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Istanbul, Day 6

September 19, 2006

Today was our last day in Istanbul 😦 I wish we had more time to explore a little more, but alas all good things must come to an end… No time to sulk, though, we still had to make a quick stop at Dolmabace Palace and then catch the ferry to the Princes Islands!

After eating our usual breakfast, we headed down towards Dolmabace Palace. Now that we’d been there for a couple of days, we finally figured out the most efficient way to travel, the metro! In retrospect, I would have used the metro more liberally as it is so convenient. But then again, there is a certain adventure in walking all over the place and discovering random things along the way.

Dolmabace Mosque was along the way so we stopped by really quick to check it out; it’s one of the more famous landmarks along the river and a little more modern looking.

interior, dolmabace mosque

We got to Dolmabace Palace and scouted the entrance for a little bit to try to figure out whether we had enough time for a tour. The palace is quite big, and you have to get tickets for different sections. I believe there was a ticket for the entire palace as well but I can’t remember now. On top of that, like Beylerbeyi Palace, you have to buy an additional “photo ticket” if you want to take pictures. Looking at the timings and the potential lengths of each tour, we decided that we wouldn’t be able to make it to the Islands, so we scrapped the idea of the Palace and headed to the ferry station. We figured it was going to be quite similar to Beylerbeyi Palace, so in the end didn’t feel like we missed out on all that much. Plus, there’s always next time 🙂

gate, dolmabace palace

So back on the metro we hopped, towards the ferry station at Eminonu. We waited there for a little while and then got on the ferry. It was kinda confusing as to which ferry we were supposed to take, but a nice recently married couple who spoke English gave us the run-down as to which ferry to take, and even which of the Islands would be best to visit. I think we ended up going to the second biggest one but I can’t remember. On the ferry there was a nice gentleman who I later found out was a retired Colonel in the Turkish Army, and we had a nice chat about random things; he was also interested in photography so we talked about that most of the time.

On the way, there were many seagulls hovering around the ferry and people would throw pieces of bread to them; some of the more talented seagulls would catch the bread in mid air! When we stopped at the Islands, I noticed there were quite a few jellyfish around the harbor.

jellyfish

Upon arriving at the Island of our choice, we stopped for a little ice cream near the harbor. On the islands, apparently cars are not allowed, and we looked around to see whether we could rent a bicycle or get a horse-drawn carriage ride. For the moment though we first walked around the harbor area and were kind of dissapointed because it was so underwhelming. Few shops around the harbor, and that’s it. Mostly residential. There was a guy operating those horse-drawn carrieages that wanted a ridiculous amount of money for a tour of the island, and he kept on passing us asking if were were interested. No were weren’t. We hung out near the harbor and took pictures, sat in the park for a little while, and that was about it. We went back to the ferry station to ask what time the next ferry was back, and headed home. This trip was kind of a let down, considering the amount of time we spent getting here…

Oh but every cloud has a silver lining they say! On the way back, as we were getting closer to Eminonu, we were treated to a magnificent sunset behind Sultahnahmet district. The sky was red, the sun was round bright, and the silhouette of the Blue Mosque and Haghia Sophia made for quite a dramatic picture! In the end, the trip was totally worth the few pictures I could take of this splendid scene.

sunset, sultanahmet district

We had only a few hours left of the day as we arrived in Eminonu but we really wanted to go towards Taksim and see what Istiklal Caddesi (Istiklal Avenue) was all about, so we did just that. Istiklal Caddesi was just past Galata Tower, and you can take a little underground train up the hill towards the near end of the street. Had we known this, we would have taken this same train up the hill first and then walked downhill towards Galata Tower when we went there a few days ago. Well, good for future reference.

As we emerged out of the train station and into Istiklal Caddesi, we heard some street musicians playing some really nice Turkish music, consisting of three guys: one on the doumbek, one on a guitar, and one on a hammered dulcimer. They were really something, I can’t describe the music but a lot of people were amazed with the intoxicating rhythm of the doumbek and complicated melodies of the dulcimer. We contemplated purchasing their CD and figured we could do that when we came back, but later on when we did come back they were gone… If anybody reading this knows who they are, please let me know!!!

Istiklal Caddesi, believe it or not, was JUST LIKE Motomachi in Yokohama, Japan. Trendy shops lining the streets, throngs of people, the atmosphere reminded me of home! We went all the way up to Taskim Square and turned around to come back as it was getting late; on the way we had some baked potato and some kind of a crepe concoction, both of which were quite delicious.

The train station had closed by then, so we just walked down the hill towards Kadikoy. It was late, and very quiet, and we were in small streets, but for some reason it seemed quite safe. On the way home we ate a light dinner (Chicken Doner Sandwich!) and that was the end of the day.

Tomorrow, we are off to Athens. I had looked at a guidebook in detail before visiting Istanbul and had a decent idea about the layout of the area, but I didn’t have a decent book on Athens, so it will be interesting to figure out what to do once we get there. Regardless, I’m sure it will be a good time, Athens has such great history!

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