Today we were part of a half-day tour that stared with a bus ride and ended on a boat. The first stop on our “guided tour” was some unguided free time in the Egyptian Spice market. I was wary at first because our brief venture into the Grand Bazaar the day prior had been absolutely overwhelming. But unlike the literal tourist trap/labyrinth that is the Bazaar, the market is used by locals so prices, layout, and vendors are much more friendly.
We made a few small purchases we were very happy with, and then re-grouped with the tour for our cruise along the Bosporus. It was a chilly ride out there, but seeing the city from the water, which is such a gigantic part of it’s history, was well worth the cool winds.
Most impressive was the Rumelian Castle. Built over 550 years ago, the fortress was situated at the narrowest point of the Bosphorus strait in order to control the sea traffic.
After our boat cruise, we got our new friends the tour guides to drop us off outside yet another amazing structure in the Istanbul skyline; Süleymaniye Mosque. Again the design of Sinian the super-architect, Süleymaniye was a gorgeous building to photograph and provided a wonderfully serene place to sit on a lush carpet and take-in the contemplative quiet while a halo of lights glow softly above our heads.
The rest of our last day in Istanbul was spent finding our own ‘sights’. We headed down to the water and spent some time watching the boats and oddities. We wandered through narrow streets, past what seemed like endless restaurants, shops, and hotels. We played in a ‘fitness park’ where ‘exercise’ machines are provided for the benefit public health and for the delight of tourists. We circled the Hippodrome, sat by a fountain, and watched the sun set behind the Blue Mosque.