Friday, July 31, 2009

Dolmabahce Palace and Sunday Mass in Istanbul

Today is Sunday and I have planned a day out to include Mass at St Anthony, the largest Catholic Church in Istanbul. To prepare for the trip, I bought the Akbil, the electronic ticket that can be used on all the public transport in Istanbul. Here's what it looks like and you press it against the receptacle on the station turnstile and on the buses. This cost 6 lira and is refundable (according to some) but others say it is not refundable. I did not find out since I took my back as a souvenir which I can also lend to friends going to Turkey for a holiday.

Since we'll be moving over to the Erboy Hotel, I got my luggage to the lobby after breakfast where the hotel will arrange to send it over from Oriente Express. From the hotel, we took the tram to Karakoy across the Galata Bridge and then the funicular to Tunel.

We took a casual stroll along Istikalal Caddesi, the main pedestrian shopping street in the new town where the antique tram still operates as a tourist attraction.

St.Anthony is located along this street but we almost missed it since it is hidden behind an apartment facade.

The Mass was in English and the choir members were mainly Filipinos. The singing was good but the acoustic of the church was bad with too much echo. The presiding priest was not too friendly as he did not say any word of welcome to the many tourists who were present at the Mass.

After Mass, we continue along the pedestrian street passing many shops and restaurants before we reached Taksim Square where there were some some Turkish cultural dances.

From here, we took another funicular ride to Kabatas and we walked towards Dolmabahce Palace. As it was near lunch time, we looked for something to eat but could not find any eating place nearby the Palace. I suppose they want to keep the area clean so they kept the food stores away. So we had to walk quite a distance (almost to Besiktas) before we reach an area with shops. Along the way there were many fans of the local football team Besiktas who were making their way to the Besitas Stadium nearby for some celebration since their team had just won the local football league.

We made our way back to the Dolmabahce Palace after our lunch, this time using the bus. There were two guided tours of the Palace and you get a very interesting taste of life within the palace in the glory days of the Sultans.

As we were rather tired after all the walking, we intended to take the tram straight back to the hotel for a rest. But since my wife had not bought what she wanted, we made our way back to the Spice Market. Though it was open, most of the shops around the area were closed, being a Sunday so my wife was rather disappointed.

After a rest at the hotel, we had dinner at the roof-top restaurant of the Erboy. Most of the hotels in the old city have some kind of roof top restaurant that will have a view overlooking the Bosphorus. It was a rather romantic setting and we had another sunset as well but not as beautiful as the one the previous night.

We did some more window shopping after the dinner before we adjourned for bed.

Ronald Kwok

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