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Climbing, Caving, and Canceled Ballooning in Turkey, pt. 1: Istanbul

Spending a day being shown around Istanbul

In my last post we had spent a few nights in Vienna, Austria as Anna was a guest of Bayer at the 2018 Euretina Congress. We had always planned to have a holiday after the conference because it is kind of pointless to fly halfway around the world and not really see anything. Initially, we had decided on Poland because neither of us had been there before, but those plans soon changed when it became apparent that one of Bayer’s stipulations was that we fly with Turkish Airlines, with the flights to and from Vienna involving a layover in Istanbul, Turkey. Neither of us had been to Turkey either, but I went to university with a few Turkish people who were always saying how nice it was over there, an opinion echoed by a few other friends we know that have been, as well as a former student of mine who is now a pilot for Turkish Airlines. Turkey also often gets a bit of bad press, mainly due to what’s happening at the Syrian border, but we  wouldn’t be heading in that direction so we figured we had nothing to worry about. Instead, we would be spending one night in Istanbul, two nights looking through caves and underground cities, as well as exploring rock features in Cappadocia, another two nights checking out ancient ruins and salt mines around Izmir, then a final night back in Istanbul before flying back to Singapore. Let’s take a look back at that first leg of our Turkish adventure, our time spent exploring Istanbul, but be forewarned; a lot of this post — and the following posts from our Turkish holiday — may seem a bit like a history lesson, but that’s what happens when you go on personal guided tours through ancient cities.

Monday, September 24, 2018
By the time we had flown out from Vienna, landed in Istanbul, collected our luggage, and  arrived at the hotel, it was about 8:30pm. That didn’t really seem to be a problem, however, as people tend to do things late around here. A little bit of background information about Istanbul, a city we didn’t really know a whole lot about:

Istanbul, historically known as Byzantium and Constantinople, is the most populous city in Turkey and the country’s economic, cultural, and historic center. Istanbul is a transcontinental city in Eurasia, straddling the Bosporus strait (which separates Europe and Asia) between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea. Its commercial and historical center lies on the European side and about a third of its population lives on the Asian side. The city is the administrative center of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (coterminous with Istanbul Province), both hosting a population of around 15 million residents. Istanbul is one of the world’s most populous cities and ranks as the world’s 4th-largest city proper and the largest European city. Istanbul is viewed as a bridge between the East and West.

Founded under the name of Byzantion (Βυζάντιον) on the Sarayburnu promontory around 660 BCE, the city grew in size and influence, having become one of the most important cities in history. After its reestablishment as Constantinople in 330 CE, it served as an imperial capital for almost 16 centuries, during the Roman/Byzantine (330–1204 and 1261–1453), the Latin (1204–1261), and the Ottoman (1453–1922) empires. It was instrumental in the advancement of Christianity during Roman and Byzantine times, before the Ottomans conquered the city in 1453 CE and transformed it into an Islamic stronghold and the seat of the Ottoman Caliphate.

Istanbul’s strategic position on the historic Silk Road, rail networks to Europe and the Middle East, and the only sea route between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean have produced a cosmopolitan populace. While Ankara was chosen instead as the new Turkish capital after the Turkish War of Independence, the city has maintained its prominence in geopolitical and cultural affairs. The population of the city has increased tenfold since the 1950s, as migrants from across Anatolia have moved in and city limits have expanded to accommodate them. Arts, music, film, and cultural festivals were established towards the end of the 20th century and continue to be hosted by the city today. Infrastructure improvements have produced a complex transportation network in the city.

