Istanbul: I Got Lost and I Liked It

Istanbul's Grand Bazaar: An easy place to get lost!
Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar: An easy place to get lost!

I was pleased, tired and somewhat stunned when I checked my iPhone and saw that we had walked 8 miles, 18,107 steps, as we walked to all of the top attractions in the sprawling city of Istanbul from 8:30 until 4 pm.

The Obelisk in Istanbul's Hippodrome. It was carved in Egypt in the 5th century BC and brought to the city.
The Obelisk in Istanbul’s Hippodrome. It was carved in Egypt in the 5th century BC and brought to the city.

We toured the Topkapi Palace, home of the Sultans and their hundreds of concubines and eunuchs. We gazed up at the 43-meter round roof of the Sofia Hagia, once a mosque, once a Greek Orthodox Church, and today, a place where a few dozen Muslims at a time worship on their knees and thousands more come to just look.

Our last stop was the world’s largest shopping center–well, a far cry from the word we use, no, this was the Grand Bazaar, with its serpentine alleyways and thousands of vendors, crying out looking for “can I help you spend your money??” as we passed by.   I spent some time with two young men telling them about the sports teams that make my Massachusetts home famous.  Then I paid way too much for two lovely scarves, but too much is about $18, including a funny conversation.  Sold.

Then I made my way down more snaking paths past vendors with shimmering gold necklaces and row upon row of shiny bracelets to the man who I was told could replace my watch battery.  Voila, nine bucks later I walk out.   Later that night my watch was running slow, thanks Mr Watch Fixer. Ugh.

The Harem at the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul.
The Harem at the Topkapi Palace.

But now it was time to meet the others, and had taken several turns deep into the bowels of the bazaar. Where did we agree to meet? Oh no!  I glanced down at my iPhone…7 percent battery….and I pulled up Google Maps to get directions back to our hotel. It would take 18 minutes, and the trail threaded its way past the narrow streets outside the bazaar and beyond.  Four percent.

I began walking and wondering what I’d do when the battery ran out…I tried to memorize where the map led me, but it was twisting turns and dense neighborhoods…..Two percent.

I picked up the pace, ignoring the temptations all along the route, Turkey is so full of great bargains….black screen.  That’s it.

But I remembered that my hotel is located on a tram line, and there aren’t that many tram lines. So as I continued in the same direction, it began to look familiar. YES!  There is the 24-hour baklava bakery…and the tram line. PHEW! I was saved.