Kumbağ to Istanbul

Thursday, July 28, 2022 - 20:00

After a few lazier days in some resort towns, today we finally made it to Istanbul, which is quite the opposite being one of the world's megacities, and much bigger than we had imagined. The drive from Kumbağ was about two and a half hours, and we hugged the coast the whole way, providing much more scenic views compared to the alternative inland route. Driving into Istanbul as opposed to flying in like most tourists do really allowed us to take in the sheer size of the city. When we were still about 40km away we started to see a lot more high-rise blocks, and they never stopped from that point onwards. There was everything from residential, to office space, to huge malls and supermarkets, all with public transport running through the middle, and the three lane dual carriageway we were on running alongside. It was also quite congested at times, meaning I had to remain a lot more alert while driving compared to the slower pace we had experienced to far on the very quiet motorway from the border.

Eventually we reached the ancient heart of the city, Fatih, otherwise known as the old town, with its busy streets not designed for modern cars. We had decided to stay in this area though so we could leave Summer at the hotel while we remained a safe walking distance away to see the inside of the mosques without her. The hotel manager was kind enough to let me have his parking space (a valuable item during a working day around here), and he double parked outside the hotel until his shift ended - a nice example of Turkish hospitality!

After a quick lunch of typical Turkish food, we made the 5 minute walk over to the plaza with the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque on either side. We decided to do the Hagia Sophia first, which meant joining a rather long line across the plaza. We didn't move at all for about 15 minutes, but then they let the whole line in at once, I suppose as a type of crowd control. We had our bags scanned, but the guards were very relaxed and I didn't even take my phone out my pocket through the metal detector. What they did care about was the Islamic rules around head scarves for women and against wearing shoes inside. My understanding is that the shoes rule has only been in place since the Hagia Sophia became an active mosque again in 2020, and this means they have covered the floor in a soft green carpet, and put shoe lockers outside. The place did unfortunately smell of a lot of feet though! Strangely you could enter the first half of the green carpeted area holding your shoes, but for the other half you had to use a locker. Of course, the building was as impressive as you might imagine, being one of the most famous religious sites in the whole world. Lucy also had great fun crawling around on the green carpet, which seemed to be a popular children's activity! There was a raised area where she played for about 10 minutes with some other young children, while we got to take in the majesty of the inside of the building.

After the Hagia Sophia we walked over to the Blue Mosque to go inside, but found that it was closed for prayers. While we waited for it to reopen we picked up Summer from the hotel and walked around the city streets on the way to the Grand Bazaar, but when we got to the Bazaar they said we could only bring Summer inside if she had a muzzle; something we definitely didn't have or want to use even if we did. In the end, we didn't get back to the Blue Mosque with enough time to spare to go inside, so we walked to the Column of Constantine (not particularly picturesque) and obelisks instead, before heading down to the water's edge to see the Bosporus and the Asian side of the city in the distance. There were quite a few people swimming in the water and the views were lovely, with the horizon dotted with container ships coming out of the Strait onto the Sea of Marmara.

Overall, we feel like we have only scratched the surface of Istanbul this time around, but we will be back for more on the return leg of our trip in just under 1 month's time.

Dog Notes: 

Istanbul has quite a lot of large street dogs in the city centre which range in temperament from completely docile to rather aggressive. This meant that every now and then we would hear barking and a street dog would approach Summer to harass her. When this happened in the afternoon we couldn't shake off the following dog, but a restaurant owner on the roadside motioned to us to pick Summer up. As soon as we did the street dog got bored and walked off - this turned out to be a great tip! This evening I took Summer for a walk to take some night photos of the mosques and as soon as I heard barking, I picked her up and the dogs left us alone.

We are also finding that Turkey is not a particularly dog friendly country; perhaps because they think of dogs as pests on the streets rather than pets. We could count on one hand the number of pet dogs we have seen in the first 36 hours here, which for a city of 15 million people is quite surprising. We also find that quite a few people are scared of dogs, with some women crossing the street today when they saw Summer coming on the pavement for example. That said, Summer is still getting plenty of positive attention, and a lot of people point at her and come up to ask for a stroke.

Miles Driven: 
Genius Hotel Istanbul


Would love to see pics of Lucy playing at the Hagia Sofia! Sounds awesome!

Never made it to Istambul so interesting to see your comments. Be careful in these places.

At last a place on your route we have been to and you are following in our tracks. We were about your age at the time but could not have done your journey even then - even without the dog, baby and electric car.

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