Up at 5:00 for the last bus trip. No coffee at the breakfast so a bunch of grumpy people – but it did finally arrive. The bus headed out at 7:00 and we drove through the Bolu Mountains on the way to Istanbul. We made a couple of stops (one with some painted statues!) and passed through the area where the 1999 earthquake killed 20,000 people. Didn’t see any damage but new buildings are going up that are earthquake resistant. As we get nearer the city there is more and more industry.
As we approached the Bosporus we ran into a traffic jam – one that apparently occurs every day of the week. But it went by fairly quickly then we left Asia and back to Europe. We drove around the city for a while looking at a variety of sights – including the park that sparked riots last year. Our guide told us some brutal stories about how the protestors were put down. We passed several interesting alleys and people and ended up at the harbor where we said goodbye to Ugur or driver. Ten of us were going on a cruise of the Bosporus and the rest heading back to the hotel.
We took a fairly large ferry and the ten of us were the only passengers – we sailed toward the Black sea and Neslie pointed out all the famous buildings and sites along the way. When you have a 2000+ year history there are a lot – but mostly recent things as the city has been continually occupied and destroys the old to build the new.
The river was very active with many ferry and cruise ships as well as some small working craft and large freighters and other ocean going vessels. Even people swimming in the river – but no sail boats – we were told that the current was too strong and complex to make sailing safe. We did pass a medieval castle built by the Venetians in a four month period over the objections of the Eastern Roman Empire. It’s now a museum.
Several other buildings were pointed out including consulates, palaces, army barracks, and expensive homes – some going for $80 million or more. One was for sale for $140 million but they had recently lowered the price to $135 million. Right next to these houses were public access points – not beaches but places to swim, fish, and picnic. We also got to see Princess Island – where an important princess was forced to live because of a prophesy that she would be killed by a snake. Of course, she was. It was in a basket of fruit.
After about 90 minutes we returned to the dock and headed through a very crowded underpass – very crowded – from the docks to the spice market. Then the group split up. Minna and I went through the market looking at stuff, but we had been before. We wandered up the street to some of the places we had seen before and bargained with shop keepers for a great variety of goods. We finally got back to the hotel and tried to sort out all the loot.
After repacking our bags we went to the top floor for a farewell dinner with most of the folks – It was nice and we recounted the memorable adventures. A seagull landed on the roof and gave us the eye. Some fireworks went off… We all got our departure times and said goodbye. It was a great trip. We traveled over 2000 miles by bus and saw 12,000 year of history.
Tomorrow we have it pretty easy – bags outside at 9:30 and taxi to the airport at 10:00 for a 1:30 PM flight.