A Travellerspoint blog

No Topkapi Palace for Kellie

Bum knee

sunny 30 °C

On day 3 of our Istanbul stay as we were walking up the hill to go to Topkapi, Kellie was hobbled by her knee. She has had problems in the past but this was different for her. It felt to her that a tendon had popped around her kneecap. After settling her back in bed for the day, I continued to the palace. I had seen it in 2006 but not the whole thing so spent some time there before going to buy us tickets for a whirling dervish show. A nice carpet salesman told me we could see a dervish show for free at a cafe near the Blue Mosque so I continued to my next destination, the carpet shop for Kellie's certificate of authenticity. After returning to the hotel, Kellie was well enough to join our hotelier and I for the free dervish show. He drove us so Kellie could save her knee which was really nice. The next morning we double taped Kellie's knee with the kinesiotape she had brought and went out to the Blue Mosque and a public transit ferry adventure to the Asian side of the city.

We found the prices cheaper for everything over there and spent the afternoon exploring. The food was just okay in Turkey, not what I remembered, but we did have a few tasty meals in local joints. On Wednesday we thought we would have most of the day in Istanbul before leaving for our Kayseri flight so Kellie was supposed to see Topkapi then but she luckily noticed Wednesday morning that we were flying out of Istanbul's secondary airport which is very far away so that plan changed quickly. I had bought our airport transfer Tuesday night for Atatürk airport and quickly went around the corner to change it. They said we had to leave within the hour! So we went back to our rooftop terrace and said goodbye to Istanbul. For now.

KelShell in Blue Mosque

KelShell in Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque

Panoramic shot of Blue Mosque

Panoramic shot of Blue Mosque

Kellie on the Asian side of Istanbul

Kellie on the Asian side of Istanbul

Crossing the Bosphorous to get to the Asian side of Instanbul

Crossing the Bosphorous to get to the Asian side of Instanbul

On the ferry returning to European side of Istanbul

On the ferry returning to European side of Istanbul

View of the Sea of Marmara from our roof terrace

View of the Sea of Marmara from our roof terrace

Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace

Posted by kelshell 13:01 Archived in Turkey Comments (2)

More to come on Istanbul and Cappadocia

Having too much fun!

sunny 37 °C

We have been having full days and nights here in Goreme. Driving down to the Mediterranean coast tomorrow. Will try to write more posts tomorrow night or the next. All is well - lots of laughs and adventures!

Posted by kelshell 05:10 Archived in Turkey Comments (1)

Our stay in Istanbul

Horray!!

sunny 27 °C

As our last night in Tallinn comes to an end I am a bit sorry to be leaving such a wonderful city. Shelley and I both found the people lovely, friendly and helpful. While thoroughly enjoying the small country of Estonia I was super excited to finally be going to Turkey. Shelley, who had visited Turkey in 2006 was still up to visiting this country again because she liked it so much. I was glad because Turkey was a bucket-list country for me. Our mode of transportation was flying from Tallinn to Istanbul on Turkish Airlines, which we were looking forward to, having had heard many positive things about the airline's service. All the fuss about Turkish Airlines turned out to be true. The plane was great, food was very good (silverware and glass plates - Ohh my!), and staff were lovely. Arriving at the airport Shelley and I once again were determined to navigate to our hotel via public transit. However before doing this, we had to go through passport control, which given the size of the airport and various visitors, took over an hour. Once passing through, showing our visas(which they didn't seem to take much notice of), we were off to find the metro. Our trip was successful thanks to Shelley's careful googling, and we found ourselves in the heart of Sultanhament square in Istanbul, now needing to get to our hotel. With our backpacks strapped on the back and our day packs hanging in the front, we started the ever familiar stopping of locals and showing our hotel address and asking for further directions. Right away I noticed several things: all people were willing to try and help us, English was easy to use, and out on the streets were mainly men. After several twists and some turns we headed down the steep cobblestone streets to our hotel ( yes steep hills so you can imagine how happy I was) ;(. Finally after about 20 minutes we found our hotel tucked away on a small side street. We easily checked in and headed up the travertine tile spiral staircase. Shelley arrived there first yelling down to me - only one flight up Kellie! This was a welcomed change from some of our other hotels. Even though breakfast was on the third floor and the roof top terrace was on the fourth floor I was glad not to have a huge climb several times a day. Our room was lovely and it had the one thing no other hotel room so far had - air conditioning! Ohh happy day. Well we quickly settled in and then walked up the street to eat.

