thai food and T had a surprise ice cream birthday cake! So good to be reunited with out New York Family.
Sunday, March 3
Coffee date with S.
Kati Roll with S and DN.
Flight home to San Francisco! Another amazing trip, but so good to get home into our own bed.
Final phone photos (we’ll have a separate post with D’s lovely edited camera photos):