Sounds pretty cool to me so we checked into our hotel, Fer, took the bags up to the room, and then hit the town. The hotel was in a great spot, making it easy to just wander around the city, checking out the shops, markets, bars, and restaurants.
We strolled past some mosques, the Column of Constantine, an old cemetery, and a lot of other ancient buildings, but they were all things we would be spending the bulk of the following day taking in on a guided tour. Tonight was going to be all about eating and drinking and one thing that didn’t even cross my mind until that point was trying Turkish delight, most likely because I hated it as a child. When you grow up in rural Australia, you aren’t exposed to many authentic international foods, but more to international-inspired Australian food — Dim sims, anyone? Quite often boxes of assorted cream chocolates such as Cadbury Milk Tray had a disgusting Turkish Delight flavoured one that was just awful, but fortunately for the sake of humanity, Milk Tray discontinued the Turkish Delight flavour, renaming it Exotic Delight in 2013 and then replacing it altogether in 2015 with the far more palatable Apple Crunch. Anyway, my family generally only bought these types of chocolates at Christmas or on a special Family Night where we rented a video and spent Saturday night together, but if you were too engrossed in the movie and weren’t reading the key to the chocolates, you could absentmindedly grab that Turkish Delight one and your night was instantly ruined, even if you had chosen the movie. This is coming from someone who once ate a handful of compost as a dare, I’m not a fussy eater, but I hated what I thought was Turkish delight so I was skeptical when we stumbled upon Hafiz Mustafa, makers of what are considered the best Turkish delights available. We went inside the store, tried some of the samples and it was, well, delightful! Turkish delight in Turkey is absolutely delicious; instead of the pinkish-coloured bitter snot coated in overly sweet chocolate that I was accustomed to, traditional Turkish delight is a gel made of starch and sugar, sometimes coating dried fruit or nuts and then dusted with icing sugar, an ancient treat that became the inspiration for the modern jellybean. The flavours available are really interesting too, such as rosewater or mandarin.
We ordered a bunch of different Turkish delight and cake, some rose tea, and kicked back for a bit before buying some more to take away and hit the street again.
Some scenes up until that point:

After a few cups of tea and plenty of Turkish delight, we headed back out to look at the shops in the area, as well as find somewhere to eat, but we accidentally found ourselves in a market area, looking at jewellery. Anna almost has a sixth sense when it comes to sourcing out rings when we’re overseas so it came as no surprise that she stumbled upon Sûfî, a small store that sold a lot of traditional handmade Turkish items, in particular one-off rings. The owner was a really funny, albeit extremely sarcastic guy, and Anna could’ve spent a small fortune in there, but she managed to limit herself to two really cool rings that she’ll never be able to find anywhere else. That’s how she justifies it to herself, anyway.

Next on the agenda was the main reason we had come out — Dinner. Anna managed to find an area of bars and restaurants so we strolled past the mosques, statues, sculptures, and fountains that we’d see in more detail the next day and decided where to hunker down for the night for a bite to eat and a few drinks. The entire street was bars and restaurants so we chose one that looked good, Duvares Cafe, and pulled up a seat. Most people think of Turkish food as being a lot of bread, ground meat, and cheese, and this is generally true, but because Istanbul is on the coast, there is some really good seafood there too. We ordered some prawns, beef and eggplant, and a few other dishes but then our waiter, always the showman, brought over a table with a fire on it and a large clay vase covered in foil. He then put the vase in the fire and started banging on the table with his cutlery while an older man with a drum came over and started singing. When the dish was ready, he cracked the bottom off the vase and poured a pretty special looking stew into a bowl for the diner who had ordered it. I think I’ll be ordering this at some stage during our time in Turkey:

We sat there, eating our food while still being a little envious of those who got the stew and the old guy singing and playing the drum continued to hang around our table, doing his thing. He was obviously working for tips, however, we hadn’t had a chance to get any Turkish lira, the local currency, out so we only had euros. Not to worry, the lira was in some serious trouble and still is to this date so it would probably be advantageous for him to receive euros, he could just take them to a money changer and cash in, but he still didn’t look particularly happy.
We finished our dinner and it turned out that there was a shisha bar just down the road called Just Bar so we went in there and ordered an apple shisha. In the past we had ordered double-apple, but it had tasted like aniseed, something both of us can’t stand, but a guy who overheard us at the next table told us that regular apple doesn’t taste that way and he turned out to be correct. We sat around the rest of the night drinking, smoking our shisha, eating Turkish delight, and listening to some great music, Anna deciding the Turkish delights looked like the coals on the shisha. Our waiter from Duvares spotted her holding a piece out and cheekily came over, snatched it, and ate it, telling us that the ones from Hafiz Mustafa have always been his favourite.
A bit of what we saw that evening in Istanbul:

Tuesday, September 25, 2018
We managed to get up at around 8:30am, despite returning to the hotel only seven hours earlier and our private tour guide was waiting for us in the lobby of our hotel, keen to show us around town, however, she said there was going to be a lot of walking so she suggested we grab some of the free breakfast upstairs first.
Once we had had our fill of food and coffee it was time to hit the road. When taking private tours like this around any city, you are absolutely inundated with information and it becomes a little difficult to recall exact details about locations so for this post, as well as subsequent posts from this holiday, I figure the best approach is to get the details about the location from Wikipedia and then add any personal stories from that leg of the tour, followed by some photos (provided I was allowed to take them).

