Getting around Istanbul can be both easy and frustrating depending on the method you choose. The metro system is good and easy to use, but doesn’t cover Istanbul particularly well without changing lines between the Metro and the Tram.
We took the Metro to Taksim Square where we could take the Nostalgic Tram down the length of Taksim Street. You buy a card at a machine to go on the tram. I couldn’t work it out, since it didn’t seem to translate to English. I kept trying to put money in, but it wouldn’t accept it. Well, as in one of my previous posts, I mentioned how nice the people are here. A lady who was also buying a card tried to help, but she couldn’t speak English either. She phoned her brother, who spoke perfect English and he guided me through the process. We took the tram to the bottom of the street. There are a lot of cool stores, restaurants and bars on Taksim. I also noticed a Shake Shack, which I figured may come in handy when the kids need a break from Turkish food. Once at the end of Taksim we took a taxi to the Blue Mosque area. One of the cast members had told us about a restaurant there with rugs and cushions to sit on with excellent authentic Turkish food. It was fantastic! We ordered a mixed shish platter. I paid the bill and gave an extra 100 TL to get change for tip. The owner of the restaurant came back and told me my 100 TL was a fake. He asked if I knew where I got it. I did. On the taxi ride there I had tried to pay with 100 TL bill The taxi driver gave it back to me and asked me for smaller change. He must’ve swapped out the note. I was so annoyed. This was the beginning of my troubles with the taxi drivers in Istanbul.
Monday we had a day off for sight seeing. Clare joined us too. First we went to the Basilica Cistern. This was one of my favorite sights. It’s an ancient cistern that lies beneath the city and houses two Medusa heads. It has such a cool vibe down there, between the sound and the lighting. Of course, my DJ self couldn’t help thinking what a cool place this would be for a party. We dressed up in traditional Ottoman clothing and had photos taken. I usually don’t buy into anything being sold to tourists, but these photos were really good. We bought four framed prints, two hanging pieces of wall art and a CD of the photos for 150 TL (about $50).
Richard and Jason left the next morning, We were sad to see them go, but we’ll to see them again in a few months.
It was a show day, but we had a few hours to see another sight. We took the metro to Taksim Square. This time we walked down the length of Taksim Street. We were heading to the Galata Tower. It looked like Rapunzel’s tower from the outside. As we stood in line I just prayed that we didn’t have to climb stairs to the top, or more so, make our way down winding stairs. I always feel like I’m going to fall. I was very relieved to find there was an elevator. The views from the top were beautiful, looking out over the Bosphorus and the entire city.
After all that drama, the ferry schedule wasn’t even the same as the one I had. The ferry wasn’t till 2pm. Thankfully, Clare is not at all like me when it comes to stressing out. She completely calmed me down and I was able to relax and enjoy the rest of the day.
The Prince’s Islands are an hour by ferry from the city. The ferry ride was lovely and relaxing apart from the toilet. It was the most disgusting toilet I’ve ever seen and I’ve traveled a lot. It’s literally a hole in the floor. I would post a picture, but I don’t want to put you through that. The sight and smell left me nauseous for a good thirty minutes. We arrived on Prince’s Island and immediately looked for somewhere to eat. Clare, Eliana and I could’ve just about eaten anywhere, but Olivia refused to go into every restaurant on the strip. It was too crowded. the tables were close together and she felt she needed space. I was really irritated with her fussing, but Olivia not eating is a recipe for disaster. We found a really lovely restaurant on the water and I was thankful she had fussed cause we wouldn’t have made the effort to find it otherwise.
There are no cars on the island, so you travel by horse and carriage. We took a 45 minute ride around the island. It was so beautiful and relaxing. The perfect escape from the city. I don’t think I realized how much we needed that break till we were there.
In each city the production hire a Young Shrek It’s competition by the presenters. We had become friends with Lal, one of the girls chosen to play the role. We arranged to spend the day with her and visit the Topkapi Palace. It was so interesting to visit the palace and see how the Sultan lived with his family and Harem of women. Lal’s mom, Irem, was able to give us so much insight into the history. We spent a few hours there, including lunch at the palace restaurant. We still hadn’t seen the Blue Mosque or the Hagia Sofia apart from the outside, but the kids had definitely had enough history for one day, We went for a walk to see them from the outside again and to grab some photos.
The girls wanted to play Laser Tag at the local mall. The malls in Istanbul are amazing! They have full on play centers, unlike anything I’ve seen in the US or the UK. This one had Laser tag, a roller coaster, bumper cars and arcade games. It sure beats the little toddler rides they have scattered through the malls here. The girls had a great time playing and I was so glad they made a new friend and I had too.