Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Inside Istanbul

Day 51 Istanbul

Boy was it ever great to not have to crawl out of a tent this morning, or not have to pull riding shorts on, or have your bag down at the van by 6:30, or anything else for that matter. This is how conditioned we have been come. Get up, stand in line, pack your bags, ride 100 kms.

So instead I got up and had a nice long hot shower, and a leisurely breakfast in the hotel restaurant beside the pool. The Turkish tour guide had arranged a city bus tour for our group so we jumped on the bus and headed off. There are so many sights to see in Istanbul but we headed right down to the old town to see the most famous. The guide on the bus tour talked continuously about the history of Istanbul. In summary just about every civilization has ruled here, and everyone has left their mark on the city. The first stop was the underground cisterns build in 534 AD by the Romans. Totally amazing! Next stop was the Hagia Sophia built in 537 AD. It has been a mosque and a cathedral and is now a museum. Unfortunately it was closed as it was Monday. However we did get to walk around it. It is truly unbelievable. It is really big. Next stop was the Blue Mosque. It is called the blue mosque because of the blue tile interior. It was built in 1603 by one of the Ottoman sultans. We were allowed in even though we were not Muslims. It is incredibly beautiful inside and big too. Then on to the rug factory tour for tea. I understand that it is mandatory that all Turkish tours must include a tour to the father in-laws’ rug factory. There we were entertained by our hosts for a cup of Turkish tea and shown the many different rug styles and how they are made. Sticker shock is the only words to describe the rugs we were shown. Beautiful but ouch! Finally on to the Grand Bazaar. Here there are over 4000 shops selling everything imaginable. Now you must understand that these shops are small and are not department stores. Each shop is maybe 20 sq feet. A larger shop maybe 100 sq ft. We were told to haggle our hardest and to start at about 50% of the asking price. So I set off looking for the ultimate Turkish souvenir. An Aladdin lamp! There were thousands of them; big, small, brass, plastic, fancy, plain, made in China, you name it they had it. I must have rubbed hundreds and no genie. I was so disappointed I wound up walking out of the Grand Bazaar an hour later without an Aladdin’s lamp. We were told that they had every thing imaginable in the Grand Bazaar. Not to belittle the place as they did have an unbelievable array of goods, however I thought that the selection of NASCAR goods was poor. It was a pretty exciting place and it would be fun to spend more time there. However we had to get back on the bus and my cash had been depleted even though I didn’t get the ultimate souvenir.

Back at the hotel Jim and I spent the afternoon by the pool, reading and relaxing. It was great having a little down time. For supper Jim, Jaco, Jeurg and I went out to a local restaurant where we had a feast for 27.5 lira ($22 cdn)

Thanks for visiting my blog and thanks for your great comments

See you soon



Bob Wemer said...

Your tour is over - what an experience. Your "rough road" 2 or 3 days ago reminded me of a rough stretch on our tour. We couldn't decide whether it felt a little less jarring by going fast or slow over it. At least by going faster, it got over sooner. We thought that our best roads were in New York State - nice wide bike-lane shoulders while the worst roads were in Massachusetts and Boston which were full of holes, no shoulders, heavy traffic, and rude drivers.

Thanks for describing your tour in this blog. It was great to be able to follow you along.

Best wishes on your trip home,

Anonymous said...

congrats Terry,
ps, it must be a conspiracy 'cause all my clothes are too damn small too!!!
Cheers, Julian

Agnes said...

You made it!!! Surly deserves a rest . . . and you must be nuts . . . only 5 continents to go. As I write this you should be at the airport checking in for the loooong flight home. We look forward to picking you up at the airport in about 20 hours . . .lots of love,