We walked from the hotel, past some interesting buildings we’d seen on our way into the city the previous night, and then we were supposed to begin the tour by seeing Topkapi Palace, which was used by the Ottoman Sultans from the 15th to 19th centuries, taking in what is supposed to be an impressive collection of priceless jewels, crystal, silver and porcelain, robes worn by the sultans, and relics of the prophet Mohammed while we were there. We could even pay a little extra to enter the palace’s Harem, however, Topkapi Palace isn’t open on Tuesdays. Another chapter in the never-ending account that is the T-Factor? Perhaps, but instead our first stop for the day was Hagia Sophia and it definitely wasn’t a bad alternative:

Hagia Sophia is the former Greek Orthodox Christian patriarchal cathedral, later an Ottoman imperial mosque and now a museum (Ayasofya Müzesi) in Istanbul, Turkey. Built in 537 AD at the beginning of the Middle Ages, it was famous in particular for its massive dome. It was the world’s largest building and an engineering marvel of its time. It is considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture and is said to have “changed the history of architecture”.

From the date of its construction in 537 until 1453, it served as an Eastern Orthodox cathedral and the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, except between 1204 and 1261, when it was converted by the Fourth Crusaders to a Roman Catholic cathedral under the Latin Empire. The building was later converted into an Ottoman mosque from 29 May 1453 until 1931. It was then secularized and opened as a museum on 1 February 1935. It remained the world’s largest cathedral for nearly a thousand years, until Seville Cathedral was completed in 1520.

In 1453, Constantinople was conquered by the Ottoman Empire under Mehmed the Conqueror, who ordered this main church of Orthodox Christianity converted into a mosque. Although some parts of the city of Constantinople were falling into disrepair, the cathedral was maintained with an amount of money set aside for this purpose. Nevertheless, the Christian cathedral made a strong impression on the new Ottoman rulers and they decided to convert it into a mosque. The bells, altar, iconostasis, and other relics were destroyed and the mosaics depicting Jesus, his Mother Mary, Christian saints, and angels were also destroyed or plastered over. Islamic features—such as the mihrab (a niche in the wall indicating the direction toward Mecca, for prayer), minbar (pulpit), and four minarets—were added. It remained a mosque until 1931 when it was closed to the public for four years. It was re-opened in 1935 as a museum by the Republic of Turkey. Hagia Sophia was, as of 2014, the second-most visited museum in Turkey, attracting almost 3.3 million visitors annually. According to data released by the Turkish Culture and Tourism Ministry, Hagia Sophia was Turkey’s most visited tourist attraction in 2015.

Very few buildings can claim to have been both a Catholic cathedral and a mosque in its history, therefore it is understandable why so many people want to see this place so our guide got the tickets for us and we were inside Hagia Sophia. Fortunately we got there early so it wasn’t too crowded, we could check out all of the mosaics and domes unobstructed. After we had strolled around at ground level for a while and taken in the sights, we were led up a slippery, narrow corridor that would take us to the upper gallery, allowing us to look out over the floor of the museum, as well as over the coast outside. Once back down, we looked through some of the outdoor ruins before cutting back through to exit and moving on to the next stop of our tour. A look around Hagia Sophia:

Now it was on to the next stop on the tour, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque due to its interior being decorated with 20,000 iznik tiles. Anyhow, this is what we would be occupying once we eventually entered the Sultan Ahmed Mosque:

The Sultan Ahmet Mosque is a historic mosque located in Istanbul, Turkey. A popular tourist site, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque continues to function as a mosque today; men still kneel in prayer on the mosque’s lush red carpet after the call to prayer. The Blue Mosque, as it is popularly known, was constructed between 1609 and 1616 during the rule of Ahmed I. Its Külliye contains Ahmed’s tomb, a madrasah and a hospice. Hand-painted blue tiles adorn the mosque’s interior walls, and at night the mosque is bathed in blue as lights frame the mosque’s five main domes, six minarets and eight secondary domes.

The Sultan Ahmed Mosque has five main domes, six minarets, and eight secondary domes. The design is the culmination of two centuries of Ottoman mosque development. It incorporates some Byzantine Christian elements of the neighboring Hagia Sophia with traditional Islamic architecture and is considered to be the last great mosque of the classical period. The architect, Sedefkâr Mehmed Ağa, synthesized the ideas of his master Sinan, aiming for overwhelming size, majesty and splendour. It has a forecourt and special area for ablution. In the middle it has a big fountain. On the upper side it has a big chain. The upper area is made up of 20000 ceramic tiles each having 60 tulip designs. In the lower area it has 200 stained glass windows.

