Richard & Stacy's Round the World Trip 2001

Update Log
Summary of the Trip
The Family Album
Day 1 - Departing
Day 2 - Amsterdam
Day 3 - Veldhoven
Day 4 - CttM Day One
Day 5 - CttM Day Two
Day 6 - The Holland Tour
Day 7 - Off to Istanbul
Day 8 - Seraglio Point
Day 9 - Bosphorous Tour
Day 10 - Exploring Sultanahmet
Day 11 - The City Walls
Day 12 - The Asian Side
Day 13 - Taking a Break
Day 14 - Leaving Turkey
Day 15 - A Day in Singapore
Day 16 - Arrival in Sydney
Day 17 - Exploring Sydney
Day 18 - ODDC Day One
Day 19 - ODDC Day Two
Day 20 - Toranga Zoo
Day 21 - Off to New Zealand
Day 22 - Road Trip to Tauranga
Day 23 - Tauranga to Taupo
Day 24 - Visiting Granny Stanton
Day 25 - Leaving Levin
Day 26 - Return to Auckland
Day 27 - The Trip Home

Tuesday, May 22, 2001.

We woke up around 7:30am this morning to a bit of a shock... the muezzins didn't wake us! Could it be that we are getting acclimated to Turkey?

Today was the day we're going to explore the Asian side on our own, without guides, just the Eyewitness book.

Getting to the Asian side meant taking a ferry, and riding the ferry cost money, and we were all out of Turkish lira. On the first day we had located an ATM machine, today when we went there, it said "Sorry, no money available." and gave the location of other ATM machines. We walked to the next ATM down the street and it wouldn't accept our card... and so the hunt for a working ATM was on, while wandering toward the ferries.

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Coming down Muradiye Caddesi, past Topkapi Palace on the way down to the ferries, in search of an ATM.   Suddenly, in the distance, we spy a bank and ATM machine! We're saved...
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The intersection of Muradiye Caddesi and Ankara Caddesi - also known as ATM central - there's about eight machines in this block alone!   With our pockets full of millions of lira (recalling that a million lira is less than one US dollar), we troop down to the ferry terminals at Kennedy Caddesi.

It took awhile to find the right ferry - Eminönü has half a dozen ferry terminals. We managed to leap aboard the ferry to Üsküdar moments before it left... not that we would have to wait long, the ferry runs every twenty minutes back and forth across the Bosphorus. To board the ferry you have to buy tokens... unfortunately, the ATM machines only give large bills (10,000,000 lira), and no one likes to take a big bill like that, especially for a one million lira fare. The ticket seller tried to explain that we should buy a round trip ticket, but we couldn't understand him, until finally he pushed four tokens at us, gave six million in changed and said "Come back." It all made sense then.

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Boarding the ferry to Üsküdar.   Stacy comes aboard the ferry.
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A look from the ferry at Topkapi Palace.   How bad could a place be where they serve tea on a ferry?
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Passing Leander Island, which has had some sort of structure on it since the 12th century. Unfortunately, its not open to the public.   Leander Island has a lighthouse on it now, but its also been used as a prison, quarantine centre during a cholera outbreak. Today its used by the Turkish navy to monitor shipping.
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Approaching the dock at Üsküdar.   Check out this cool gizmo! Above the pedestrian walk light is a countdown timer showing the number of seconds remaining before it changes color...

After a short wander around the ferry terminal, we struck out into Üsküdar proper... there are a number of moderately important mosque in the area, so we set about to locate them and visit. We had dressed correctly and were carrying the necessary additional items to be able to visit a mosque without causing offence - expecting that the locals on the Asian side would be less tolerant than the European side. The first mosque we found was the Iskele mosque. Also known as the Mihrimah Sultan Mosque, it was built in 1548.

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The entrance to the Iskele mosque.   Inside the metal fence, the ceiling domes are beautifully painted.
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Walking around the mosque (trying to find a way in, we find a great view of the minaret).   Our search for an entrance turns up a cemetery in the back of the mosque. Islamic gravestones always face Mecca. 

We never did find a way into the Iskele mosque - we were expecting that there would be a visitors entrance like at the Blue Mosque. A bit confused, we headed over to the Yeni Valide (New Mosque of the Sultan's Mother) mosque, built by Ahemet III between 1708 and 1710 to honour his mother, Gulnus Emetullah. Again, we walked around the mosque, looking for a separate entrance. This time we were sure there was only one, and it had a large sign giving instructions for visitors (all of the instructions we already knew about). We explored the courtyard briefly, and then headed inside.

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The courtyard of Yeni Valide mosque, notice the fountain being used as it should be to perform abulations before entering the mosque to pray.   A look down the side of the courtyard, not much artwork in the domes here.
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Stepping inside the mosque, we find typical decor - carpeted floors, beautiful chandelier, high dome and intricately decorated walls.   Looking up at the dome of the Yeni Valide mosque.
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A close look at the mihrab of the mosque.  

