Oh, the hills. We climbed lots of hills.
Istanbul was truly one of the most fantastic cities I've ever explored. While it was easy to get lost on the winding streets, and you were ofttimes forced off the narrow sidewalks to dodge traffic in potholed streets, it was a pretty crazy place to be.
What was smart of us was to find an apartment next to the Galata tower. Despite having a really steep uphill to tackle at the end of the day, it was a good landmark to be able to navigate to. Otherwise, who knows what would have become of me. I would have still been walking the streets weeks later. Every now and then, you'll get a story out of New York about someone visiting family (in Queens, it's always in Queens) going out for a walk, and then spending the next three days lost and roaming the streets with no idea how to get back, not speaking the language or understanding the street signs. That could totally happen here as well.
There was just so much to see. Like New York, you could spend a lifetime here and still not see everything.
The metro was quite crowded, and limited in its range, but it runs frequently and it will take you to where you need to go. It was much easier then trying to negotiate a cab here, whose drivers tended to be happy to drive around in huge, looping circles for a bit before dropping you off nowhere near your destination.
We headed to the Grand Bazaar, as it is a site to behold. It's possibly the oldest and largest covered market in the world, with more than 3,000 shops, which is to say completely overwhelming. The building itself was gorgeous as well- high, arched ceilings. Miles of them. If you can stop looking at the goods and craned your neck up, you got an eyeful.
After experiencing the winding bazaars in the medinas of Marrakech and Fez, I was braced for being elbowed along while dodging donkeys and chickens and scooters, with the stench of leather curing and garbage heavy in the air. The Bazaar here was much cleaner and more organized. In fact, we navigated it nicely with a map and using the well-marked street signs. It was filled with the smoke of a thousand cigarettes, but there was no traffic allowed but your feet, and you'd occasionally have to dodge a boy carrying a huge tray of tea, or fend off a few especially pushy vendors. It was really hit or miss as far as the shopping went, as there were lots of cheap goods and knockoffs and more of the same, but there were a few really nice shops scattered about.
There was much haggling to be done if you want to buy anything. It's exhausting, but totally fun as they usually quote you an outrageous price to begin with and the game of shock and disbelief and disintrest is on. While the sales tactics were no where near as aggressive as they had been in Morocco, it could still be pretty intense, with several people vying for your attention in front of each shop, and always, always, always promising you the very best price.
I loved the glass lamps.
I couldn't get it out of my head how fantastic they would look in my future garden, right by the table where it's always warm enough to sit outside to eat dinner and drink wine late into the evening.
I got out relatively unscathed with my wallet fully padded, but there was much to admire. Carpets, fabrics, lovely embroidered silk pillow cases and blankets, cotton towels and robes, soaps and shoes, scarves and belly dancing costumes, and so much jewelry. It's actually exhausting- after a couple hours, I felt much like I did after seeing the movie "Avatar" in theaters, which is to say throughly entertained but ready to go home.