I (Shelley) was determined to buy fresh figs as we had passed a corner where a man was selling fruit. But we didn't see anyone and ate at a nice local family run restaurant. The next morning we headed to the Grand Bazaar after strategizing our 5 day stay according to the open and closed days of the major attractions. Of course there were carpet shop stops along the way. It is impossible to avoid this Turkish custom and especially hard these days due to the incredible drop in tourism to this country over the last couple of years. After a carpet stop of an hour or more where our host was unhappy we didn't purchase, we entered the havoc of the Grand Bazaar. For those who have been in this place you will know about the labyrinth of hallways that wind up, down and all around. Escaping without a purchase, we went to the Spice Bazaar and bought some spices. Walking back to our neighborhood seemed especially far and we still wanted to go to a hammam (Turkish bath). Imagine our surprise when 2 nice Turkish men offered us a seat on their bench and eventually asked us to go to a nargali (hookah) bar. It was a nice local place that had once been a madrassa (religious school) Kellie was talking to one about our rug store experience and after about 45 minutes we found ourselves being led to a rug wholesaler. This man has a brother who lives in Edmonton so was very familiar with Western Canada. He also showed us pictures of himself with a number of Canadian politicians. After quite some time Kellie bought a beautiful embroidered carpet to be shipped home. She had already said that if she ever visited Turkey she would like to buy a Turkish rug. Our gentlemen friends walked us back to the hammam and insisted we meet them for a special meal the following day. The hammam experience for Kellie could be it's own post but suffice to say we got squeaky clean and I had a massage - heavy backpack taking it's toll! As we walked back to our room I told Kellie I was not interested in meeting the men for a meal the next day. She said, "I was wondering if that was all some elaborate sting. Do you think it was?" And so we went to bed with our original Sunday plan in place. Regardless of the method, Kellie got a beautiful carpet at a very good price.

On Sunday we visited the Hagia Sophia (aka Ayasofia). It has rich with history and was stunning to visit. We will leave our blog here for now and show some beautiful pictures from our first two days in Istanbul.

Inside Hagia Sophia

Inside Hagia Sophia

One of the many amazing ceilings in the Hagia Sophia

One of the many amazing ceilings in the Hagia Sophia

Another great ceiling

Another great ceiling

Example of tile work outside of past sultans and their family members

Example of tile work outside of past sultans and their family members

Mother of pearl inlay on door outside of tomb

Mother of pearl inlay on door outside of tomb

Outside of Sultan's tomb

Outside of Sultan's tomb

KelShell in front of Blue Mosque

KelShell in front of Blue Mosque

KelShell selfie in Hagia Sophia

KelShell selfie in Hagia Sophia

Giant marble jug used in Hagia Sophia when transformed into mosque

Giant marble jug used in Hagia Sophia when transformed into mosque

Hagia Sophia archway

Hagia Sophia archway

Shelley at Hagia Sophia

Shelley at Hagia Sophia

Example of Christian mural in Hagia Sophia

Example of Christian mural in Hagia Sophia

Picture of Blue Mosque taken from upstairs window in Hagia Sophia

Picture of Blue Mosque taken from upstairs window in Hagia Sophia

Turkish couple on their wedding day - this picture does not do her dress justice, it glittered in the sunlight

Turkish couple on their wedding day - this picture does not do her dress justice, it glittered in the sunlight

Having a smoke with some Turkish men

Having a smoke with some Turkish men

Old hookah (nargali) bar

Old hookah (nargali) bar

Our box of Turkish delights!

Our box of Turkish delights!

https://youtu.be/_9iP5fYhqg4

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m2mOBmUAhsk

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HYfYLEXmPbE

Posted by kelshell 00:21 Archived in Turkey Comments (4)

Our time in Estonia

sunny 23 °C

Shelley and I decided on the budget option for travel out of Russia as we made our way to Tallinn in Estonia. We took our last trip on the Russian subway system as we made our way from St. Petersburg to Tallinn by Ecoline bus. To our pleasant surprise, the buses were comfortable and quite roomy with a personal TV at each seat, and free tea and coffee. The total trip was quite long, over 7 hours, but approximately 2 of those hours were for boarding crossings. We were both still a bit nervous as we exited out of Russia, hoping all would go well. Other then the amount of time it took, we crossed the border into Estonia without incident and were glad to be heading to new adventures, even though we did enjoy our time in Russia.

Given our rather large taxi bill getting from the airport to our hotel in Moscow, we were determined to use public transportation in St. Petersburg and Estonia, despite the lugging of our backpacks and various food bags from the bus trip. We had planned out the route prior to arriving in Tallin, but of course nothing is as easy once you get there. However, to our surprise, we found a couple who spoke great English and were actually willing to help us! This had not been our experience over the last week so it was refreshing to have other people willing to communicate and who seemed genuinely interested in lending a hand to foreigners.

We were pleased with our room at Fat Margarets as it was large and close to everything. We went into the old town and did a free tour being run by students. The young lady who did our tour was very funny and recalled the last 800 years of Tallinn's history, mostly joking about their constantly being occupied. There was only one time they were unoccupied and it lasted for less than 24 hours before they became free from Russia in 1991. While they were Communist and had to answer to Russia, they wanted to rebuild a cathedral bombed during the takeover. So they applied to Russia and were denied because, she said, "Russia is atheist country." So they tried to apply to renovate it into an art gallery,"because everyone loves art right?" No. Denied. So they applied to build an atheist gallery. They were approved for more money than they knew what to do with. So the reconstruction began, took 30 years to do and then they had nothing to put into it. What do you put in an atheist gallery? So they just continued to build and refurbish. And now it's a church 'cause they're free! Even though most Estonian's are pagan still!

