06.05.2011 - 06.05.2011 83 °F
Sunday was an early one, we got up at 5:30 am in order to have enough time to return the car and check in for our flight. Everything went a little too smoothly, and we ended up with 2 hours to kill at the small Crete airport. We were flying from Crete to Athens, and then had a 4 hour layover before we took off for Istanbul.
Both our flights were uneventful, although we once again got a late lunch on our second flight. The flight was really short, just over an hour, but somehow they decided we should still get a meal. I wish I could fly Aegean airlines more often, they are wonderful! We also landed seats in the exit rows without paying additional, so we had plenty of leg room. Fighting for the exit rows must be an American thing as on both flights, some of the exit seats were still empty.
Once in Istanbul, we had to try and navigate the tram system to get to our hotel. We had written down step-by-step directions another blogger had posted as everything isn’t in English as it was in Greece. We had about an hour tram ride, and it was a good way to see some additional parts of the city as we knew we wouldn’t really leave the main area once there. We both noticed that for such a large city (roughly 15 million people live in Istanbul), it is very clean – much more so than both Rome and London. We found our way to our hotel, and because they are laying a new road right in front of our hotel (hand laid bricks to replace the deteriorating cobblestone), the water and electricity on the block were off until 8pm or so when the workers were done. So we dropped off our bags and went to explore. As it was Sunday, all of the parks were filled with families and couples sitting on benches, on the grass, etc. There are several parks in the area, with the largest one around the Topkapi Palace and it was packed. We strolled through anyway looking for a view of Asia across the Bosporus, and along the way saw parakeets up in the trees.
We then moved onto some of the roads, and were immediately bombarded by the shop and restaurant owners. They are ruthless here – you are walking along and someone says to you, “welcome to Istanbul where are you from?” as if they were a nice person. To that we said, the U.S., and of course their son is in New York, or they used to live in L.A, blah, blah, now come look at their rugs or their leather goods. It was always New York or L.A. and it is funny that everywhere else we have been, people say something more like oh I want to go there, or I enjoyed a trip there once but suddenly in Istanbul, everyone knows someone in the U.S. We decided from that point forward, we would say Canada. Funny thing is, now we just get “Canada…hm…now look at my nice rugs, very good price.”
Istanbul is known for their street vendors and take-away food stands, it is very easy to get a little bit of this and little bit of that as you walk down the street. We stopped for a local kebab sandwich type thing, which came in a pita with red cabbage and some other veggies. A very different kebab from what we have had throughout Greece, and Nate and I agreed it actually wasn’t very good. We then found another stand which offered other types of kebab (we had no idea what any of them were, so you just pick one to see what you get) and Nate ended up with more of a salad type of a thing with rice, beans, cabbage, pickles, roasted tomatoes and lamb. He said it was better than the first pita thing, although I was too full to have more than a bite. We then headed back to the hotel as the electricity was to be back, and we were both exhausted. We spent the rest of the night debating what we should see with our two short days in Istanbul to make sure we fit everything in.