Monday, April 13, 2009

Touring Istanbul - Day 2

We readied ourselves for another day of touring Istanbul and Murat arrived this time along with a driver and a large van ready to show off his city, yet again. This day was a driving tour so we were able to go farther, see even more - and pack a few more snacks and toys to entertain Connor along the way (more space = more fun)!
First stop was to the Suleyman Mosque. We knew that it was under renovation and we wouldn't be able to go inside - but we enjoyed taking it in and checking it off our list nonetheless (you know us, can't miss anything). This mosque is yet another spectacular piece of architecture and building execution by Sinan. Maybe next time we will be able to go in!Next we we to the Dolmabahce Palace, which our guidebook calls "the last hurrah of the Ottoman Empire." It was ostentatious and enormous. But honestly, I think it is my all time favorite palace ever - anywhere. The ceilings were intricate and treasures all around. I found the china, sculptures, and decor exotic and provocative.

But by far the highlight of the palace was the lighting throughout. There must have been a hundred crystal chandeliers. The kind that sparkle and reflect prisms. The colored, cut glass reminded me of Chihuly masterpieces. There was almost what I think of as a Russian air to the designs.And the Imperial Hall at the Dolmabahce Palace was the highlight at the end of the tour. The hall, which can accommodate 2,500 people, made each and every one of us gasp as we entered. The room's dome is 118 feet high and the world's largest crystal chandelier hangs down from its center, weighing four tons! Making the Dolmabahce Palace even better was the fact that Connor fell fast asleep on Kirk's shoulder while in the backpack just as the tour was starting and woke up near the end in a good mood. She loved looking at herself in the palace mirrors, pointing and saying "Baby! Baby! Baby!" Baby, you are remarkable!

The rest of the day's touring line up was one wonderful Turkish sight atop another:

We drove over from the European to the Asian part of Istanbul to the top of Camlica Hill, the highest point in Istanbul. One cool fact is that Istanbul is the ONLY city in the world to rest in two different continents. We had fun joking around that we were back and forth between two continents all day. The view was magnificent and Connor had fun playing with the other Turkish children and running in the gardens. It was a wonderful local spot and we felt lucky to soak in the sunshine and culture. We even taught Connor how to smell all the pretty flowers.

We went to the Sadberk Hanim Museum to take in archeology and art history, but with a tired toddler in tow we spent most of our time there out back playing in the grassy park. And after another yummy lunch of Turkish kebabs with Murat we boarded a ferry for a Bosphorus Cruise. We took the public ferry from the Black Sea up the Bosphorus Strait and back into Istanbul. We enjoyed the different perspective of Istanbul and marveled at the mansions and bridges leading into the city. The view from the water of the mosque silhouettes was gorgeous and glamorous.
We had fun with Murat and having all schedules and connections planned so seamlessly was a special treat for us in a far-off land. We said our goodbyes and tucked in for an early evening in anticipation of an early morning the next day as we set off for Ephesus. But not before Kirk tiptoed out for one last goodbye of Istanbul - and a couple of night shots of the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia! Click here for more photos of our Day 2 Tour of Istanbul (Full Album)

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