Istanbul (2010)

Across the Bosporus

We do not go to Büyükada, but do set sail onto the Bosporus and visit the New Mosque.

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Yesterday’s good weather seems to have returned in full force: upon opening the curtains this morning, I am greeted by a clear blue sky. And that is a good thing, as today’s plan is to take a boat trip to Büyükada, the largest of the Prince Islands. After our failed harbour expedition yesterday, we swung by the harbour again just before dinner and found an information stand for IDO—Istanbul's ferry service—where we were told that all ferries for the Prince Islands now depart from Beyoğlu, near the end of the tram line.

To the harbour

We make our usual march uphill to start the day, and see a tram coming in carrying the destination Beyazıt, rather than the usual Kabataş. That being the stop we are currently at, this is an ominous sign. As we have not bought any tokens for the tram, we decide to walk to the next stop where our worst fears are confirmed: due to a marathon that is being held today, the tram line is cut considerably short.

As it is quite a walk to the harbour and we do not feel like taking a taxi, we decide to postpone our trip until tomorrow. That just leaves the question of what we are going to do today, and we quickly hop onto the terrain of the tomb of sultan Mehmet II to confer. We consider a variety of options, but we do not want to waste the opportunity of heading out onto the water with the beautiful weather that we are having, so we decide to head to Eminönü and see if we can find a boat ride up the Bosporus. Once there, we find the departure for Bosporus tours next to the Galata bridge. Our options are a long tour that takes you all the way to the end of the Bosporus and gives you several hours on the eastern coast, or a shorter one that turns around roughly halfway and takes around two hours.

In the New Mosque

We opt for the shorter trip as it also departs later. That allows us to grab a döner dürüm and visit the New Mosque. This mosque was built later than the other large mosques of Istanbul and is located next to the Spice Bazaar opposite the Galata bridge. As we walk onto the inner courtyard, it seems as though we have just walked into a smaller version of the Blue Mosque. There are only two instead of six minarets and the building is far less colossal, but the layout and architecture are very similar. Just as we sit down on the inner courtyard, a service starts as one of the minarets starts singing again.

It sounds like a female voice, and her calls are immediately answered by the Blue Mosque. I seriously start getting interested in what they are exactly singing—I used to have the idea that they all started calling “Time for prayer! Come on up and step on in!” at the same time, but it sounds like an entire story is told, with mosques city-wide answering each other’s calls. I definitely start to appreciate it, especially as it forms such a regular part of daily life. We decide to go and get a meal first as to not disturb prayer and return afterwards. With our shoes off and Vonne’s shawl acting as a makeshift headscarf, we enter the mosque. Despite being smaller, I do like her better than the Blue Mosque. The soft blue carpet is a better fit for the tiles and the decorations are somewhat prettier.

After spending some time in the mosque, we leave again and head towards the ferries.

A Bosporus tour, walk and dinner

With our previously bought ticket we pass through the turnstiles and find a place on the upper deck on the starboard side. it is very sunny and warm, but as the boat starts moving, we pick up a cool breeze. The ferry heads for Üsküdar first on the Asiatic side of Istanbul. After taking on more passengers, the boat heads onto the Bosporus proper. we have heard that Istanbul is a wonderful experience from the water, and we can now whole-heartedly agree. Only from there do you get a view of exactly how large and stretched out the city is—we sail along the coast for an hour and there is just no end to the buildings. We pass underneath the huge bridges spanning the Bosporus and connecting Europe to Asia, before turning around and offering us an equally magnificent view of the opposite side.

Once back in Eminönü, we cross the Galata bridge in order to ascend the Galata tower, as the view should be worth the climb in this weather. Additionally, we should be able to find a place to eat nearby. Once we have climbed up the steep hill, it appears we are not the only ones with this idea. A row of tourists stretches out from the tower, down the stairs and well across the square. Vonne and I unanimously decide not to want to queue up and so we carry on. So we walk up the Istiklal Caddesi a bit further and happen upon both the Dutch consulate and St. Athony’s church. We decide to visit the last one, and it is a rather strange experience to visit a church again after several mosques.

In the side streets we try to find a restaurant in between the bars and pubs. We even pass a café of which the terrace is filled with people playing backgammon, which is apparently rather popular here. After passing a series of restaurants similar in both price and offerings, so we head into one where a friendly old man who does not speak Dutch for a change, is trying to attract customers. We find a nice table on the first floor next to the large open windows, which gives us a nice view of the street and terraces. it is a shame you so rarely see this back home.

After enjoying a simple, but excellent meal, we return to the hotel. Tomorrow it is time for our second attempt at reaching Büyükada!

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