There were a couple of men in the mosque, and while they were polite, it was obvious to us that we were invaders in their sacred place of worship. After we left the mosque, we agreed that this was the last time we would visit a mosque. The locals don't enjoy it, we didn't enjoy it, it wasn't a revelation for us, so why bother - mosques are beautiful inside, and that's as much as we need to know.

Skipping the third mosque (the Atik Valide Mosque) in the line, we headed down the seawall of Üsküdar, which would eventually lead us to Harem, where the next ferry terminal was. We had gotten used to the fact that the maps in the guidebook were of fairly large scale, and so the distances on them weren't all that great. The walk from Üsküdar to Harem took us about an hour, watching the comings and goings of the water way while we walked.

But before we really got going, we needed a visit to the local facilities - known throughout Istanbul as the WC. Along the seawall there were a number of public toilets, each charging 200,000 lira (about 15 cents) for a visit. This may seem like a bargain, but when you see what you get for your money, it feels like theft. The bathrooms smell terribly, and the toilets are manually operated - porcelain holes in the floor, and a cup of water being filled from a slowly running tap. To flush the toilet, just dump the cup of water into the porcelain bit of the floor - which you hopefully managed to aim for successfully.

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A manually operated toilet in the male WC.   Stacy exits the women's WC, convinced we were overcharged for use of the facilities.
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The beginning of the seawall at Üsküdar, next stop, Harem.   Along the way, we spy the other side of Leander Island, with the same ferry we rode in going by.
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Further down the seawall, Harem is around the point visible in the distance.   Looking across the Bosphorus on the Asian side, Topkapi Palace is visible on the right, Haghia Sophia in the middle and the Blue Mosque on the left.

When we arrived in Harem, we decided to do some more exploring. The Selimiye Barracks is near Harem, where Florence Nightingale polished her craft before setting up the concepts of modern nursing. We turned off the low road at the Harem ferry terminal and hiked up the hills toward the barracks. Unfortunately, the day we were trying to get to the barracks was obviously some important event. Roads were closed, guards armed with automatic rifles were everywhere, it didn't look like the sort of place a tourist would want to be.

We walked around the perimeter of the barracks at a distance of several blocks, ending up at a cafe. Since this was the Asian side, no one spoke English, and we had to use our handy Eyewitness Istanbul guide to pull out the phrases needed to get lunch, our bill and our change. By the time we'd finished our lunch, the event around the barracks was over, but all the gates were closed and locked. Doesn't look like they're too keen on visitors at the Selimiye Barracks anymore.

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Climbing the steep road up to the entrance of the Selimiye Barracks, this is actually the gate to the mosque on the grounds. The heavily armed guard didn't look too happy to see us, so we went elsewhere.   After lunch, we wander back down the street toward the barracks, but after spying the barriers and big signs that say "Keep Out, Military Facility!" we kept our distance.
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The road up to the cafe where we had lunch, now clear of traffic after the event is over.   Back down to the seawall highway, directly ahead is the Harem ferry terminal.

We finally found the ferry terminal, but it was for a car ferry only, and all the signs were in Turkish. We kept searching for the word "Eminönü", but didn't see it anywhere. Finally we went up to the ticket seller and tried to say Eminönü ("Eh-Mih-Nur-New")... the ticket seller barked back "Two million!" and pushed two tokens at us. Lo and behold, they were the same type of tokens we had bought for the round trip from Üsküdar. After a quick dig in the pocket we turned up one of the tokens, just to make sure it was the same. The ticket seller pull one token back and said "One million!" And we wandered off, having found the second token and not needing to buy anything.

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The car ferry arrives at the Harem ferry terminal.   A closer look at the bridge of the car ferry.
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Passengers pressing aboard the ferry - lots of walk on traffic for this ferry.   Back in Eminönü, looking back at the now unloaded car ferry. All the cars in front are waiting to load.

The car ferry was much more comfortable than the regular passenger ferry, although Harem is really a long way from anything in particular, compared to Üsküdar. But all in all, the Asian side of Istanbul is an interesting and pleasant place to visit - a little more suburban.

Only a block away from the ferry but walking up a different street from the one we'd originally come down that morning, we stumbled across a train station - but not just any train station. This is the Istanbul Central Station, which was once the ending point of the famous Orient Express, which ran from Paris to Istanbul. Of course, most people think of China when they think of the Orient Express, but Turkey is as far east as the train ever went. But after spending time in Istanbul, you come to realize that this really is the beginning of the Orient - the gateway to the Middle East, anyway. 

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The front of the Istanbul Central Station, the end of the line for the Orient Express.   Beside the station is an old steam shunting engine painted in the Orient Express colour scheme.

We hiked the rest of the way to the hotel and had a brief rest. With minimal energy for dinner but a strong desire not to eat in the hotel, we searched through the brochures in our room and turned up the name Orient House. The desk clerk highly recommended the place, so we made reservations. It was by far the most expensive meal we had in Istanbul, but it included transportation and everything. And it was certainly worth the price, one of the most remarkable restaurants and eating experiences we've ever been to.

Back so late, it was straight to bed (after dumping the pictures out of the camera, of course). Tomorrow was to be the last full day of our visit to Turkey, and we need to get more luggage to bear all the goodies we had bought.