Getting into this mosque seemed like it would be no easy feat, not because we aren’t Muslim, but because the line to enter was enormous. This would also be a time when we would discover that our tour guide, a local woman in her mid-twenties who was doing her master’s degree in Ancient History, could be exceptionally fierce! There were people trying to cut the queue, either by pretending that they didn’t realise that the hundreds of people lined up in front of them were also waiting to enter, a technique quite often adopted by members of foreign, particularly Chinese, tour groups visiting popular tourist attractions around the world, or locals spotting a friend further up the line, going up to chat to them briefly, and then taking the spot behind them in the queue. Our guide wasn’t buying this from anybody — She approached anyone who appeared to be cutting the queue and screamed at them in English or Turkish about what the rules were, that they were not special and the rules applied to them as well, and how one should conduct oneself in a crowded public environment. If they didn’t speak Turkish or English, she just kept pointing at their ticket and then to the back of the line with an extremely intimidating look on her face until they walked off with their tail between their legs and joined the end of the line. She was doing a better job than the actual security burdened with the task of stopping people cutting in line and in the process of doing so, she also managed to find an entrance specifically for groups of four or less people, allowing us to cut the queue.
When we got to enter, we were required to take our shoes off, as is the case upon entering any mosque around the world, however, many people fear losing their shoes or someone else taking the wrong pair — I used to work opposite a mosque in Singapore when I was teaching and I remember going to get something for lunch one Friday, the Muslim holy day, and there were a pair of sandals among all of the other shoes out the front that had been fastened together with a bike lock! The staff at the Blue Mosque had already addressed this dilemma by providing everyone who entered with a bag in which to carry their shoes. We obliged and carried our sneakers in the bag, but security were getting annoyed with a woman behind us who happened to be from one of the aforementioned tour groups; apparently she had asked for an extra bag and then just tied them over her shoes while she was still wearing them, trying to justify not needing to take off her shoes due to them being covered. It just doesn’t work that way.
The Sultan Ahmed Mosque was beautiful inside, but there were areas where you weren’t allowed to take pictures due to the camera flash potentially damaging some of the artwork, our guide loudly informing anyone who tried to discretely snap a shot of this fact. The photos we could take may not show the true detail of the thousands upon thousands of tiles inside, or the queue we had to conquer in order to see them, but they should give you the gist:

Next on our tour was the Hippodrome, an area we had walked through several times the previous night, including taking photos of the German Fountain, but knew nothing about. Well, this is what the Hippodrome is:

The Hippodrome of Constantinople was a circus that was the sporting and social centre of Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire. Today it is a square named Sultanahmet Meydanı (Sultan Ahmet Square) in the Turkish city of Istanbul, with a few fragments of the original structure surviving.

The word hippodrome comes from the Greek hippos (ἵππος), horse, and dromos (δρόμος), path or way. For this reason, it is sometimes also called Atmeydanı (“Horse Square”) in Turkish. Horse racing and chariot racing were popular pastimes in the ancient world and hippodromes were common features of Greek cities in the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine era.

Now obviously we weren’t here for horse racing, but we found the answers to the questions we had about the structures we had seen the night before. Two of the first structures we encountered that were located close together in the Hippodrome were the Serpent Column and the Walled Obelisk. First, the Serpent Column:

To raise the image of his new capital, Constantine and his successors, especially Theodosius the Great, brought works of art from all over the empire to adorn it. The monuments were set up in the middle of the Hippodrome, the spina. Among these was the Tripod of Plataea, now known as the Serpent Column, cast to celebrate the victory of the Greeks over the Persians during the Persian Wars in the 5th century BC. Constantine ordered the Tripod to be moved from the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, and set in middle of the Hippodrome. The top was adorned with a golden bowl supported by three serpent heads, although it appears that this was never brought to Constantinople. The serpent heads and top third of the column were destroyed in 1700. Parts of the heads were recovered and are displayed at the Istanbul Archaeology Museum. All that remains of the Delphi Tripod today is the base, known as the “Serpentine Column”.

Our guide seemed more than a little bitter when she told us that another one of the serpent heads from the eight-metre high (26′) column is actually in the British Museum. Just behind the Serpent Column was the slightly less interesting Walled Obelisk:

In the 10th century the Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus built another obelisk at the other end of the Hippodrome. It was originally covered with gilded bronze plaques, but they were sacked by Latin troops in the Fourth Crusade. The stone core of this monument also survives, known as the Walled Obelisk.

