More sightseeing, a lot more walking: Istanbul Day 2+3

After a cool first day yesterday was rather dull. The weather was grey, foggy and cold. The Archeological Museum was not really exciting (once you’ve been to the British museum I guess its hard to be entirely happy with a museum of that sort).Istanbul-Archeological-MuseumThere was an interesting exhibition about ships they excavated during building work for new metro lines. It was nicely curated and had some interactive parts. It was the most interesting part of the museum.Istanbul-Archeological-Museum-2The highly rated “Istanbul through the Ages” part of the museum was rather dull and looked a bit 70s style. The other part of the museum houses stone coffins for different points in Turkey. Some were stunning to be honest.Istanbul-Archeological-Museum-3The Museum of the History of Science and Technology in Islam was better and the tea break at Set Üstü Çay Bahçesi at the sea view end of Gülhane Park where you get your tea by the pot not the glass was nice.

Istanbul-Museum-of-Techcnology-in-IslamOur dinner close to Sultanahmet tram stop at a restaurant called Şah was lovely. But I guess the fact that we had both for some reason slept super badly dulled everything.Istanbul-Tea-TerasseToday everything was fine again. The sun was shining and we got into the Blue mosque without queuing much. Inside we admired the colourful tiles (in my opinion they are of different colours and not all blue as the name suggests). But to be honest we had expected more. It was nice to see but not necessarily a reason to queue for hours.Istanbul-Blue-Mosque-InsideOur next stop was far better: Topkapı Palace is really a nice place. Living there (yet probably rather as the sultan and not as part of the harem) can’t have been too bad. There are lots of lovely tile decorated pavillions.Istanbul-Topkapi-Palace-1The view over the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus are spectacular. From the forth court you can see the Golden Horn, the Süleyman mosque, Beyoglu, the Mamara sea and the Bosporus.Istanbul-Topkapi-Palace-2

We arrived quite early which was good. It was already full of people but when we left around noon it was really crowded. You had to queue for all the rooms you could visit: the Muslim reliques, the treasury eg. The entrance for the Harem was not that crowded because you needed an extra ticket for that but it was included in the Museumscard and it was really worth it.Istanbul-Topkapi-Palace-3Next we had lunch near the New Mosque in a place called Ramez Köftici. It seems to be a chain with loads of restaurants especially here in Istanbul. They offer delicous köfte, grilled meat balls, on slightly grilled pita bread. We added a big bowl of salad from the self-service buffet and some chips and ended up with a bill of 35 TL: a bargain!Istanbul-Topkapi-Palace-4

Then we wanted to make best use of our Museumcard and take the ferry to Ayvansaray to visit the Kariye museum. As we had just missed the ferry and didn’t want to wait for the next one, one hour later, we decided that it couldn’t be that far and started walking. It was far. We walked for more than one hour and that was the easy part as we basically followed the river.Istanbul-Kariye-Museum

Now the problem was that our map didn’t show that part of Istanbul anymore and the guide book just said: walk up the hill alongside the city walls. Easier said than done in some parts, we managed that, but just didn’t know for how long to follow the wall. The first thing we took for the Museum was a mosque. Next Michael asked some one. He didn’t speak English but pointed a way. After more walking he asked again. Now the guy said turn left after about 500m. After all that was a good advise, we just missed the place to turn left and ended up at a very lovely mosque at Edinekapı.Istanbul-Kariye-Museum-3By now we had walked for nearly 45 minutes along that wall, most of the time up hill. It was a quarter to four and the Museum closes at 4.30 pm. I had already given up and just wanted to have a closer look at the city wall when an old man came up to us asking “Kariye müzesi?” Yes, that was the place we wanted to go! He pointed us in a general direction and then I finally found a map next to the bus stop that showed the Museum.

Istanbul-Kariye-Museum-1So we finally made it there 20 minutes before closing time. But it was worth it. This tiny chapel has mosaics and frescoes all over the walls and ceilings. It is as if someone back in the early 14th century had tried to get all the main stories of the bible inside that church.Istanbul-Kariye-Museum-2

If you want to go see this, and I suggest you do, here is my advise: if you come from the ferry be prepared it is a long and tiresome way. Try to stick to the city wall and if you walked for like 30 minutes turn left. Ok, rather just have a map of the area. People are super friendly and try to help but English won’t get you far. Be prepared for hand signals. If you want a shorter way to the Museum, take the bus, e.g. from Eminönü to Edirnekapı. It is not far from there and there is a map which helps you find your way on the side that you get of the bus behind a fountain with a funny sign saying you are not allowed to swim there.Istanbul-Funny-Sign

We took the bus back home, catching one to Eminönü (that seems yo be there final stop on many routes). We got off at Karaköy on the other side of the Golden Horn because it is easier to catch the tram there and that rode the tram up to Sultanahmet. Our last night dinner was suppossed to be something special so we chose something for the guide book: a set four course menue at Cooking a la Turca, a cooking school and restaurant. It was really nice. We had yoghurt soup, than some green bean dish, then the most delicious filled aubergines (I love aubergines/eggplants!) and as a dessert some figs cooked in syrup, flavoured with cloves and filled with walnuts (I will try that at home as it would make a great christmassy dessert). Tomorrow will go on a Bosporus cruise!

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