Today dawned cold and wet. It was raining and the temperature was around 10-12 degrees. It was not really suitable for tromping around the Topkapi Palace, so we decided to leave that until tomorrow with hopefully better weather, and do some chores today.
Since we did not like our motel, we decided to move to one that was listed in our Rough Guide, the Hurriyet Hotel, that was close to the train station but still within walking distance to Sultanemet.
Before leaving the hotel, we made a stop to a couple of English bookstores in the Sultanemet. We were surprised at the number of books for sale on political Islam, secularism in Turkey and other political/religious topics. Since both stores had the same owners, they had the same selection of books.
Our chore for the day was mailing a couple of packages home for Christmas. This first required finding boxes and tape, which turned out to be more of a chore than we expected. The boxes were easy, but the tape required that we find an appropriate store. After much walking around, we entered a fishing store and asked. They did not have any, but they directed us to the general small appliance store next door, where we were able to get both packing tape and a permanent marker.
Once we had the boxes packed, we visited several different couriers. The cost quoted for mailing was much more than we were willing to pay (about 144 Lira – $120 Canadian), so we went in search of the government postal system, the PTT (equivalent to Canada post). There we learned that the larger of our parcels was over 2 kg, and so we had two options – split it into two or send it cargo (for around 50 Lira). The guy at cargo recommended that the box be split into two and he gave us two new boxes. Our other box was small enough, so Becky went to the kiosk she was led to and mailed the box. The box was just under 2 kg (the maximum for post) and cost 14 Lira to mail to Canada. After re-packaging, we sent the other boxes using the same method. We have no idea when or if they will arrive, but we have succeed in getting them posted.
For dinner, we decided to leave the Sultanemet area and check out Beyonlu – the neighbourhood that is popular with expats in Instanbul. We took the tram and funicular up to Beyonlu and walked from there to Taksim. We were surprised by the number of Starbucks and coffee shops along the pedestrian street. We stopped into another bookstore that has some English books. They also had a great selection of English magazines. We were amused that they had a section on “Islam” and another on “Other Religions and Myths”.
We discovered that Istanbul train systems are disjoint and challenging. To get from one place to another often requires different forms of transit (tram, subway, and funicular). You pay for each segment of your travel rather than paying for a length of time like most cities. For some areas this makes it less expensive and certainly less confusing to take a taksi (taxi).
Our room in the Hurriyet hotel has a funny smell. We are learning to leave the bathroom door closed, which reduces the smell but doesn’t make it completely go away. Possibly a combination of moth balls and stale smoke in the carpets. The room is at least clean and free of visible mould, which makes it an improvement over the other guesthouse. Scott enjoyed the nice firm pillows. We were surprised at how quiet the place was given its proximity to the railway station – we did not hear any trains.