We had taken a few photographs of both of these monuments at night and their appearance both in the light and the darkness is quite cool so here’s how we saw them on both occasions:

At the other end of the Hippodrome was the Obelisk of Thutmose III, also known as the Obelisk of Theodosius, which is in incredible condition when you consider its age:

The Obelisk of Theodosius is the Ancient Egyptian obelisk of Pharaoh Thutmose III re-erected in the Hippodrome of Constantinople by the Roman emperor Theodosius I in the 4th century AD.

The Obelisk of Theodosius is of red granite from Aswan and was originally 30m tall, like the Lateran Obelisk. The lower part was damaged in antiquity, probably during its transport or re-erection, and so the obelisk is today only 18.54m (or 19.6m) high, or 25.6m if the base is included. Between the four corners of the obelisk and the pedestal are four bronze cubes, used in its transportation and re-erection.

Each of its four faces has a single central column of inscription, celebrating Thutmose III’s victory over the Mitanni which took place on the banks of the Euphrates in about 1450 BC.

The marble pedestal had bas-reliefs dating to the time of the obelisk’s re-erection in Constantinople. On one face Theodosius I is shown offering the crown of victory to the winner in the chariot races, framed between arches and Corinthian columns, with happy spectators, musicians and dancers assisting in the ceremony. In the bottom right of this scene is the water organ of Ctesibius and on the left another instrument.

Some parts of the marble base aren’t original as is visible in these pictures, but I managed to snap a photograph of both the obelisk and a closeup of the pedistal from each angle:

We had one final stop on our tour before we had the rest of the day to ourselves; we were going to go underground and walk around the Yerebatan Underground Cistern, better known as the Basilica Cistern:

The Basilica Cistern is the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city of Istanbul, Turkey. The cistern, located 150 metres (490 ft) southwest of the Hagia Sophia on the historical peninsula of Sarayburnu, was built in the 6th century during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I.

Ancient texts indicated that the basilica contained gardens, surrounded by a colonnade and facing the Hagia Sophia. According to ancient historians, Emperor Constantine built a structure that was later rebuilt and enlarged by Emperor Justinian after the Nika riots of 532, which devastated the city.

Historical texts claim that 7,000 slaves were involved in the construction of the cistern.

This cathedral-size cistern is an underground chamber approximately 138 metres (453 ft) by 65 metres (213 ft) – about 9,800 square metres (105,000 sq ft) in area – capable of holding 80,000 cubic metres (2,800,000 cu ft) of water. The ceiling is supported by a forest of 336 marble columns, each 9 metres (30 ft) high, arranged in 12 rows of 28 columns each spaced 5 metres (16 ft) apart.

When we descended the 52 stone steps to enter the cistern, I had a strange feeling that I had seen this place before and I’d soon know the reason; our guide told us that the cistern was a location in From Russia with Love, the 1963 James Bond flick. I guess that was where I recognised it from.
It might’ve been a bit damp down there, but it was incredible to see and impossible to comprehend how it was built. I especially appreciated the Medusa column bases:

Located in the northwest corner of the cistern, the bases of two columns reuse blocks carved with the visage of Medusa. The origin of the two heads is unknown, though it is thought that the heads were brought to the cistern after being removed from a building of the late Roman period. There is no written evidence that suggests they were used as column pedestals previously. Tradition has it that the blocks are oriented sideways and inverted in order to negate the power of the Gorgons’ gaze; however, it is widely thought that one was placed sideways only to be the proper size to support the column. The upside-down Medusa was placed that way specifically because she would be the same height right side up.

Add to this the Hen’s Eye column, a column decorated with the Turkish all-seeing eye, something you encounter everywhere in Turkey in order to ward off bad luck, and our little wander around underground capped off a great end to the day’s fascinating, yet exhausting, history lesson:

The learning was over and the rest of the day was ours, however, our guide walked us back to the Grand Bazaar suggesting it and the surrounding area to be a good place to get lunch. Okay, the history lesson isn’t quite over, a little background information on the Grand Bazaar:

The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, with 61 covered streets and over 4,000 shops which attract between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily. In 2014, it was listed No.1 among the world’s most-visited tourist attractions with 91,250,000 annual visitors. The Grand Bazar at Istanbul is often regarded as one of the first shopping malls of the world.

