We woke up a little before 4am, as our plane was on its final descent from Isfahan. It turns out that 4am is a pretty popular time at the airport, as there were lots of planes arounding that same time. Because of this, the immigration line was quite long. Once it got to the point that we had a choice of 10 separate lines, we could not choose the right line to save our life. We got in the slowest one, and then when a line opened next door, we thought we'd choose that, only to have that be even slower. The person in front of us took forever, and needed to show additional ID beyond whatever he had. But, in the end, it didn't matter, as the bags weren't off the plane yet anyway. Once we grabbed the bags, we met someone from the travel agency. We walked outside and we had a huge van, probably big enough to hold 15-20 people. We dropped off the person who had met us in the airport, and then the driver took us to our hotel (The Vault Karakoy). It was still pitch black, even though it was almost 6am. About the only light was the Galata Tower, very close nearby.

We checked in, dropped our bags, and then debated whether to try to go back to sleep. We were feeling pretty awake (but Justin with no feeling in his right hand; it never woke back up after waking up on the plane), and Justin decided to go for a walk and see if he could get some sunrise shots. Crystal read in bed, and miraculously stayed awake. At 6am, there were lots of people, mainly older folks, opening up shops, sweeping front porches, etc. Justin got lost a couple of times, but eventually made it onto the Metro bridge, and walked most of the way across it, towards Suleymaniye Mosque. From the bridge - separating the Sultanahmet region from the Karakoy region, he had a good view of Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque, and Galata Tower as well. He got back to the hotel around 7. We got ourselves cleaned ourselves up, then did some laundry since we'd have 2.5 days at our hotel, then went downstairs to breakfast. It was odd seeing legs, arms, and hair again after a week of none of these. After eating, we came back to the room and did some more reading.

We went downstairs at met Ezel a little before 9:30. When we visited the Middle East and India in 2014, we squeezed in 48 hours in Istanbul, and we had a great time there. Our guide for those two days was named Ezel. When we decided to come back this year, we did a search for "Ezel tour guide Istanbul" and thankfully we were able to find her. For today we scheduled a culinary tour all over Istanbul, with the addition of Suleymaniye Mosque (which we wanted to, but didn't, visit in 2014). It was good to see Ezel again. We aren't sure if she actually recognized us, but she sees new guests all the time, and we had only a single guide in Istanbul. It was cloudy, a bit misty, and cool outside. Ezel said that the weather was forecasted to be a little better on the Asian side of town, so she suggested we go over there first. We had no reason to disagree, so we took a short walk to the pier and took a ferry to Kadakoy, on the Asian side. On our walk, we went the other direction out of the hotel than Justin had taken earlier (i.e., turning right instead of left), and the walk was much better. A different bridge, the Galata Bridge, was literally around the corner. We went into some underground tunnels and came out right by the pier.

The names of our departure and arrival were pretty similar, Karakoy -> Kadakoy. Despite the bad weather, there were nice views from the boat, looking back west at Sultanahmet. We decided this would not be the worst commute vessel ever. Before we got on the boat, Ezel bought us some simit, a bagel-like bread, with cheese. Also Ezel had brought some cheese and some meat-potato pastries she had made. We ate those, and had some hot tea, on the boat ride over, which lasted about 10-15 minutes. Once we disembarked at the pier in Kadakoy, we walked through a local outdoor market. It was a narrow pedestrian street with all sorts of different stores on both sides. The first stop was full of animal organs, and frankly meat does not look nearly as appetizing when you can recognize what it is. The next stop was full of pickled everything. We got drinks (cocktails?) that were full of pickle juice and different pickled fruits and vegetables. As one can imagine, they were overpoweringly strong. Some of the pickled veggies were fairly intersesting, including pickled okra (Crystal was a fan) and pickled garlic (Justin was a fan). Coincidentally, the person working was a guy from Uzbekistan, where we'd be in a few days. We also visited a cheese place, where the proprietor kept giving us more stuff, and olive place, and a place that has been open for 240 years selling Turkish delight. FYI, it still was not even 11am.

We took a convoluted, but very nice, mass transit trip back to the European side of the city. There were stray cats everywhere, in and out of the subway stations. After a couple transfers, we came up by University, near Suleymaniye Mosque. The mosque was closed for lunch-time prayer, so we walked around for a bit, then went into mausoleums for the Sultan (Suleyman) and his wife. Apparently she ran the show; nothing much changes. We also visited a graveyard for the upper middle class. We grabbed lunch at a place nearby, with a white bean dish, a yogurt dish, a lamb-eggplant dish, pickles, rice, and bread. We then went to visit a former soup kitchen, which is now a coffee house. We grabbed some coffee and caught up on the last 3.5 years, trying to stay warm and trying not to inhale too much cigarette smoke. Ezel mentioned that tourism in Turkey has down, and work is harder to come by. On the plus side, she's visited several places since we last met, which all sounded very interesting.

Around 2:30, we finally made our way inside the mosque, and it was worth the wait. The design and the scale were very impressive. It seemed about as big as the Blue Mosque, but it had been so long, perhaps we were wrong. It was still gray outside, but we had decent views of the Golden Horn (separating old and new Europe) and the bosphorus (separating Europe and Asia). From the Suleymaniye Mosque, we walked on its north side, through a run-down neighborhood, heading downhill towards the Golden Horn. One of the alleys was full of rainbow umbrellas, which was a nice contrast to all the gray. Down at sea level, we walked around the bazaar area, and got some baklava. When we finally ended up by the Golden Horn Ezel took us to get some Kokorec, which was prepared like Philly Cheesesteak. Now completely and utterly stuffed, we waddled across the Galata Bridge, which was full of people fishing. Apparently fishing for tiny fish is forbidden in the spring and summer, so come fall everyone comes out to fish day and night.

Back in Karakoy, we walked around some more, with absolutely no more room for food or drink, so instead Ezel just showed us some places and also showed us the local Turkish bath, in case we wanted to go there on Saturday or Sunday. We said goodbye a little after 5, stopped briefly at the hotel, and then walked over to Mukellef, where we got a little more food, plus some drinks, and took in the view. On the walk over, near our hotel, a shoe shine person got up near us, started walking in front of us, and then accidentally (on purpose) dropped some stuff that Crystal alerted him to. He thanked us, and then started shining Justin's shoes as supposed thanks, but then quickly asked for money. He needs to up his game, as his ruse was a little too obvious, even for us.

We'd read about Mukellef as being a good place for a rooftop view, plus great food. The food was quite good, but the view was impeded by gray skies and lots of glass. So after one drink, we left Mukellef and walked to Teras, which we had seen earlier right by the pier, just to drink. At Teras we had a really nice view and no glass in the way. We were glad we had brought our jackets, as it was quite chilly. It was amazing to see how many boats were constantly coming and going in the waterways around Istanbul. Full from a day of heavy eating and drinking, we took the short walk back to the hotel and crashed right around 9.

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