We did get a good view of Istanbul as we prepared for landing. The city is literally on the Asia/Europe border, with the Bosphorus River providing a watery dividing line.
Our first night in Istanbul was spent in the Old City, near an area called Sultanahmet. I had found a place online that we really liked but it wasn't available until our second night in Istanbul. Our apartment for night one turned out to be in walking distance to some of the most iconic buildings in the ancient city, including the Grand Bazaar and the Blue Mosque.
Some things don't live up to their names. Like Great American Ballpark. I love the Reds and GABP is a definite improvement over Riverfront, but a more accurately descriptive name would be Pretty Good Ballpark That Should Have Been Built Turned Around So You Can See The Skyline. But the Grand Bazaar doesn't disappoint.
It's a sprawling complex of shops, almost all of which are inside of a building that dates back centuries. On our way there, I was thinking it might be like the Ben Thanh Market in Ho Chi Minh City, which was fascinating but also a bit annoying thanks to the aggressiveness of the vendors. That wasn't the case here at all. Occasionally you would have someone invite you into his shop as you passed by, but a friendly "no thank you" was all that was necessary to keep moving along.
The shops featured all kinds of products, from watches and jewelry to clothing to rugs. The Bazaar covers about sixty city blocks and features about five thousand shops. Almost like an outlet mall back in the States but without all the RVs in the parking lot.
The neighborhood surrounding the Grand Bazaar just oozes with character and history. There are no US-based fast food restaurants that we've seen so much of on the trip in other parts of the world.
The roomy apartment was on a narrow street lined with textile (tekstil in Turkish) shops, so on the weekdays while we were there the sounds of Turks getting on with their day would waft through the windows with the early morning sun.
In her best "when in Istanbul..." mode, Annie went along with the Turkish tradition of drinking some tea, which is served with a sugar cube. Everywhere you look on the streets you see men carrying trays of tea at all times of the day. It added to the flavor of our river ride.
Once we disembarked (I like writing that word and love saying it!) we took a stroll across a bridge lined with men fishing. The bustling crowds on a sunny afternoon made for a fantastic stroll toward where we would catch a cab back to Nisantasi. We first had to check out a market teeming with freshly caught fish, and then walk down an alleyway which featured some hardware and paint, including a store that had the pigment out on the sidewalk in cans.
As much we like to immerse ourselves in local culture, having good internet and a nice flat screen TV with some satellite channels was enjoyable as well. Three of the four nights we were there, the Fox Sports Channel carried the PGA Tour golf event from Quail Hollow in Charlotte, which is where I saw my first live professional golf back in the late 80s when a Senior Tour event was played there. It came on at 11pm, so the kids were done watching what they wanted to see, and I could kick back and enjoy what turned out to be a very competitive tournament.
After spending five days in Istanbul, the other cities we will be visiting in Europe have a major challenge ahead of them. It's going to be difficult to surpass the atmosphere of this ancient city. The feeling on the streets was truly magical and the people were very friendly and the food fantastic. The only drawback was the occasional mish-mash of architectural styles.
Istanbul is the perfect place to make the transition from Asia to Europe. Our few days there truly whetted our appetite for more experiences in Europe, and as Anthony Bourdain likes to say, I'm hungry for more!