Sunday, September 20, 2015

Istanbul - Taksim Square

Our second day in Istanbul was spent along the Big Bus red line. We visited the Dolmabahçe Palace, crossed the Bosphorus Bridge into Asia (and came right back), then walked from Taksim Square down past the Galata Tower, before riding the tram back to the hotel.
I see we shop at the same stores.
We had breakfast at the hotel, joined by several cats. If you didn't know, there are lots of cats in Turkey. And Turkey isn't named after the flightless fowl (which, come to think of it, is probably what attracted the cats), rather "Turkey" is the English spelling of  "Türkiye"...which sounds exactly like you would imagine someone with a Turkish accent saying "Turkey": as in "Turkia"...land of the Turks.

We're outnumbered!
Both of the kids melted down before we left the hotel (due in large part to being so tired from everything we did yesterday). We didn't get out of the hotel until after 11 am. But I'd anticipated that might happen, which is why today is mostly a hop-on, hop-off bus ride on the Big Bus red line.
The Big Bus Red Line map
We bought the 48-hour family pass tickets at the first stop which was between the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia, as well as a Bosphorus cruise for tomorrow.

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We boarded the open-top, double-decker bus and went up to the upper level. The kids were totally captivated and enjoyed listening to the audio descriptions of everything we were passing by.

Dolmabahçe Palace
We rode up to the Dolmabahçe Palace, where we proceeded to stand in line to get tickets, then stand in line again for two different tours. Our little one was asleep pretty much the entire time (except to get a snack at the cafe). We're both kind of jaded on palaces. This one was nice, but it was built during the decline of the Ottoman Empire in the European style, so it kind of felt like "haven't we seen this before?" Even so, our older daughter was fascinated by getting to walk through a real-life palace.




Taksim Square
The Big Buses run on a published timetable, so we knew roughly when we needed to be back at the bus stop. But it takes longer when you're carrying tired kids, so we just barely made the bus. Since we were only going a couple of stops, we stayed down on the first level of the bus, which took us over the Bosphorus Bridge to the Asian side before delivering us to Taksim square.
That's Europe on the right
The Bosphorus, looking south
(Asia on the left, Europe on the right)
The Asian side, looking north.
We disembarked and walked down Istiklal Street. It's a massive walkplatz with stores and even a trolley running down the middle. I particularly enjoyed watching what I assume are free-riders hanging on to the outside of the trolley. Since it was getting close to lunchtime, we stopped into a restaurant on a side alley adjacent to McDonald's. The restaurant was across the alley from a cafe that might have been owned by the same folks, but this place served up a great mixed grille. After lunch, the girls each got a McFlurry at McDonald's and sat down on the sidewalk facing out into the street to people-watch while they ate their treats. But I think more people were watching them than vice versa. There were at least four groups of people that came over to take pictures of them, and some women with kids even got down to pose with them. A little while after the desserts were finished and we were walking, one pair of women asked them to shout "happy birthday" in a video for a friend. And those are just the ones who asked...I saw several furtive photographers along the way.
RRR at Taksim Square
The trolley did not go clang, clang, clang. 
Galata Tower
From Taksim Square, we walked to the Galata Tower, where there was a really long line to get in. This is mostly because there's one elevator that takes people up (you take the stairs down), so people can only go through so fast. As I was walking around the tower in the street below, I almost got hit by a cellphone that fell from the top of the tower. It impacted the cobblestones, bouncing over a foot while shattering less than 10 feet from me. That definitely would have broken more than just the screen if it had hit me.
We didn't go up (saving it for next time), but we did stop into a nearby music store since there are many in this area. I bought some replacement strings for my guitar and we sized our older daughter to see whether a 1/2- or 3/4-size guitar would be more comfortable (there aren't music stores back home in Jeddah). We didn't buy a guitar, but we did get a little brass pipe/flute for them to play with.
Galata Tower

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We ended the day by walking down the hill to the tram station at Karakoy, rode back to the Sultan-ahmet stop, and then we walked back to the hotel. As we rounded the last bend on our way to the hotel, we passed a Syrian refugee family who were sitting on the sidewalk just as fire works started going off overhead. It scared our girls and local animals (cats, mostly) that were laying about. I noticed that the Syrian family didn't really respond, and kind of wondered if they thought "that's so beautiful because it's not aimed at us." We were in our room shortly afterwards for some Facetime with family back in the States before going to bed.

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