Saturday, 07-03-2016 — Sunday, 08-03-2015.
Days 199 & 200.
After our successful experience with the hop-on/hop-off bus tour in Seoul, we thought we'd give the Big Bus Istanbul a try. But first, here's another Istanbul cat.
The Big Bus of Istanbul
Fortunately for us, one of the Big Bus stops is Sultanahmet Square, so catching one was very easy. We dropped about $88 dollars for a 24-hour family pass and got on board. We thought about the 48-hour pass for $96, but that was a little more than we wanted to spend. The bus comes with narration, so we listened and learned about the places were were passing as we rode the bus a few stops to the cable cars that go to the top of Pierre Loti Hill.
Pierre Loti Hill
To get to the top of Pierre Loti Hill, you need to take a cable car which departs every five minutes or so from the tram station. It costs 2.15 lira if you use the Istanbulkart, Istanbul's metro card (we intended to get one but didn't have the chance and they didn't sell them here), but we had to use tokens, which were 4 lira per person. Pro tip: get your Istanbulkart first.
After a short, ride to the top, we had a fantastic view of the Golden Horn (the horn-shaped river that joins the larger Bosphorous at the Marmara Sea) and the Eyüp Cemetery, a huge hillside cemetery where one of Prophet Mohammed's close friends is buried (as well as many others who wanted to be buried close to him).
It was a cold day though, so after snapping a few photos, we went inside the Pierre Loti Coffee House for Turkish coffee and teas.
We wanted to check out some of the vendors on the hill, but the wind really picked up while we'd been inside the shop, and it was a little too cold for us, so we decided to get back down. But we did stick around long enough for Jackie to discover "corn in a cup,' which is corn, mixed with butter and salt, and served in a cup for 2 lira.
We went back down the cable cars and waited for the Big Bus. We debated going to the next stop (Miniatürk), but it was getting cold and getting late. We didn't want to miss the last bus back, so we decided to head back to the hotel to warm up for a bit.
On the way back we ran into some traffic. There was some sort of accident on the narrow road that runs between Suntanahment Square and the Bosphorous, and traffic slowed to a crawl. It took us a really long time to get dropped off. so we went to dinner, then headed back to the hotel to get some snuggles from the cats.
We got a reasonably early start. Our Big Bus pass expired at 12:30 p.m., so after a breakfast (with cats) at the hotel, we headed on up to Sultanahmet Square and jumped on the Big Bus as it was jsut about to leave. We took it all the way to Miniatürk.
What is Miniatürk, you ask? It's a large park jammed full of scale model locations found all around Turkey, like the Cappadocia region, Mount Nemrut, the Sultanahmet Square, Aratürk airport, and even a giant bridge over a scale model Bosphorous.
When you paid the entrance fee (a reasonable 10 lira), you also got a barcoded card, either English or Turkish, that you held up in front of speakers near the different dioramas to play a short audio loop about the history of each specific place. It was really well done and we had a lot of fun there.
It also had a cool play area with a trojan horse fort, a see-saw, swings, a maze (which cost us an extra 1 lira each), and a trampoline (which was closed). The girls had a great time here, especially after India where we didn't see a single play structure anywhere.
As cool as Miniatürk was, it was still cold outside. Once we were feeling pretty frosty, we retreated to the cafe for some coffee and tea before venturing back out to wait for the Big Bus to show up. We caught it right before our passes expired and rode it back to Sultanhamet Square. Despite no accident this time, it still took us a while to get back.
In the end, we didn't use this Big Bus as effectively as we used the one in Seoul. No matter how you work it out, you can't really hit more than three things at stops along the way. The advantage here is that we learned quite a bit about the city from the audio on the bus, and that set us up for further explorations later in the week.
That night was our 200th consecutive day of travel, and because humans like to assign importance to random numbers, we did something a little special for dinner. We splurged at Balıkçı Sabahattin, a fish restaurant a short walk down the street. It was delicious.