Jet lag hit us hard last night. Neither one of us slept very well. We were also slow on getting around but we finally made it out.
This was our day to explore the older historic district of Sultanhahmet. We walked down the steep hill to Karakoy to catch the tram to Sultanahmet. It was easy. The card worked great and it is 1.75 tl a ride. It does add up for two people - basically 7 tl a round trip for two.
The line to get into the Hagia Sophia was still about a block long so we went over to find the belly dancing store. We want to get some finger cymbals for a friend that does tribal fusion dance and a store nearby was recommended on Trip Advisor. It was not open yet so we went on to the Hagia Sophia.
The line moved quickly. Stepping into the main area with the beautiful hanging lights, your eyes circle around and up to take in the gorgeous dome and architecture. Vistors from all over stare up and shoot photos. Even on an overcast day the light is amazing but difficult to photgraph. I loved the floating lights and the mosaics. We wove in and out of the crowds while taking in the architecture of the building.
Next up, the Basilica Cistern, a large cistern below Istanbul. Do you remember Dr No where James Bond is chased in the underground cistern. That is what reminded us. You walk on platforms between the columns. Pretty neat.
Then it was back to the belly dancing - still not there and it was after 1pm. So we headed to the Blue Mosque. I thought I knew what times were prayer times but I timed it wrong. It must go for about 1 hour after the call. We waited around as people started to leave and I got very anxious. I did not have a scarf but they said you could get one at the entrance. It was finally time to allow visitors again and we went around to the front. We took off our shoes and put them in a bag. A woman was offering scarf and said I did not need to wear one but I preferred so I took one of the ones available. They were pieces of blue broadcloth.
The carpet is so soft and blue tile so beautiful. The prayer area is partitioned off and everything is quiet - a sanctuary even with the visitors. I remember two women patrolling the area partioned for prayer. We exit, put on our shoes and leave a donation.
The third time for the belly dancing store was the charm. He was open but did not have the ones we had seen in the catalog. He suggests we return on Friday. So it is off now for the Grand Bazaar. Everything starts to become a blur of sights and noise. I need lunch or at least some place to sit down. There is a restaurant in the Grand Bazaar - Havuzlu Lokanta. We wait a moment to orient ourselves and head off. We find it easily and the waiter rushes us up to the steam table and basically makes the decisions for us. I have a lamb stew topped with a cheesy bechemel sauce that is tasty. George has the bonito which has been baked but is now cold. We are late for lunch. But it is an experience - food is okay especially for about 50 TL which was what we paid the previous night for dinner.
We spend a while walking the rows of the bazaar - not making eye contact - so we are not hassled much. Then it is back on tram to Karakoy. We decide to walk to the renown baklava bakery - Karaköy Güllüoğlu. It takes us a bit to figure it out. We ask the cashier. You order what you want, they write it up, you pay and then go back and get what you ordered. The baklava is divine and perfect with the tulip shaped glass of tea.
We didn't want to tackle the hill up to the apartment so we take the Tunel, one of the oldest metros. It is a funicular that goes basically one stop up from Karakoy to Tunel which is at the end of Istiklal Caddessi. It is a short walk down to our apartment.