Monday, September 21, 2015

Istanbul - Golden Horn

Our last day in Istanbul was mostly spent riding around the Golden Horn. We started at the Egyptian (Spice) Market, then rode up a cable car to view the area, explored the Miniaturk theme park, and ended the day with a Bosphorus cruise.
RRR at the Spice Market in Istanbul
Egyptian (Spice) Market
We got out of the hotel fairly early and took the tram to the Eminonu stop for the Spice Market. It's much smaller than the sprawling Grand Bazaar, but can still be a bit overwhelming if you've never been to a covered bazaar before. It's basically an "L"-shape, which made finding the entrance just a little bit challenging because it was behind another building. We loaded up on tea and Turkish delights. Honestly, I'm not sure how we're getting all of this stuff home.
RRR can't decide which Turkish delights he like best
Our blonde girls had lots of requests to pose for photos.
Cable Car
From the Spice market, we hopped on the Big Bus blue line for the second half of our riding tour.
Big Bus Blue Line Map with attractions
The bus took us to the EyĆ¼p cable car station where we rode up to the top for a decent view of the Golden Horn.
Riding the bus, listening to history
It was only 4 Turkish Lira each way, and there were only 2 cars that alternated going back & forth. Got in line with a tour group, but they advanced us to the front so that we weren't surrounded by them. We squeezed into the next car going up.
RRR at the upper cable car station
There's a little cafe at the top, so we had a snack, then went down again to catch the next bus.
View of a cemetery through the cable car window
There was a really long line at the lower station for all the people waiting to go up, due to multiple bus tours arriving at the same time. We didn't wait too long for the bus taking us to Miniaturk.


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Miniaturk
Miniaturk has very detailed scale models of most of Turkey's famous places. I'd actually recommend visiting here early in your trip to get a quick sampling of all the places you can see in Istanbul before waiting in line. Same goes for other places throughout Turkey, as well as other places that used to be part of the Ottoman Empire. Very well done!
RRR liked the Miniaturk Theme Park
Since it's a good place for kids, I let our older daughter carry the camera to take pictures. She forgot to put the wrist strap on and accidentally dropped the camera off the elevated railing at the entrance to the park. So, I went down into a bamboo forest to retrieve it. The little LowePro D-wrap camera case saved the day, and since we have the red model (as opposed to black), it was super easy to find in the shadows.
This might have been the last thing my camera ever saw,
 if it wasn't in a protective case.

RRR and the mini-Hagia Sofia
The mini-Blue Mosque (L) and Fairy Tower (R)
mini-Dolmabahce Palace
mini-Topkapi Palace
RRR at the mini-Taksim Square
RRR and the mini-travertines of Pamukkale

RRR and mini-Cappadocia
So, yeah, there were lots of cool miniature buildings. There was even a giant chess board and labyrinth!
Not to scale: Giant Chess board at Miniaturk


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Bosporus Cruise
Since we had the schedule for the Big Bus, we got to the stop about 5-10 min early because we didn't want to miss our connection to the Bosphorus cruise. Well, we waited over 30 min before the bus showed up just before 3pm, and we started to get worried about making the boat tour as we needed to be at the Blue Mosque by 4pm. It was an interesting ride. Just before the Spice Market stop, there was an announcement that we were "diverted for reasons beyond our control" (traffic) and the bus took us back across the bridge we just crossed,
Random push cart in the city streets
The overpass was so low it could have (and probably has)
peeled the roof off of our bus.
We diverted through the Galata area, then crossed at the Galata Bridge for a u-turn to get back on track. We are now getting very worried about making boat cruise, as we have 15 minutes to cross the most touristy (and trafficky) part of Istanbul on the predefined bus route.
We arrived 5 minutes to 4pm, and the tour guide had already begun walking to the boat dock. Even with the kids in tow, we caught up with the group just before they disappeared from view at Sultanahmet Square.

Boarding was a bit of a disorganized mob, and we ended up on the lower level of the tour boat because we weren't near the front of the line. But it worked out, since we had window seats and it started to get windy outside.
Feelin' the Bern...oulli principle

A massive cargo ship on the Bosphorus
How much clearance will it have?
That's really not a lot of clearance.
The Fairy Tower
As an aside, there was one family in the next row that kept offering the girls rather sub-standard (ie, junk) cookies, which the girls gladly kept eating. People are really friendly. The cruise was quite nice. We walked back towards the hotel and ate at a nearby street cafe.

During dinner, a small Syrian girl stop by the table begging and saying "Syria, Syria". She moved along after I said "As-salam alaikum, shukran", at which point I used the encounter to explain to our oldest what "Syria" means in the global sense and what is going on there, why a girl the same age as my daughter had so little that she had to beg, and that our kids were very, very lucky to have all the opportunities they have, simply by being born to us. The result of the talk was that my daughter wanted to give away the "share" portion of her spend-share-save allowance to the next Syrian family we passed. I'll mark that one down as good parenting.

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