I had also received this message the previous night from my friend Yarny, the one that was on Masterchef: Singapore:


We were definitely in the right place for it as the Grand Bazaar had endless stalls selling spices, as well as jewellery, food, souvenirs, tiles, antiques, and copious amounts of counterfeit goods. In fact, before we went to Hangzhou, I never thought I’d say that there was far more fake shit available in Turkey than in China, but it was simply the truth. Sure, we encountered fake and counterfeit items while we were in China, but nowhere near to the extent that we did in Turkey and you’ll find that this will be a bit of an ongoing theme over the course of my posts based throughout the country.
Nusret salting.gifWe picked up the spices for Yarny and also grabbed a bag for ourselves and I have to say that that stuff is delicious, especially on fish because it’s kind of citrusy. But despite the fact that the bazaar boasts over 4,000 stores, it all gets a bit the same after a while, plus you’re constantly being hassled to come into people’s shops and you have to barter and haggle for anything and we just weren’t in the mood for it. One thing we weren’t expecting to find in the Bazaar, however, was the restaurant of Nusret Gökçe, A.K.A. “Salt Bae” (above, right). Anyone who has logged onto the internet even once in the past 18 months would more than likely have encountered at least one meme of this douche and his salt. Well, one branch of his chain of steakhouses, Nusr-Et, was located in the Grand Bazaar and it looks exactly what you’d expect from this self-righteous sociopath, despite the fact that it has received generally mixed reviews for both its food and its politics, with the general consensus being that it is overpriced for rather average food. In fact there was a review earlier this year for the New York branch in The Observer entitled “My Disappointing Meal at Salt Bae’s NYC Restaurant Cost $1,400.” Anyway, if you had to picture in your head what his restaurant would look like, your mental image is probably correct. This pretentious tool has stencils from the meme on every possible surface, as well as a life-size wax model of himself at the entrance in his signature pose. I honestly could not stop laughing and almost felt bad for the guy if it weren’t for the fact that his chain has been valued at $1.5 billion. Oh well, he can go cry into a pool of money.
Some scenes from the Grand Bazaar, including Nusr-Et:

We still hadn’t eaten lunch and there was no way I was going to blow over a grand on a steak unless it came from a thylacine or some other similarly hard-to-come-by being so we left the Grand Bazaar and decided to explore a bit more of the city. Before long we found a strip that was all coffee shops and stalls that served massive amounts of meat and kebabs so we pulled up a stool and gorged ourselves on a mixed-grill platter and some rice things that were wrapped in vine leaves. Nobody really has a name for them, but they are delicious!
Once lunch was done, we crossed the Galata Bridge over the body of water known as the Golden Horn and entered the Beyoğlu district of Istanbul, technically leaving Asia for Europe. All of the little neighbourhoods in Beyoğlu have a far more cosmopolitan vibe than those in the old city, with trams traveling along the avenues, while the backstreets and laneways are full of shops, patisseries, cafes, and a whole heap of pubs and wine shops. There are also a lot more foreigners in Beyoğlu, mostly European, and we later found out that it is Istanbul’s arts hub.
We spent a couple of hours wandering around the painfully steep, narrow streets, looking through the shops, and playing with the dogs around town. One thing we learned about Turkey is that there are a lot of stray dogs around the streets, but they are clean, playful, extremely well-looked after, and even vaccinated. In fact, a tag through the dog’s ear signifies that it has had its complete round of rabies shots. I found this interesting in a mostly Islamic city, because Muslims in Singapore are generally terrified of dogs and believe that any wet part of a dog is Satan’s saliva, however, we were later told that Sunni Muslims apparently have a different, more affectionate approach to canines than Shiite Muslims, although I’m not quite sure how accurate that statement is.

After strolling through Europe, it was time to cross the Galata Bridge back into Asia, past the rows of men fishing from the bridge in the increasingly terrible weather, battling the wind and drizzle in order to land a catch. There must be something decent in those waters because not only was there a ton of fishermen, but there is also a decent stretch of seafood restaurants along the bottom of the bridge on the side of the old city.
Once closer to home we had a look through the Egyptian Bazaar, stocked with the standard spices and fake goods, before stopping off at a bar for a bit.
Here’s how the remainder of the afternoon looked once we had left the Grand Bazaar:

Our stay in Istanbul had come to an end, as we had to return to the hotel to get our luggage and take our shuttle to the airport to catch our 9:30pm flight to Cappadocia so we could spend the next few nights staying in a cave and exploring the area, hopefully by hot-air balloon at dawn (the title probably gives away how that went), but that’s all a story for next time. Stay tuned for Part 2!

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