I was planning to meet Jeff when his flight arrived at 10:30 am, which meant I would have to leave around 9:00 from the hotel. I had wanted to go to walk around a little bit by the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia beforehand, but with a shower and breakfast and checking out, it didn’t leave me much time. I showered and packed up some of my stuff and then headed down to the basement where there was a very complete Turkish breakfast buffet with just about anything I could want. I had scambled eggs and a kind of chicken sausage, a variety of cheeses and cold-cuts, several different types of olives and some yogurt and cucumbers, as well as coffee and water to drink. It was a quite enjoyable, even though I had to eat in a hurry. By the time I had finished it was a few minutes after 8 am, so I headed out to the streets with my camera. I walked over to the Blue Mosque (below) and took several photographs of the exterior as well as the Hagia Sophia (beneath Blue Mosque).
I walked over to the Hagia Sophia, and around a side street to one of the entrances to Topkapi palace. By that time it was a little past 8:30, so I went to by 2 jeton (token) for the light rail back to the airport, so I wouldn’t have to stop on the way to the train. I then headed back to the hotel to get my luggage and check out. It was a bit of a challenge hauling my bag back up the cobble stone streets past the Blue Mosque. It was also sprinkling a bit and the ground was slick. The neat thing was that there was a beautiful full rainbow because of the rain and the early morning sun.
I decided that I could spare a few minutes, and stopped at one of the souvenir shops to get some things for the kids. I found two nice shirts for Jonah & Elisabeth and a few other items. I then headed up to the tram station where an Italian couple asked me where the Grand Bazaar was. I had walked to it the day before so I was able to confidently point them in the right direction, despite having been there less than 24 hours. After passing the entrance to the tram station, I sat down with the sun in my face. The tram arrived quickly but it was packed with passengers. I got up to board and had second thoughts, remembering what I had been told about pick pockets on the tram line. I sat back down and waited for the next train, which arrived within a couple of minutes. This one was as packed as the first one, so I again decided to wait. After about 5 more minutes, another train arrived, just as full as the others. I was running short on time, and decided I was just to have to be careful and risk it. I squeezed in by the door and for a few stops the train remained very full. After a few more stop enough people got off that I was able to take a seat.
When I finally arrived at the airport, I had to haul my baggage through the long underground tunnel to the domestic terminal. To my surprise, when I reached the entrance to the terminal, there was a security checkpoint where they were scanning bags and making people walk through metal detectors. Fortunately, they didn’t seem to be bothered by the razor in my bag, and after removing my belt and watch, I was able to get through the metal detector. Around the corner from the checkpoint was the 2 small elevators up to the arrivals area. I pressed the button and waited a long time for the elevator to come down. While I was waiting, several other guys came by and sort of got in front of me. Like South America, it seems like there isn’t much inclination here to form queues. Fortunately, they were standing in front of the wrong elevator, and when the other door opened I was able to get in. They piled in after me and by the time the door closed it was like a can of sardines. At my floor I un-wedged myself and my bag and headed to the arrival area. I could see through the glass that people from Jeff’s flight were still waiting on their luggage, so I was confident that I had not missed him. I stood by the exit and waited, and finally spotted his peach polo shirt. I greeted him and we headed over to the international terminal where we had a nice lunch, though over-priced even by American airport standards. We needed to wait for another friend who was coming on a later flight at 2:00 with his family.
When Randy and his family arrived, we all went back down to the metro and went back through Sultanahmet where I had stayed and got off a couple of stops later, where the ferry to the Asian side of Istanbul was. We missed the ferry that was waiting when we got there but another one arrived a few minutes later. We had a nice ride across the Bosphorus to the other side. We arrived at a bus station where we were going to take a bus to stay with some friends of Randy. The line was really long at the bus station and we were all tired of carrying our luggage everywhere so we decided to take a taxi. I was a little concerned about getting a taxi because I had had some bad experiences in other countries and had also heard many bad things about taxis in Istanbul. The taxi driver turned out to be really nice and very helpful. He helped us carry our luggage into the restaurant where we waited for Randy’s friends and asked the restaurant manager if we could wait there after dinner. The friends’ apartment was just around the corner from the restaurant, so when they arrived we headed right up and had a nice time getting to know them better before heading off to bed.