We visited a trendy hipster area for a day, an old factory area redone as chic boutiques and craft beer stores and restaurants built into metal containers/old railway cars. We gathered the makings of a fine dinner there. I decided to go for a swim in the Gulf of Finland (Baltic Sea) right around the corner from our rooms. It was bloody cold and not as salty as the Pacific but once I was numb it was okay!

On our last day we walked around different parts of the old town. In a Russian church icon store we asked the salesperson why there was so much Russian Orthodox paraphenelia available if Russia is predominantly atheist. She said they are all Catholic in Russia so what does a person believe?!? I was getting a haircut and during the haircut a couple of jets flew overhead. We had seen this on the previous 2 days around 4:00 p.m. But it was 11:00 a.m. According to the women in the salon, NATO patrols the Estonian airspace as Russian military airplanes are still flying over regularly. They were not amused so we told our Russian arrest story. A lot of tsking went on! Russia is not loved here that's for sure.

There are so many stores selling Baltic amber it's incredible. Kellie bought a beautiful butter cream amber ring. I looked at some necklace and earring sets on the last day but decided that since the Euro is so high I would pass. Yes Estonia uses Euro which did not please us at all. We thought that we would on!y have to use the Euro in Greece for a few days. Anyway, Tallinn is well worth a visit and we are glad we came.

Amuse bouche first night dinner

Amuse bouche first night dinner

Oops we ate it!

Oops we ate it!

Salad

Salad

Great craft beers here

Great craft beers here

Outside old town wall

Outside old town wall

Selfie town square

Selfie town square

Beautiful buildings

Beautiful buildings

Inner wall of old town

Inner wall of old town

Kellie's Baltic Amber ring

Kellie's Baltic Amber ring

Dinner in

Dinner in

One of many beautiful doorways

One of many beautiful doorways

Searching out great craft beers and wine in the hipster area.

Searching out great craft beers and wine in the hipster area.

Kellie in from of great architecture

Kellie in from of great architecture

Another great doorway leading into a shop

Another great doorway leading into a shop

Streetscape in Old Town Tallin

Streetscape in Old Town Tallin

One example of domes in old town

One example of domes in old town

Cool bronze relief on building

Cool bronze relief on building

Clock tower

Clock tower

Streetscape in old town

Streetscape in old town

Stone relief

Stone relief

So pretty!

So pretty!

Kelshell selfie in from of tombstones several hundred years old

Kelshell selfie in from of tombstones several hundred years old

Shelley in pharmacy dating back to the 1400s - still in use today

Shelley in pharmacy dating back to the 1400s - still in use today

OK, on more amazing doorwqy

OK, on more amazing doorwqy

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qfg5AKzwF14

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0kQs07URA48

Posted by kelshell 22:38 Archived in Estonia Comments (4)

St. Petersburg

Beautiful architecture, canals and rain!

storm 17 °C
View From Menopause to Mongolia on kelshell's travel map.

We have spent the past two full days touring around on sightseeing buses and boats. We had no idea that St. Petersburg was built around so much water. It has a canal system and the Neva river cuts down through the city. It is bordered by the sea of Finland. Helsinki is a long ferry ride away and we considered ferrying there to get to Tallinn, Estonia tomorrow but we're taking the bus instead. St. Petersburg has a lot of beautiful old buildings with decorative embellishments. At times historically it was owned by Finland. The weather here is cool and wet - not what we expected for August. But we were constantly hot before so shouldn't complain. Navigating the metro was easy as in Moscow. We visited a few of the more beautiful metro stations and will include these shots with the rest of the St. Petersburg photos. On this, our final night in Russia, we met a man near our hotel who could not understand for the life of him why we would want to visit here. He is not happy about many issues in his country. Seems the stereotypes about Russia are true according to him.

Palace on the Neva river

Palace on the Neva river

Amazing architecture

Amazing architecture

Cityscape in St Petersburg

Cityscape in St Petersburg

St Catharine's Cathedral

St Catharine's Cathedral

Harley Davidson Rally

Harley Davidson Rally

Beautiful building

Beautiful building

Dome

Dome

Wow

Wow

Mosque near our hotel

Mosque near our hotel

Mosque dome - beautiful

Mosque dome - beautiful

St Petersburg a city of canals

St Petersburg a city of canals

Mosaic in subway

Mosaic in subway

Subway lighting

Subway lighting

No not in a museum but the subway

No not in a museum but the subway

Incredible subway station

Incredible subway station

More subway shots

More subway shots

Numerous detailed statues in the corners

Numerous detailed statues in the corners

Subway shot

Subway shot

Couldn't help myself - subway pic

Couldn't help myself - subway pic

Posted by kelshell 11:47 Archived in Russia Comments (3)

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