This is part 2 of my Turkey adventures from early April! Check out Part 1 here. 🙂
One of the things that made this trip extra memorable was all the little spurts of beauty and fun in between the designated sight seeing. For example, as we meandered our way back to the Blue Mosque for Asr prayer (attempt #3!), we came across this old stone road with vines covering the walls and I made my parents stop and take some photos in true Maria fashion.
Attempt #3 at the Blue Mosque was a semi-failure because we thought we could only pray in the back gallery area since it was under construction. But after namaz (prayer) we saw people coming out of the actual masjid area, but because of the construction, it was too late to go inside since they only opened it for prayers. Not ready to give up, we decided to eat Chinese food at a nearby restaurant before trying again for magrib (sunset prayers).
Try #4 at Blue Mosque was successful (yay!). Now, we had all these issues because the masjid was under construction, which means when we finally got inside we still only saw 1/4 of the masjid as 3/4 was completely curtained off. But it is a beautiful, beautiful mosque and it was wonderful to get to see even a little bit of it.
We had a few hours before the subway/metro closed for the night, so we decided to take it across the sea to Taksim Square. Remember when I said I expected Turkey to be more “European”? The Taksim Square area is what I was thinking–huge hotels, brand-name stores, a more modern vibe. While I preferred the old, historical side of Istanbul, it was nice to see this totally different feel just a 10 minute metro ride away. It definitely echoed the pulls that Turkey is experiencing politically–whether to stick with tradition/history/Islam or become more modern/European/secular.
We made our way back to the hotel for the night, but one thing definitely did not sit well with me on this full day walking through Turkey. As the day progressed, a LOT of individuals approached us saying only, “Syria, Syria” and asking for money. As we left the Blue Mosque and walked around Taksim Square, we were badgered with individuals who would not leave our side until they received money (which is not like the Pakistani beggars we were used to). As an American, we’ve heard a lot about Syrians recently…the terrible war, the lengths at which families are going to find refuge, the animosity of some countries and people to their plight. We did not want to be on the side of animosity, but we could not help but wonder….were these beggars actually Syrian refugees? Were there no other ways for them make money? I knew that Turkey had taken in millions of Syrian refugees and jobs were very scarce. I also could, for a brief second, understand what people meant when they talked about refugees changing the landscape of their country. The amount of people that approached us in just a few hours and the methods they adopted definitely left me thinking a bit more about the intricacies and side effects of the crisis.
Breakfast was a little chilly out on the terrace on our last day, but we still fully enjoyed the food, views, and a pelican sneaking off with a piece of my dad’s bread! 🙂
We had just half a day left, and we decided to partake in a Bosphorous cruise package. The package included a bus picking us up from our hotel, taking us on a boat through the Golden Horn, a tour of the Kucuksu Palace, a bus ride up to Pierre Loti Hill for lunch, and then a Cable Car down back to the city to end off the day. It was a nice package that allowed us to check out multiple areas we did not get to see in the previous days.
While we enjoyed the cruise package and it was a good way for us to spend our last half day, I would actually recommend against it for other travelers. The boat ride to Kucuksu Palace was one hour long, and on the way there everyone was standing on the second floor of the boat, enjoying all the attractions and ocean breeze. However, the entire hour back it seemed like all the passengers were tired and just waiting to get back to land. Two hours was a long time to spend on a boat, and Kucuksu Palace is not necessarily worth it (It is a mansion filled with 8 different living rooms). If you have the time to plan your own schedule, just getting a short ferry ride around the Golden Horn would be more enjoyable.
None of the pictures I took sufficiently capture the beauty that was sitting in Pierre Loti Hill. It is one the best viewpoints of Istanbul, with restaurants outlining the hill so you can enjoy a beautiful meal. And in early April with the nice breeze coming through and the sun shining and the cats coercing you to give them food (no joke! haha)…it was a perfect little end to our Turkey extravaganza (minus the fact that we were stressing about making it to our hotel in time for our airport shuttle at this point).
From the hill, there were long lines to buy cable car tickets and make your way through, so we were glad the package included the tickets scheduled in. We got a kick out of riding the cable car down overlooking the beautiful Istanbul scenery and…..a cemetery. My dad joked that the cemetery was for the people who did not make it out of the cable car alive…..oh dads *sigh*.
With some speed walking through the hills from the Sultanahmet Square, we made it back to our hotel. Thankfully the airport shuttle driver, in true Turkish hospitality, waited for us and got us to the airport just in time.
It was a whirlwind trip, and just 2 days is definitely not enough time to see all of Istanbul, let alone the many attractions all of Turkey offers. But we had so much fun with everything we go to do and see…all of my relatives in Pakistan heard many, many stories about our trip in the following days. 🙂 I’d love to go back and see the entire Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia, Grand Bazaar, and many other cities in Turkey…but until then I will be reminiscing on these two very wonderful days we had. 🙂