Day 3 - Istanbul and Night Train to Ankara - October 14

Today we were up, fed and watered, with our bags on the bus by 8:45 am. During breakfast I grabbed this shot of the sun streaming through the clouds over the Bosphorous. Today was a full day. We traipsed all over Istanbul again, then headed to the other side of town by bus, then back to the old part of Istanbul to the Spice Bazaar, then over to the Kadıköy neighborhood for dinner, then back on the bus to Haydarpaşa Railway Station to catch the overnight train to Ankara. Always more cats! I could not resist them.The Four Seasons Hotel was minding its own business, expanding it's reign, when they hit a snag. Wouldn't you know it, they ran into Byzantine Emperor Constantine's legendary palace, Palatium Magnum. I hate when that happens. It might not look like much (no, the modern bridge is not part of the palace), but when Constantine moved the Roman capital here in 330, he had big plans for a big palace. Indeed, from 331-1081 the palace was the main residence of the Byzantine Emperors.

All sorts of good stuff is being excavated here: mosaics, niches, sewer pipes, frescoes, even skeletons in what appear to be burials. I wish we could have poked around in there. But we were on our way to another palace, Topkapı Palace (TOP-cop-uh - no dot atop that "ı" so it's an "uh" sound).
Topkapı Palace was the residence of the Ottoman Sultans from 1465 to 1856. By the time Sultan Mehmet II captured Constantinople in 1453, the Palatium Magnum was barely there. What's a Sultan to do? They set up shop in a palace that is now Istanbul University. But by 1459, Mehmet II had ordered the construction of Topkapı.Details, details, and more details. Ottomans were not plain. Some amazing tile work is seen throughout the buildings. Of course, the highly stylized calligraphic art is everywhere. To the left, the Fountain of Suleiman I at the entrance to the Audience Chamber. Click on any photo to enlarge.



Royal throne joke too obvious here?

The other throne of the Sultan in the Imperial Hall.Iznik tile is everywhere in Istanbul. It's an Ottoman thing. But these tiles were being made long before the Ottoman's showed up. These beautiful tiles are made in Iznik, Turkey, formerly Nicea. Sound familiar? Sure, the First (and Second) Council of Nicea, early Christians of several stripes gathered in 325 to set some ground rules on how they would all behave and on what days they would celebrate this and that, etc. They had a lively debate over whether Jesus is the literal or figurative son of God (final vote - literal). They also decided when to celebrate Easter. The Council did not, however, decree that Easter should always be celebrated on a Sunday. Nor did the Council decree that it should not coincide with Passover. These details of these two holidays as we know them today were hammered out much later.

Like I said, details everywhere. Eye candy for the visually stimulated.
Love the brilliant blue along with the colorful stained glass.A fountain for ablutions is never too far.This green tile caught my eye. This whole room (this shot and the two above it) was full of natural light. Good thing, too, because it's the circumcision room. Not the time or the place for second guesses.
So if I had a favorite street stall in Istanbul it would be this place. Found really yummy chocolate which I bought 2 and 3 at a time to bring home for souvenirs. And Sally could get the Kinder she loves.

Making our way through taxi-land as we head for the Beyoğlu district.
Pedestrians only on the İstiklal Caddesi (Independence Avenue).Entering the Galatasaray Fish Market or Balik Pazari area. It's chock full of vendors and restaurants. We had some calamari and beer for lunch. The official beer of Turkey seems to be Efes (Turkish for Ephesus). It's the only beer we saw advertised anywhere until we got to the Mediterranean coast. It's a light and tasty pilsner and really hit the spot. Can't really tell from the picture but the figs in the foreground are about the size of a tennis ball.Truckin' on over to the Spice Bazaar (Mısır Çarşısı). Also called the Egyptian Bazaar, this is the center of Istanbul's spice trade. Actually, the market is within the compound of the New Mosque (Yeni Cami - c is pronounced like the j in jelly so the word for mosque pretty much sounds like jammy), whose construction was completed in 1663. The New Mosque is the imposing structure in the background of the photo.Colorful but very crowded. videoOK, Turkish Delight (lokum). Basically, it's just sugar, starch, rosewater and sometimes nuts. But there seems to be no end of flavors. Buy it pre-packaged or in bulk, as seen above. You can spend a little or quite a bit. If you live in Washington, you might be thinking, hey, looks like Aplets & Cotlets. Sure does. Where do you think they got the idea? Turkish Delight has been around since the 15th century.OK, I saw this in several places in the market. It's basically a nut, like walnut, wrapped in a fig. Apparently, it' an aphrodisiac. And I will resist any temptation to comment so that children of all ages might enjoy this travel blog. Moving on... videoKaren, hope you don't mind that I got a little footage of you doing one of your sketches. I see the Galata Tower in this one. Simit! Get yer fresh simit here!When I say the Turks drink alot of tea, I'm not exaggerating. While waiting for the boat to sail, I spotted this abandoned tea set.I'm pretty sure this is the Yeni Camii (New Mosque). Below is part of the Galata Bridge which spans the Golden Horn. Underneath the bridge are restaurants and shops.The sun sets on Istanbul. You can see Galata tower on the right and, if I had to guess, the Sultanahmet Camii (Blue Mosque) in the middle and Ayasofya on the left. Then again, those two structures aren't that far apart. Considering how far we are from the mainland in this shot, I take back my guess. I'll stick with Ayasofya on the left but I give up with the mosque in the middle. After the cruise we headed to the Kadiköy neighborhood for dinner. But we weren't hungry so we had lots of time to kill before we all got back on the bus to head to the train station. We ran into Migros, the big grocery store chain in Turkey, to buy fresh fruit to have on the train the next morning. Then we headed down this street with the blue lights, no clue where we'd go to kill all that time. Just beyond the blue lights I spotted this sign and the stairway. Up we ran to check our email.Hey, for 2 TL an hour you can't go wrong. That's cheap! Plus they served beverages so I got a hot tea. I think for both of us to catch up on emails and my tea, I spent just under 5 TL.
Still, there is only so much emailing you can do. Still more time to kill. We settled on Starbucks, though we are not fans of this place. But it was warm and we could sit down, and we could use the potty. We chose chocolate soy milk instead of coffee. And yes, the Starbucks in Istanbul looks exactly like the Starbucks in Seattle, looks exactly like the Starbucks in Barcelona and in Rome and on the moon. Starbots.We all met up at the ferry terminal to catch our bus to the train station.We arrived at Haydarpaşa Railway Station pretty tired. All day I kept thinking about getting on that train and collapsing in my bunk to sleep. I'd never been on a train let alone a sleeper train. I was pretty excited, especially when Mine told us that the refrigerator might hold treats. So I crossed my fingers that our refrigerator was a lucky one. It was! Juice, crackers, water, and a Twix-like candy, Albeni. Hey, when you are far away from home, it's the little things. There isn't much space but just enough for two people to move around each other. Sally took the top bunk, ascending and descneding the small ladder. She's a good sport. I was shooting pics from the window and this couple mugged for a shot. Came out blurry but maybe they will find this site and see their silly picture.Nothing like happy hour in the corridor at 10:30 pm. By this point, Sally and I had each reached critical mass for exhaustion but we wanted to at least give the raki a try. Raki is the Turkish version of ouzo. Similar to sambuca too but not as thick or sweet. It's an anise-flavored, distilled spirit commonly dilluted with a little water which turns it milky. In Turkish, it's referred to as aslan sütü, or lion's milk. Aslan? I wonder why C. S. Lewis chose a Turkish word for the name of the lion in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe? I mean, I get the whole Christian slant to the story, the comparison of Aslan to Jesus and that the Bible referred to Jesus as a lion (the Lion of the tribe of Judah), but why a Turkish word?Mine wore this raki shirt in order to properly introduce us Yanks to her nation's unofficial official drink.

