Old City Tour
Today is May 19, a national holiday in Istanbul and all modes of transportation – bus, subway and ferry – are free today. On the way to the meetup point I met a gregarious merchant who invited me to his shop, offered me apple tea and showed me some beautiful Turkish carpets. I indicated that my nomadic lifestyle did not work with purchasing things like carpets. After that I was guided to another shop selling scarves where I ended up purchasing a beautiful silk scarf for much less than the price I was originally given. They have a saying: “You are the first customer of the day and will bring good luck.” How does one refuse such a prophecy?
I had a wonderful guide, Cagatay and was the only person to show up so I had a private tour of the Old City including Hagia Sofia, the Hippodrome, a German fountain, ancient cisterns and the Grand Bazaar. He is incredibly knowledgable about Ottoman, Turkish and Byzantine history and is very patient with questions. He even took me to the Grand Bazaar to exchange currency so that I could use the bus system.
Lunch was a baked potato mixed with butter and cheese, then you pick various toppings on display. I chose black olives, beets with yogurt dressing, marinated red peppers and a really tasty spiced bulgur mix. Moving along to another eatery, I had coffee and a really delicious piece of pistachio baklava.
I also signed up for an afternoon tour which involved a ferry ride to the Asian side of Istanbul, to Kadikoy which is where the locals go for the best food and prices. We did a lot of walking and our guide, Alper, was incredibly knowledgable and very much into the architecture of the area.
I was somewhat able to navigate the bus system at least part way to help reduce the cost of taking a taxi back and forth. It is very challenging with almost no maps and nothing in English plus very few English-speaking people to help. I am planning to leave tomorrow for Sofia in Bulgaria if I can ever get to (or find) a train station where I can make a reservation in person. It seems the reservation must be made in person so it will be an adventure just trying to arrange a departure toward Greece. Stay tuned for more adventure.