Monday March 5, 2012
Since Kat was in lectures most of the afternoon, I decided to do some wandering around the city. Luckily I ran into another spouse (Lauren Hochfeld) on the trip so we started by walking up to Taksim Square. Evidently after reading the travel guide books and seeing it firsthand, this is the place to be if you want to protest something in Istanbul. There was a group of about 50 people protesting there on Sunday and there was a march for International Women’s Day on another while we were there. Once we got up to the square, I had mentioned we could go toward Dolmabahçe Palace. Lauren had been to Istanbul before for her international requirement for her MBA two years earlier, but she hadn’t been to the palace so she was good with us going that way. At the square we asked around and were pointed toward the Taksim funicular. This took us over to the Kabataş stop. This was a 2 minute ride down the hill basically. We walked by the Dolmabahçe Mosque and Dolmabahçe Palace. We noticed there wasn’t anyone in the palace so I remembered that some tourist sites in Istanbul are closed on Monday. Since we couldn’t go in we walked down the street and around it. At the gate was an odd site, there were two soldier looking figures inside glass boxes. I swore they were dummies. Lauren, said “No take a look they are moving!”. Sure enough if you looked closely, they were real people guarding the gate in a glass box looking phone booth?!?!? Once we realized we couldn’t tour the palace, we began walking back up the street. I was excited to notice next to the mosque across the street was Beşiktaş football stadium, the Fiyapı İnönü Stadium. I got Lauren to take a few photos of me with the stadium in the background and we also visited the team shop. We decided to walk up the hill to get a better view of the Bosphorus Strait, the stadium, etc…
While walking up the hill, we met our first “swindler” in Istanbul. A guy probably in his 20’s dropped a brush, Lauren picked it up and he thanked here. Then the scam began, he offered to shine our shoes. He claimed he was a student trying to get some money and we relented and let him shine our shoes. I offered a 20 TL (Turkish Lira) but he wanted more. All I had left were 50 TL so without thinking too clearly that it was roughly $35 USD I gave it to him and got my 20 TL back. Lauren also gave the guy a 5 TL and didn’t realize I was giving him so much money. He thanked us and was on his merry way, no doubt glad he just made his whole week in shoe shine sales probably! I like to think of it as my donation to charity while in Turkey! Kat wasn’t as amused but once the story got out it was quite an infamous story to the rest of the traveling group, so I had that going for me. My shoes were shining the rest of the trip!!!
We decided to walk the 15 minutes back up to Taksim Square. I had heard earlier from the professors wife that we should go back to the Galata Tower and go to the top to get 360 panoramic views of the city so off to Galata Tower we went. We walked down Istiklal Avenue where all the shops/food/bars/etc… are located. The street was packed at almost all times of the day and night. It took about 25 minutes to walk down the avenue to Galata Tower. It cost 12 TL to go to the top. Once there we took a good bit of photos. It was a great view. We finally walked back up the avenue to our hotel and waited for our respective spouses to return to the hotel. A good afternoon of sightseeing was in the books.
For dinner we were encouraged to go to the Ortaköy section of Istanbul down by the Bosphorus. One of Kat’s classmates is from Turkey and recommended we go to this area. He rounded up a bunch of cabs and off we went. I would say there was about 20-30 of us that went down to the restaurant area. Once there, groups split up and hit a few different spots. At the restaurant we chose, I selected chicken schnitzel and fries and Kat selected a meatball type dish kafte. The restaurant was super cheap and food was just ok that night. After dinner we went to the place next door because some people in the group wanted to try the hookah. We were able to watch the Galatasaray/Sivasspor Turkish league soccer game and enjoy spending time with some of Kat’s classmates and spouses. Since everyone was pretty jet-lagged from the day before and staying out late on Sunday night, everyone decided to head back to the hotel relatively early (ie before midnight!) and Day 2 was over.
Dolmabahçe Palace (gate and guards)
Fiyapı İnönü Stadium, home of Beşiktaş soccer team
view from Galata tower
view from Galata tower looking toward the Galata bridge