Monday, March 19, 2012

Istanbul: Day 2

Itinerary:
Blue Mosque (free)
Hagia Sofia (20TL)
Yeni Marmara Cafe, blackberry tea
New Mosque (free)
Bab-i Hayat, lunch
Spice Market
Cezayir, dinner
Supperclub, drinks and dancing

Review:
The mosques were both beautiful but after just two, we were pretty mosque-ed out. There are many, many mosques in Istanbul so if you're into that, there are plenty more to see than just the two that we went to. However, Blue Mosque seems to be the most well-known so I'd say definitely visit that one and then venture from there.
Hagia Sofia was amazing. The mosaics were incredible and the structure itself is a sight to be seen. It's not free but even if you're on a tight budget, I'd say this one's worthwhile.
Spice Market is a definite must-see/do. It's beautiful, fun, and you can try free samples of Turkish Delights. The vendors do hassle you a bit to come and see their stalls but we just put on our cold, unyielding New Yorker faces and tore through without getting suckered in.
Supperclub was so-so. Turkish clubbing is quite different from what I'm used to; the drinks are fatally strong and no one actually dances. However, it was an experience and we had fun dancing nonetheless.
cats hanging out in front of the Blue Mosque

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Istanbul: Day 1

After an 11 hour plane ride, we landed in Istanbul to a cloudy, drizzly day. Since we hadn't checked any luggage, we didn't have to fiddle-faddle with baggage claim so we headed straight towards the Metro.

LEARNING HOW TO USE THE PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM
The Istanbulkart/Akbil (like a refillable metrocard) machine was out of order so we had to get tokens from the Jetonmatik machine. It actually worked out because after that, we never saw an Istanbulkart/Akbil machine again, so we wouldn't have been able to refill our cards anyway.
How it works:
1. Insert your money (coins or bills, 20TL is the largest bill the machine will accept).
2. Press the blue button to change the quantity of tokens you want. Each token costs 2TL.
3. Press the green button to make the machine spit out the tokens and your change (if applicable).
4. Make sure you get enough tokens for your trip. Transfers are not free and you will have to use another token to switch from one line to another.
For example, let's say you want two tokens and you have 5TL. Insert your bill and the machine will show, "1 token, 3TL change," (except in Turkish). If you hit the blue button once the machine will then show, "2 tokens, 1TL change," and at that point you can hit the green button and the machine will spit out two tokens and 1TL coin.
We encountered both blue tokens and red tokens while using the Metro and tram and funicular.
The MetrO app (free) was really helpful for us. It's an app that doesn't require internet however, it's limited in that you have to know what starting and ending stations in order for it to generate a route.
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