A Three Hour Tour + Eleven Hours, Part 1

Our biggest event of our trip was a 14 hour tour with The Other Tour. It’s a tour group that’s been around for about 2 years–in fact they had had their 200th tour the Friday before.

The tour is run by 2 brothers, although it is mostly guided by Fethi Karatas. About 8-12 months ago, they took on Trevor Brown who had been a participant in a tour and turned out to be an even better tour guide than a guide–ee. He is originally from Aspen, and yes, he looked and acted exactly like any ski instructor you’ve ever had.

This tour took us off the beaten path of the big sites, into the real Istanbul. Fethi and Trevor are boisterous, opinionated and totally in love with Istanbul. But more on that at the end of this tour.

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The view down the street toward the Hagia Sophia where we caught the tram.

DSC00189We met up with everyone outside Dolmabahçe Palace–that beautiful palace that I showed you yesterday–and met our fellow travelers who included this cute little gem.

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The first leg of our trip was to drive to Arnavutköy by the Bosphorus which has been the center of art in Istanbul since the 1700’s. Here, Fethi, our guide, who is also a successful screen writer, tells us about the history of this area and all the great minds who have lived, and still do live here.

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As with any houses located near the water, the houses are quite pricy. Still, artists and writers flock here to get inspiration as so many have before them.

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Across the Bosphorus, in the haze, is one of several palaces built by the Ottoman Sultans in the 1800’s.

DSC00196One of many statues of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the father and founder of modern Turkey. According to our guide, he’s treated a bit as a god. For instance, the clock at Dolmabahçe Palace where he died, is still set to 9:05 am, the moment he died.

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This lovely neighborhood was originally inhabited by Jewish and Greek minority groups. The bay windows were used to keep a watch out to protect themselves from Sharia law; one woman would be assigned watching duties from her bay window.

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Fethi had just recently moved out of the house with the dark brown bay window

What follows are pictures from our walk around the neighborhood.

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DSC00203 DSC00204One of the few Greek Orthodox churches in Istanbul

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We stopped at this cafe to have a mid-morning snack

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This is menemen, basically Turkish scrambled eggs with tomatoes and peppers. It was divine. I was sad we had to share, frankly!

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Yes, the water on the shore of the Bosphorous was scummy and disgusting, but look closely–the water was swarming with jelly fish!

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This is a “yali”, or waterfront house. We saw a lot of these on the boat tour on the Bosphorous that we were soon going to be taking. In order to be a yali, a building must be associated with water, be made of wood, and be built literally on the edge of land next to the water.

DSC00210Fishing boat on the water. People still make a living by fishing with fishing poles.

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The Starbucks had its own Turkish twist.

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Another statue of Atatürk.

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Down the wobbly gangplank to board our boat

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The baby was very excited to be on the boat.

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Big transport ships go up and down the Bosphorus

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One of the smaller summer palaces of the Sultans

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More Yali. There are only 621 of the original 1500 left. Most are now hotels and restaurants, but some are still used as art centers.

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One family owns 81 of the yalis. One is being renovated to the tune of $30 million dollars.

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Close up of the palace. The builder of the palace never spent the night here. He seemed to mostly use it as a place to change his clothes!

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Those are the city walls in the background–very, very old!

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Again, more of the city walls.

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The new city rising up in the background

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We got off the boat in Kanlica

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This yogurt place was our destination

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Best yogurt and honey ever. Truly amazing.

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Very old minaret.

DSC00245 The next place we went to was Armutlu, the poorest neighborhood on the Bosphorus. It was created by Kurdish rebels in 1972 over a period of 3 nights and only during the night, in response to discrimination by the government. It was not until 2007 that they were given their rights.

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The school, with something like 2000 students. Istanbul has 85,000 mosques, but only 65,000 schools for a city of 20 million people, of which 65% are under 35. This was a big source of irritation for Fethi.

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85% of the homes here do not exist on paper, leaving the residents very vulnerable.

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There are so many children in the school, that they have to do split shifts and the kids only go either morning or afternoon. We happened to be there during the change.

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So many stray dogs in Istanbul, but everyone takes care of them.

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The kids were curious about us and soon gathered around.

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This woman was quite puzzled about why we would come to their neighborhood. The reality is that for 14 years this was the most dangerous neighborhood in Istanbul. However, the government has been very proactive. It has stopped the violence and decreased unemployment by half. Anyone over 65 receives retirement benefits.

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These girls loved the baby.

Sights around the neighborhood:

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Lots of satellite dishes.

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Looks like it was laundry day.

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nice rugs

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nice quilts and a curious resident.

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Little houses on the hillside….

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Meredith chatting with the school girls. They were incredibly outgoing.

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Back in the van on our way to Fethi’s family home for lunch. As you can see, the weather was less than optimal.

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Istanbul is apparently a contender for the 2020 Olympics. They are quite excited by this and there are signs everywhere about it–some of which look like they already won the vote!

I’ll continue with lunch and the main event of the afternoon in the next post. Can we say Turkish Baths?

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Elevator Flowers

About DECRYPTKNIT: knitter on the loose in Shanghai

Hi, I'm Marisa Newhouse, a former pharmacist (for a brief time during the Reagan administration) who's real calling was probably anything that has to do with cooking, plants, literature and especially knitting; hence my last and favorite job, working at Woolyminded, a wonderful yarn store. But now, I have moved half a world away to Shanghai where my husband will be working. Lots of people are interested in what we will be doing here and I have always kept journals of our travels, so I thought I'd do it the modern way and keep a blog.
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