"" Writer's Wanderings: Istanbul, Turkey

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Istanbul, Turkey

 Morning dawned and the sun peeked around the curtains at our  balcony window inviting us to open them and look out at the sixth largest city in the world, Istanbul. Istanbul is a city divided. Half of it is on the European continent and the other half is on the continent of Asia. 

The Bosphorus Strait separates the two parts of the city and is the busiest port area I've ever seen. Ferries and large ships and huge tourist boats keep the water churning. Added to the wakes from all the boats was a brisk wind helping to whip up the surface of the water. The upside of all of it is that the breeze off the water kept the temperatures feeling comfortable.

Our day started leisurely. We had been to Istanbul before and seen the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia mosque and the Topaki Palace. Our tour then had been a private group arranged through contact with the Cruise Critic group for that cruise. It was wonderful and we didn't think we would duplicate it so instead of getting a tour and being disappointed, we chose to do a little walking. 

Docked at the new Galataport cruise terminal, we were in a different area of the city than before so we decided to explore a couple of the sites nearer the ship. We could see the Galata Tower not too far from us so we headed in that direction using my GPS My CityApp. What it didn't tell us was that it was all up hill, nice steep hills some of which had many steps. At least it was the beginning of our walk and not the end. The rest would be downhill.

The Galata Tower from which the area gets its name, dates back to 1348 and was erected by Genoese Italians as a vantage point over the city. It was used as a fire lookout tower up until the 1960s. Once we reached it, we took a few moments to catch our breath and take a few pictures. A ticket booth was around one side and since my app said there was an elevator, we checked on the ticket price. It was 675 in Turkish Lira, $25 USD. All we were going to get for that was a view of the city and much of that could be seen from the top deck of our ship. We passed. 

Buoyed by the prospect of the rest of our walk being downhill, we started out for a mosque that was just past where our ship was. The sidewalks went from cobblestone, to brick, to flat slabs of stone and back again. Much of it was very uneven and our feet and legs began to feel it. We paused for a few minutes and sat on a small wall along the way where another couple from the ship were perched to rest and struck up a conversation.

The couple had been here before and were walking to the Dolmabahce Palace where they said there was a nice garden you could walk through and if you wanted, go into the palace for a fee. They weren't sure how much farther it was though and they were getting tired. I looked it up on my app and it showed just about a half mile farther so we continued on while the other couple contemplated the extra walk. 

They were right, just past the mosque which was built by the same sultan, was a beautiful garden and beyond it an arched palace gate. We had no desire to go inside. The line was a bit long and we were quite a bit tired with a mile walk back to the ship ahead of us. We walked around the garden and took pictures of the clock tower which was built in France and enjoyed the garden walkway that led to a nice bench in the shade where we sat and soaked in the warm temperature with the gentle cool breeze.

I read a little about the palace on my app. Apparently In the 1850s the Ottoman sultans shifted from the more famous Topkapi Palace to the Dolmabahce which is said to be the largest and most extravagant. Perhaps we should have gone in. 

We made it back to the ship, both of us almost limping from sore feet and legs and backs. The uneven pavement was really difficult to walk on for two oldsters. Since we had an excursion in the evening, we didn't venture out again and instead fell asleep for a much needed rest.

Our excursion in the evening was to be a dinner cruise on the Bosphorus with some entertainment and of course Turkish cuisine. It turned out to be quite a disappointment. The food was not all that great, the entertainment was not anywhere near where we could see it well enough and we sat on the level of the boat that had tiny dirty windows that we could only open part way to even see out. So much for seeing the lights of the city at night. I did manage to snap a couple shots off the back of the boat and one or two from the slight opening of the window. 

The couple who shared our table laughed with us as the DJ began playing Spanish pop music and topped it off with the Macarena. So much for immersion in Turkish music.

Since this was an overnight stay, we went to bed with the plan of taking the hop on hop off bus we'd seen just outside the Galataport shopping area the next morning. That would be a whole other adventure.

[I should have posted about our first man overboard experience on a cruise ship when we were in Kusadasi but I forgot to include it. We returned to the ship and were in the stateroom when a general alarm was sounded and announcement was made that there was a man overboard port side. That was our side of the ship so we dashed out to the balcony. Below us we could see a guy in red swim trunks floating on his back and then turning to swim a bit back and forth. Our first thought was some dope decided to dive off the ship for a swim. We watched until he was out of our view. A little bit later the captain announced that the man was a local who somehow swam to the ship and was now in the custody of local authorities being questioned. As the guy in the neighboring stateroom said, "Somebody's gonna have a lot of 'splainin' to do."]

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