I suppose if you drank too much raki, the world might look like this.
OK, a word about the bathrooms on the train. First, do not use the bathroom unless the train is moving. Very important. Cuz when you flush, the contents are basically let loose (no pun intended) from the train. If we all went potty while parked in the station, that would leave quite a mess at the terminal.

Our car had two bathrooms, one at either end. One was a regular toilet and one was a squatty-potty. Let's talk about the squatty-potty. It's like relieving yourself in the woods but you're inside. Most of the world's population know no other type of facility. Throughout our trip, we always had a choice. You might have to wait longer in line for the regular toilet, but we always had a choice.

Just how is it done? First, know your 360. Take a quick glance around to locate where you place your feet, the toilet paper, something sturdy you can use for balance maybe. Next, secure your feet on either side of the hole and squat like a baseball catcher over the hole. Gather your drawers and get them out of the line of fire. Relax your plumbing until empty. Clean yourself. Dispose of the paper, usually into the near-by trash can. Flush using the Western style flusher or pour water down the hole from the near-by bucket/ladle combo. Easy, huh? But let me give you some additional advice using Newton's Laws of Motion.

First law:

"A body persists in a state of rest or of uniform motion unless acted upon by an external force." We're taking about inertia here. And inertia will get you big time if you aren't properly balanced. If you don't have your stance secured, you might tip. If you tip, you will not stop tipping unless you are acted upon by catching yourself or, gross me out, the floor. Either way, it's pretty icky considering you are in a bathroom. Now, I have to admit that using the squatty on the train was easier than using the toilet. Once down in position, you could ride the rails along with the train almost like snow-boarding. I thought it was much more challenging to try to sit my butt down squarely on the toilet on the moving train. That higher center of gravity really threw me off balance.

Second law:

"Force equals mass times acceleration: the net force on an object is equal to the mass of the object multiplied by its acceleration." So, if you fail to really get your squat on (get down low), the force by which your deposit will hit your pants or your shoes or the foot rest, equals the mass of your deposit times how fast you are depositing it. Think about that.

Third law:

"To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction." For Newton's last law, let's get out of the bathroom and step into your comfort zone. Inside your comfort zone you do not want to use the squatty-potty. It looks hard, it looks gross, it looks unusual. Maybe, maybe, and maybe. But most of the world uses a squatty or some form of a squatty. So it couldn't be that hard, that gross, or that unusual. Try it. Try it once is all I ask. Try anything at least once. It's like travel in general. Get out there and see it, talk to it, smell it, taste it, hear it, sleep it, eat it, remember it, share it. Step outside your comfort zone and try the squatty. Oh, yeah, the third law of motion - your unwillingness to try the squatty (or any new thing) is your action and for it there is an equal and opposite reaction - the pressure on your bladder or the shrinking of your comfort zone.

We finally get to go to bed. Sally did all right. I slept about 8 minutes. I hated it. It was loud, bumpy, uncomfortable. I don't ever have to sleep on a train again. I wouldn't mind riding a train for a few hours but no more "sleeping" on trains. Some folks in the group slept like babies. A few others had nights like I did. It made the next day very long, indeed. And two mornings later was the balloon ride which meant a 5:30 am pick-up. Oy. I did, however, watch hundreds of stars and the moon and the light change as the sun rose.

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