"" Writer's Wanderings: Istanbul, Day Two

Friday, September 29, 2023

Istanbul, Day Two

Part of the underground terminal
where excursion buses pick you up.

In addition to being one of the busiest ports we've been in, Istanbul has built an amazing cruise terminal since our last visit. It is mostly underground and takes a good fifteen minutes just to get from the ship to the exit into the mall that borders the docking area. You walk down a ramp into the terminal, take several escalators down further, pass through a checkpoint that requires a barcode distributed by the ship, more escalators and you finally find yourself in a huge area that looks like tourist information and you exit into the shopping area.

Reverse much of that to get back to the ship. First of all, however, you need to go through screening just to get into the shopping area, Bags through an x-ray and walk through the metal detector. It does make you feel safer in the shopping area which is quite nice with upscale shops and restaurants and a museum. You find your way to the cruise terminal entrance and then weave your way through the corridors and escalators and another security check before arriving at the ship. 

Just a few of the escalators to exit and enter

Half way through the whole thing upon return is a lighted sign with an arrow pointing to the ship and it says "8 minutes to ship." Thankfully for returning passengers who might need them, there are a couple of restrooms along the way. Toward the end is also a duty free shop and for once, you don't have to walk through it to get back as in other terminals. 

Now to get through this maze coming or going, there is no cheese but there are plenty of signs so it's not too confusing. But I digress. After our morning exercise to get off the ship, we were on our way to what we thought would be a nice morning.

The red Hop On Hop Off bus was stationed near the Galataport terminal. When we arrived at 9:30, the bus was there and several people were waiting. They seemed confused about the bus schedule and we soon found out why. Apparently this bus was just an office where you could buy tickets. Or not. Every time we tried to get a handle on when and where the bus was going we got a slightly different answer.

A small part of the Galaport shopping 
area. Very nice.

To make a long story short, we bought tickets for what we thought would be a leisurely morning of riding the route and seeing the sites from the bus. Boy, were we wrong. This bus would only take us to the starting point of the route which was where the Blue Mosque and the Hagai Sophia were located. It would go directly backwards on the route to take us there. Fine, we figured we would sit on the bus and continure from the start point. Not so.

We were told we had to exit the bus that this one was not leaving and we should take the bus in front of us which had just left and gone through the gated area and was not stopping to pick us up. We waited at the square between the mosques. Now it had already taken us a good forty-five minutes to get through the Istanbul traffic to arrive at Stop One (with no stops along the way). We were going to have to wait 40 to 50 minutes before the next bus left. Time depended upon who you asked and we couldn't even get a straight answer about the bus that was sitting there. Was it the one that we would take?

There was not enough time to go inside either mosque so we just wandered around and took a few pictures and kept an eye on the activity around the bus. We didn't want it leaving without us.

After about fifty minutes (it was now going on 11am), the bus doors opened and people poured into it. We managed to grab a couple of seats on top but when I pulled out the map to look at the stops and thought about how long it had taken us so far, I said to Bob that I didn't want to chance getting back to the ship late. It wasn't clear whether they would take a circuitous route or not and with all the traffic, we could miss our onboard time that was 3:30. It was questionable whether we would make that if we continued past stop 4 which was where we had started. Bob agreed and we rode the bus to the ship and got off.

It had cost us $48 each for that short tour of Istanbul. Lesson learned. I do believe it would have taken a whole day to ride that route given their "schedule". 

When we exited the bus, we did a short walk to one end of the mall area in Galataport and then got back on the ship. It was noon and we were tired and discouraged but grateful to have gotten another look at the two famous mosques if only from the outside. 

Roasted chestnuts and corn. Very tempting.

A relaxing afternoon and some great evening entertainment had us feeling much better by the end of the day. We looked forward to our stop the next day in Mykonos, Greece, a place we'd never been before.

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