We slept in today and then wandered down to the Egyptian Spice Bazaar for some shopping. Picked up the breakfast of Istanbully champions: grilled cheese from a kiosk. Yum.. Enroute we stopped at the train station to buy our tickets for tomorrow’s overnight train to Plovdiv. One of numerous Istanbul kitty’s was at the train, and this one was super friendly with Zoe. She has enjoyed all the cats and taking pictures with her camera of the random things she finds interesting. It’s a great way to keep her entertained.
At the spice bazaar we saw all the spice vendors, tea vendors, and turkish delight vendors. In fact Zoe was rarely without a turkish delight in her mouth since all the vendors would offer her a free one. She would lick off the sugar, take a bite, and then hand it to me if she didn’t like it. The pink strawberry flavored one was the only one she ate. Most were rose flavored which is my favorite!
We wandered down to the ferry dock to find a ferry up the Golden Horn deeper into Istanbul; there was a church there Bethany wanted to see and this was a cheap way to get out on the water for a ‘cruise’ without committing the time and money to a half day adventure up the Bosphorus. So, for one Jaton (tram, ferry, train token – $1) we got a mini cruise. Avi needed a diaper change, so I did that and he freaked out. I think he was tired….took a while to calm him and nursing didn’t even do it. Eventually he decided Aunt Bethany was better than me and played with her. She got him calm and cooing out the window. The ferry was double-decker and we could, amazingly, wheel the stroller right on. That is a rarity here…it’s a very non-stroller kind of city. It took a while for us to find the right ferry dock as there is massive construction and we had to walk a ways around the construction area. Luckily we didn’t have to wait at all as a ferry showed up right away.
When we disembarked there was a nice little playground so we had some playtime which Zoe really enjoyed. It is such a nice sunny day today, thank goodness. Such a difference in this city when it’s not cold and rainy. We were in the Avansaray part of the city which isn’t a very touristed area. Seemed very average-life, slightly dodgy, and a bit run down near the ferry but got nicer as we trudged up the hill to the church. The walk was rough, but interesting through a ‘normal’ part of town and along an old city wall. Eventually, with Bethany’s amazing navigational skills since we forgot the detailed description, we made it to the Chora Church museum. It is another church-turned-mosque-turned museum dating from the same area as the Aya Sofya in the 350bc time. The outside is small, but the interior was amazing with incredible mosaic of biblical scenes. Zoe really liked the flowers outside and took alot of pictures; she also liked looking for mosaics of baby Jesus from Christmas….otherwise she was not impressed.
Avi had fallen asleep on the trudge up the hill, but woke when we left the church. We backtracked to another playground where Bethany watched the kiddo’s and I popped into a grocery for some picnic lunch – bread, jam, bananas, chips, pudding, and a drink. Great lunch and a nice warm sunny playground. There were a bunch of other moms – all in headscarves – out with there kids too, so Zoe had alot of fun playing with the other kids. It was fun to hang out with other moms and kids; we all seem to laugh at the same goofy kid stuff no matter how different.
After this we walked to a bus stop and collapsed the strollers for a really packed ride toward Emanonu. It was so crowded that even with the collapsed strollers I was so in the way; people moved so Bethany could snag a seat with the kids and eventually I got one as well. Unfortunately, the bus went TOWARD where we were going, but skirted it and started across the bridge to the other side of Istanbul (not in Asia, that’s really far). We got off as soon as we could and walked back across the bridge to our area of town, which turned out to be quite a nice walk. We got to see all the boats and people fishing off the bridge. It was neat. Once we got to Emanonu we lugged the strollers down and up the stairs onto the tram platform where we rolled onto a super packed tram. To the point where I was running over feet and people were leaning over Zoe asleep in the stroller to fit their bodies into the car. If she hadn’t been sleeping we would’ve done well to collapse it, but I won’t wake a sleepy Zoe.
We took the tram back to the Sultanahmet part of town where the Blue Mosque and big sights are to wander for some nice sunny pictures and find an artisan center. It took a while of wandering up and down cobbled roads listening to the afternoon call to prayer until we found it…there were artists painting and doing other crafts without any pushing or haggling for prices. Bethany bought a trivet. Our next goal was a rooftop restaurant, and here is the catch, WITH an elevator. Found one! Actually, I had spotted it a few days ago. The view was amazing – out over the Bosphorus and up to the Aya Sofya. We had a corner table with views and sun as far as we could see. It was great, too, that Zoe was still asleep. Avi was awake an happily ate his food. I bought organic dehydrated baby food before leaving the states, and it has come in so handy. We carry that along for him and he is happy as a clam eating it; it’s also smaller and lighter than jars or containers. Baby food has also been quite elusive here, so I’m not sure what he’d be eating if I hadn’t brought it.
Bethany and I each had a nice big beer with a toast to celebrate our Istanbul trip….she had steak and I had fish as it was a fish restaurant. The food was OK, but the view was awesome. As always the servers wanted to hold Avi for a bit and take pictures. He’s such a cute happy guy everyone loves him! We have found that if we have an early dinner – like 5:30 or 6pm then the restaurants are empty so we aren’t disturbing other guests with our crazy kids. We stayed for a couple hours and then walked back to the hotel via the lamp shop where Bethany finalized her purchase. She also went to pickup our laundry. There is a place up the road that will do it for you for cheap, so we had a bunch of clothes washed. what luxury!
Tonight is our last night here at Yeni Hotel, and the owner has been so nice and helpful to us. As I left this evening to pickup our lamps he asked if we wer happy and I said yes that we’ve had a great trip and thanks for all the help. He told me he is happy if we are happy because I have such a kind heart. I really think he has taken to us in a grandfathery way. After seeing him interact very matter-of-factly with a few other guests I feel like we’re a bit special to him and the other older gentleman that does the jobs around the hotel. It has been a nice stay.