Monday, June 29, 2009

Istanbul III [updated with pics and more; first posted 09/03/09]

I got up fairly early, got ready to go and headed up for breakfast. This time I tried the plain omelet. Like the french toast, it was a bit oily. I had some bread with it (a couple of slices of baguette).
Then I got a photo copy of my passport and driver's license (luckily I have it with me) and it was back, once again, to the Syrian embassy. When I got there, there was no line-up, and since I had already filled out the form the day before, all I had to do was hand everything to the woman behind the counter. I then had to go down to the bank to pay the fee, and then go back to the counter. She gave me a receipt and said to come back at 2:30. I had to be back then, as it was the last work day of the week, and they would be closed Monday. I had a few hours to waste, so I went for a bit of a walk and then took a taxi to Kabatas.I walked along the seaside, taking pictures of the mosques and other historic buildings along the way.I love mosques and churches.They are all such beautiful buildings.[a university: Mimar Sinan Guzel Sanatlar Universitesi Kultur ve Sanat Merkezi][??]Almost every mosque there had a small (or not so small) structure nearby for Muslims to do their ablution (washing/cleansing) before entering the mosque to pray.After I had my fill of mosques for he day, I wandered up the hill along a small side street.I had seen a little church from the main road and thought maybe I could find it. I did eventually find it, but the large gates were closed.After a bit more wandering, I stumbled across the Galata Tower.Built in 1348, the nine story tower is a very important and visible landmark in Istanbul.As it is on top of a hill, there is a good view of the city all around it from the top floor look out.Entrance was 10 TL. I had lunch in a little cafe near the tower. The waiter suggested the special donair, served the proper way. It is meat (beef) with a special sauce, over squares of bread, with unsweetened yogurt on the side.It was delicious! I still had a lot of time left, so I walked back down to the seaside and went to the Galata Bridge.Fishermen lined the sides of the bridge. Under the road part of the bridge is a pedestrian bridge, with restaurants the entire way. I decided to sit and have some tea at one of them.The waiter, Mehmet, stayed and chatted with me for a bit. Apparently fish and lures sometimes come flying into the restaurant (from the fishermen above). The lines come down past the pedestrian section the entire way. Mehmet said that only a couple of weeks before, he had been hit in the head by a little bait fish. LOL. My tea was free. :) Usually tea is free for customers, so Mehmet decided not to charge me. Yay.
Finally, I got my VISA.
I went back to my hotel to book my flight to Syria. That was a bit mistake as they really overcharged me for the flight. Lesson learned. Look around a bit for flights!!!!
My friend Omer met me at my hotel at 7:30. I met Omer in university and he has been living in Istanbul for the past 6 years. The plan: dinner and then drinks in Taksim area. We took the tram. At Kabatas, we tried to transfer to the Kabatas-Taksim short line. We got on, and waited. And waited. And waited. There were technical difficulties and the train wasn't working. So after all that waiting, we got off and went back up to the street. We tried to catch a taxi, but they were all full (due to so many people not being able to take the short line). Eventually we got one and made it to Taksim square. We walked along Istiklal to the restaurant. It was great! :) We had salad and a chicken dish. The restaurant is fairly high up, with no elevator. 6th floor?After eating, we went to meet some of his friends at another restaurant. They were gathered for a birthday party. They were drinking raki, which is made from anise seed. YUCK. I didn't even taste it. I know I don't like anise seed. They pour a shot or so into a glass and then add ice and water. The water makes it turn a milky white. Strange. Eventually we headed out in search of a bar called Cuba. We eventually found it but it was packed. So we went to a little bar called Lokal. It was great fun. The bar used to be a cafe, and it looks like it. The DJ is so funny!!!! He really doesn't look the part but is really good. After a few drinks (and dancing), we went to another bar, Menthe, where his friends had moved to. It is TINY!!!!! After everyone else started heading out, we decided to go back to Cuba. It wasn't as busy, so we went in. I love latino music, and dancing! :) So much fun. I didn't get back to my hotel until maybe 6AM (?). Oops. As a result, I only had time for about 2 hours or so of sleep. I had to get everything ready to go the next morning, check-out was at 10AM and breakfast is over at 10:30.

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