(September 22, 2013) Istanbul
We should land in Istanbul around 11 AM. After
check we would join the free tour Turkish airlines offers to their
This tour includes lunch, English speaking guide and tickets
Mosque, Basilica Cistern and Topkapi Palace.
I’ve preferred the tour including Topkapi Palace
than the one with
Hagia Sophia because a must-do of this city is the views to Bosphorus.
As we’re free to leave the tour, we could do a
scape to Grand Bazaar.
We finally must be at airport on time for our
final flight to home, at
The spots marked at map are:
1- Blue Mosque
2- Hagia Sophia
3- Basilica Cistern
4- Topkapi Palace
5- Grand Bazaar
At 5 AM
we’re loading our baggage in the car our driver has taken today. He has
used three different cars for each of the three trips we’ve got with
him. As there is not a soul on the street or road we reach the airport
in 10 minute and say goodbye to him and the whole country.
We join the line for going into the airport as
there are security checks at doors. When we’re taking our things from
the tray coming out from the scanner a man from the Turkish airlines
staff is taking us as he is explaining we’re not as good on time as we
But we are and with the quick check in, where
we’re delivered the boarding passes for this flight to Istanbul but not
for the flight to Barcelona – although we’re assured our baggage is
going to Barcelona indeed -, and the small this airport is, when we’re
in our boarding gate I have time enough as per looking where to
exchange my spare shillings. As I don’t find any place I ask about to a
woman working at airport who answers me there is one before the
security check for gate we just passed, so she can only propose I give
her the money and she will go to exchange it for me. I trust on her and
give all the Kenyan bills I have. You would lose your bets here as 10
minutes later she appears and give me the euros.
I don’t wonder why this airport is so small when I
can see on screen the list of all the departing flights for the whole
day: 9. Ours is the second one.
We take off when sun is appearing by Mombasa and
have a gentle flight to Istanbul, passed between movies and sleeping.
We land at scheduled time, around 1 PM, and go to
the visa box to get two Turkish visas by 15€ each. Then we get some
local cash from the ATM just beside and go across the way to join the
long line for immigration. After the procedures, and on despite we ask
to four persons working in this airport, we take a long on finding the
desk for the free tours to the city. We knew we’re going to be late
since the flight time was changed but I’m coming for some information
about how it works: the tours is a service independent from the flight,
it leaves at 12 AM and, if you’re not on board, you’ve missed it
whatever the reason of the delay or even it is not your fault by
We already have the thought of going to visit
Istanbul by our own and the baggage store service is just at right of
the tour desk. They charge us 18 TL by our bag and, just in front, we
have the stairs down to the metro. We get also a map of the city from
We pay 3 TL in a machine for each of the two
tokens we put in the turnstile to be allowed to get in. There is no
ticket, just the token, and it is gone once you’re in. This is a short
ride in metro till Zeytinburnu station where we must get tokens again
to pass to the tram. This trip is long, 15 stops until Sultanahmet,
although less dull as you can be watching the city. We take some
minutes more than one hour on getting there from the airport.
When we leave the tram we get into a park where it seems a
Korean festival is going on all around, with shows and stands. We don’t
know what this is about but the entire place is crowded. We use a
shawarma place with a sign saying one plus drink is 5 TL for a quick
We leave the park and avoid the festival to get
into the Hippodrome. This is a square with a strange shape of a very
long rectangle because it is keeping the shape of what was here on
times of Byzantine Empire. There are two old obelisks which should
point the two 180º curves.
The two obelisks are very different to each other: the one
looking new is the older one by far, brought from Egypt, and the one
looking older was built in honor of Constantine, who split the Roman
Empire by two.
Just here is the entrance to what is for me the
most beautiful building in Istanbul: the Blue Mosque. Although smaller,
it is more beautiful than Hagia Sophia, whether outside or inside. It
looks magnificent from its crowded courtyard.
A sign marks the times for praying, as these are the times
the mosque is closed for the tourists. The next is at 4 PM so, as we’re
only 15 minutes to that time, we go to the right side, where the
visitors’ entrance is, and follow the rules for going in: no dressing
short – although my capris are good enough -, taking off the shoes and
keeping them in a plastic bag they deliver and Eva wears a scarf on her
All the floor inside is a red carpet and the walls
are decorated with beautiful paintings until the high ceilings from
which the big lamps are dramatically falling until being hang at a few
meters from the floor.
We take the exit at the opposite side we came in because it
is taking to fountain with some garden which is sited in between of
this wonder and the official one: Hagia Sophia.
Although the entrance fees are cheap, we’ve decided not going
into Hagia Sophia (20 TL pp), Cistern Basilica (10 TL pp) and go to
Topkapi Palace, but only looking for some views of the Bosphorus and
the Marmara Sea, so we won’t pay the 20 TL of its fee either. I’ve
already visited these three places when I was here in 2010, and these
visits are explained in Istanbul
We pass by the stage they’ve set in front of Hagia
Sophia and turn following the monument’s side.
We have the entrance to Topkapi Palace in front of us. The street
goes on down to the coast and I’m tempted on following it looking for a
good sight of the Bosphorus, but my wife prefers to save the effort and
looking out from the first courtyard of the palace, which is free.
There are people everywhere around this area. Courtyard’s right
side, which is the one looking to the sea, is fenced as it seems to be
a military place. We cannot get close to the wall, but we can get a
good view of the Bosphorus from here.
We come back. We’re saving all these visits looking after having
time for being in Grand Bazaar, which I haven’t seen either. We’re
leaving the palace enjoying the beautiful view from its door.
We buy a pack of chestnuts by 3 TL which we eat in our way back
to the tram. This time is just a two stops ride, but in a completely
The station name is Beyazit and, once there, we’re following the signs
pointing to Grand Bazaar but, although we get into a couple of places
looking like it, they’re finally very small bazaar areas. When we ask
around we’re told the bazaar is closed on Sundays. I missed to check
With this, our Istanbul visit is over. We buy some souvenirs nearby and get the tram again for our return trip to the airport.
There we take our bag back and check in to get our boarding
passes. We have plenty of time, which we spend on the airport stores.
When we leave Istanbul we know we’ll arrive late at night to
home, but it doesn’t matter, we will have time for resting from this
adventure, which is what this travel has really been.
Looking at the pictures, the memories from this experience are
fantastic and the images with which we lived there were natural on
site, but brought to home is kind of incredible we were really there
seeing what they show.
The lodges and hotels have
been good and the roads have been bad, but they’re part of the
experience. Now, we even have all the bumping on those roads of the
hell like good memories.
I wouldn’t change our
itinerary too much, although we feel as we should have more safari
journeys. One thing I’ve learnt, though, is anticipating some problems
for 3rd world countries, even not being their fault, as, for example,
notifying my bank I’m going to go there.