Friday, April 26, 2013

Adventures in travel

We’ve been enjoying ourselves here in Istanbul, except for a problem with our first hotel. Today unrolled quite differently from our plans, but we had a great time.

It all started at the Blue Mosque. We got there just before closing yesterday and Alla wanted to go back before it got crowded. The guard told us that they’d be open again at 8:30 in the morning, so we decided to go to the mosque before breakfast and then come back to eat without rushing. We got to the mosque right on schedule, but discovered that they don’t open to the public on Friday morning because that’s when they do their weekly cleaning. We decided, then, to go over to the Hagia Sophia, a rather unique cross between a church and a mosque. They would open at 9 a.m. and we stood fourth and fifth in line. This proved to be highly strategic, because we could enjoy the building almost completely empty. We’ll hit another important site at opening time tomorrow!

Anyway, we made it back to the hotel before breakfast closed and then we went out to find the Yildiz Palace. We discovered at the pier that Istanbul has commuter boats and we could cross the Bosphorus for the price of a trolley ticket. We had wanted a boat ride and did not expect such a bargain. It got us good views along the way and left us at the base of a huge and very pretty park. The locals advised us to take a taxi to the palace, but we opted to walk because we wanted to see the park. Indeed we saw the park, since we had a really hard time finding the palace. Nobody seemed to know quite where it was, and we ended up walking to a couple of other former palaces in the park instead. Finally we gave up and had lunch at one of them with a view over the Bosphorous.

Properly fed and enthusiastic, we set out again to find the palace. We got really good at explaining to people what we wanted to find, because they’d generally assume we wanted to go to one of the restaurants or to a chalet at the top of the park. We, in fact, wanted to go to a museum featured as a benefit of our Istanbul Museum cards. I guess it took us about three hours to find it, and when we got there the museum’s card reader claimed that our cards had expired. The cards still had about 36 hours left on them, and we persisted until the guard relented and let us in to see her museum. The museum didn’t impress us any more than it impressed the authors of my Turkey guidebook, but he had a great time getting there and enjoyed another delightful boat trip coming back home.

We just hope our museum passes work normally again next time. We have other museums in mind for tomorrow.

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