Sunday, September 7, 2014

Monday - September 8

The hotel didn't look too bad in daylight but the steep incline from the side road to the main street still bothered us.

The breakfast was pretty spartan and coffee rather weak, we had a heck of a time explaining we wanted fried eggs not omelette.

As we ate breakfast there was still no communication from Turkey Tours and if we didn't owe 50% of our package price I would really start to worry.

While we were trying to decide what to do, a smiling and pleasant faced young man came to our table, verified our names and introduced himself as Abdil, Ozkan's younger brother. When I told him about the lack of communication from Ozkan, he smirked and obviously filed it away as an "weapon" against his brother.

Abdil went over the day's itinerary with us giving a brief description of each and pretty soon we were on our way

Our first stop was the Topkapi Palace. This is an expansive site with rich history. There is always some renovation going on here and so basically impossible to see the entire complex. Abdil said it would take two full days to see the whole thing if it was open.

There were some very beautiful wall decoration in tiles but its the rich albeit brutal history that's hard to fathom. Abdil spoke excellent English , had a great knowledge of history and folklore and was passionate about it. He also had a great sense of humor and was very personable. What else does one need in a guide, and I was breathing better that I picked the right Tour operator. Although from our experience in Ephes and Goreme I was 50% sure already.

The palace took a long time and according to Abdil we maybe saw 30% of the total. We then proceeded to lunch at a wayside restaurant famous for their freshly baked breads.

The name of the restaurant was Karadeniz which means the the Black Sea. We sat in open air and could watch the breads being made and come out of the oven. It was quite interesting and of course the smells were amazing.

I ordered the Turkish pizza and I believe its their breads that make the difference. Pizza lover that I am I can easily say this ranks up there. There were two large pieces and I only managed to finish one of them.

Abdil excused himself to go to the Mosque for noon prayers and was back shortly actually before we finished our meal.

Our next stop the Grand Bazar, this reminded me so much of New Market in Kolkata during my college years it was unbelievable. Even the placement of the stores, it could almost predict what stores the next turn will bring.

We proceeded on to the Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Mosque) and honestly I wasn't as impressed as I thought I would be. Yes it was beautiful, but so are many of the other lesser known mosques in an around Istanbul. It is an active mosque so we could only go so far in.

Abdil said most of the locals think that Blue Mosque is too "busy" and it was very obvious all the lighting and decorations made it borderline garish, but it's still the Blue Mosque and thus a must see.

We walked out of it on to the remains of the Hippodrome. The biggest attraction is the Obelisk, the Romans brought the top half of the Obelisk as a turning marker for the chariots.

That was the end of the guided tour for the day, we decided on meeting at 9:00 AM the next morning when Abdil dropped us off at our hotel, he also suggested a few nearby good restaurants for dinner.

We went to our room, rested for a bit and walked towards the main street. The incline was really steep but manageable. We decided to go to The Fish Restaurant, about a 10 min walk and one recommended by Abdil.

We both had the grilled Sea Bass, which was excellent but didn't realize it came without any side dishes. I was still a bit hungry but the fish was certainly worth it.

Came back to our room and retired for the night.


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