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  • Writer's picturePeter Antonucci

Istanbul, Turkey | Day 4

Wednesday | October 15, 2014

While today was not the most cultural of days, it was really one of the most fun and relaxing.  

The day began with an early morning trip to Istanbul’s famous Spice Market, a bustling marketplace of 88 vaulted rooms in a covered pavilion that has been in existence since the 1600s.  It was easy to find virtually any kind of spice or nuts there.  


If one were so inclined, one shop boasted 350 hookah pipes! 


And while the others were still shopping, I took the opportunity to visit yet another mosque.  

I spent most of the day on the island of Buyukada, one of the “Princess Islands” of Istanbul.  It is situated in the Sea of Marmara, on Istanbul’s Asian side, about a 90 minute ferry ride from where we embarked.  It had been a former place of exile to a large number of the city’s Armenian and Greek communities before the 19th century, when it dawned upon the Istanbul government that they had a vacation treasure on their very doorstep. Buyukada is the largest and most popular of the nine islands. It was traditionally a home to a sizable Jewish population and the one time refuge of Leon Trotsky.

The morning started out foggy, but we boarded the boat and hoped for the best.


We had some decent views of the shores of Istanbul, but it became quite chilly and we were relegated to the inside part of the boat. Of note was the fact that the residential buildings that line the shores of Istanbul extend for miles and miles, thus explaining how the city is able to maintain a population of 18 million people.

When we disembarked, we were treated to a ride on a small horse drawn carriage.  The mass of carriages lined up looked something like the taxi line at LaGuardia Airport at 7:00 PM on a Friday night. 


We rode with Stender and Polly.  A separate carriage, carrying Ron, Joyce, Dennis and Ugor followed us, until they eventually tried to overpass us. It was a Ben Hur moment! 

We paused for a brief walk around the top of the hill on Buyukada, but it was really quite uneventful.  

Back down the hill and off to lunch.  And that was a real experience.  I ordered a dish that is popular in Turkey called meatballs, but have a look for yourself – do these look anything like meatballs? 


For a second meal – and I will refrain from toilet humor - but does this really look like delicious lamb? 


After lunch, we took a brief stroll around a very underwhelming wharf area.  About the only things of interest were a woman clad in a full Burka, caring a Tory Burch purse and one of the many local playgrounds that provide exercise equipment for women to work out while the children are at play.  


The only interesting thing about the ferry ride back to the mainland was our sighting of a surfacing submarine. 

Of course, our concern about the Taliban acquiring such transportation in such close proximity to the seven of us, gave us pause, or at least a good laugh.  Oh, and we bought walking sticks from a very entertaining salesman.

The shopping was not materially different from what we experienced the day before, except that I did something I always advise against. I allowed myself to be escorted through some back alleys, up some questionable staircases and into private rooms, with steel doors that closed behind us. I only did so because I had security protection at my side. But we were treated to some interesting “back of the house” aspects of the Bazaar.


We stayed at the Bazaar past closing time, which was also an interesting experience.  


Once we got onto the street, it was a sea of humanity, but we were able to find a taxi relatively quickly. Unfortunately, the ride back to the hotel was anything but quick, and by the time we returned, it was almost 9:00 PM. I had a nice dinner on the patio overlooking the Bosphorous River before turning in.


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