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Trip Report Istanbul and Cappadocia in 10 days - trip report

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wow... i just got back from my long-awaited Turkey trip... it met every expectation and was a most enjoyable and excellent vacation. soooo.. i wanted to try my hand at writing a report.

i'm going to write this report pretty much chronologically, because that will be easier for me. First, I am a mid-aged woman, traveled with a good friend who is a professional photographer. That saved me from really having to take too many pictures with my little point-and-shoot as she had her big camera and multiple fancy lenses. Of course, I did take almost 200 pics, to her 1500! We traveled from AZ, USA .. on mileage points so it was not the most direct route available.. PHX-PHL-FRA-IST... and back IST-NRT-LAX-PHX. Yes, we went around the world. Return was 11 hour flight; 7 hours in Narita (plenty of time to take the train in to town, walk around, get lunch, munchies and photos), then 10 hour flight. yawn!! wish i was able to sleep on a plane, but .. it hasnt happened yet!

quick note: there are lockers AND showers at NRT. we used the lockers but were not aware of the showers in time to utilize that. Would have been great!

We arrived in Istanbul at about 11am and unfortunately my friend's bag did not. We spent a little time at the Turkish Air baggage claim and they assured us they would contact us when (if) the bag arrived. It put a little bit of a damper on our arrival, but T did have a spare change of clothing in her carry-on so we decided not to get too concerned right away. We went out of the terminal and saw our names on a sign.. yeay, our driver waited for us. We booked this airport transfer directly through the hotel... (the transfer to the hotel was 25 Euro (high, but we figured we would be too tired to figure out public transportation at that time). (FYI - we flew into Ataturk Internationa Airport). ok.. i'll tell you about the hotel right now.

We stayed at Empress Zoe in Sultanahmet. www.emzoe.com. We were in the "budget room" and paid 65 Euro/night (minus 10% discount for cash). You can see a picture of the room on their website. The website says "very tiny twin room with private marble bath".. it is very tiny.. but very comfortable. (there is airconditioning that you control yourself). The bathroom is small, but clean/comfortable. The window is directly over the front door but is very private due to the foliage over and around it. It overlooks a street with multiple outdoor cafes/bars.. very busy at night. We kept the window open almost all the time and really enjoyed the sounds. If you dont like noisy, this may not be the place for you, but we loved it. Also, while this room was on the first floor, there is a small spiral staircase you need to go up. The other rooms are higher up and from what i can see, will have a better veiw. The breakfast (included) was very very good (eggs, fruit, cheese, bread, tomatoes, olives, cucumbers, granola, coffee, tea, OJ) and there is a beautiful garden where you can eat. There is also a rooftop garden with beautiful views. I thought the location was perfect.. short walk to Sultanahmet Square Park. Also, it is quite near the Four Seasons Hotel.. and since i have no sense of direction and got lost the first morning, it was good to be able to ask directions to the Four Seasons and go from there. Seems anyone i asked knew where that was. :)

When we arrived, we told the front desk at the hotel about the missing bag, and they assured us that the airline would deliver it to the hotel, and that we shouldnt worry about it. They also took it upon themselves to call the airline a few times to get updates. (the bag was delivered by the next afternoon! yeay!).

We spent the first afternoon just walking around and getting a feel for the place. Dinner was at a Kofte place.. and i cannot find the name of it anywhere..ugh. it was right next door to the Pudding place (also the exact name has escaped me). It was ok. (one order Kofte (meatball), one order shish kabob, 2 soda-waters - 28 TYL). Then ice cream.. yummy! 2 scoops and a baklava 7.5 TYL. (i'm just putting the prices in for those of you who want an idea of costs. i wrote down everything so i could calculate the total cost of my trip). We tried to stay awake as long as possible.. but ended up crashing at about 9pm.

Next morning, we were treated with the call to prayer. I think it was around 5:45am. .. and it was beautiful. I think i would like to wake to that every single morning (waaaay better than an alarm clock.. ). I believe it is a good thing.. to wake with the reminder first thing in the morning to be thankful for what I have. Good start to the day. One of the loudspeakers is right outside this hotel, so we got a good awakening. :). my friend decided to go out pre-dawn to get some photos. As she walked out the door to our room, i decided i didnt want her to be walking around the streets of Istanbul by herself.. so i jumped up, got dressed, and went out to walk around with her. soooo.... i think i already mentioned that i have NO sense of direction. yeah. well. i promptly got lost and was wandering the streets myself. I'm reasonably sure she went directly to the Sultanahmet Square Park and was doing just fine. Me? i was meandering down back alleys with no idea how to find myself. I ended up at the water (Marmara Sea). Hmmm. That's not where i want to be. I saw a Tour Bus driver and asked for directions (the people in Turkey are SO helpful and nice!).. He walked me back to the light and up a little road and explained how to get back to the Square. (the Square is literally 3 blocks from the hotel)... then i couldnt find my way to the hotel and had to ask a Police Officer (i know.. i'm hopeless). He was also so helpful and friendly. (he asked me where i was from and my favorite NBA team.. then when i told him the Phoenix Suns, he said "ah.. Steve Nash!" haha.. that was fun).

It really was nice seeing the Square with the buildings lit up and no people anywhere! so.. we had breakfast at the hotel and then went to Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Underground Cistern. i'm not going to write about them, as there is tons of information everywhere.. but just to say.. magnificent! We had lunch across from the Underground Cistern at a place called the Green Corner. The waiter was happy to practice his English with us and was very friendly. the food was good. I had potato Goleme and hummus and apple tea - total 19 TYL.. then he brought another tea on the house (this was very common and seems like a really hospitable gesture). we ate dinner at a sidewalk cafe along our walk.. couscous and cabbage rolls.. really delicious.. for 10 TYL.

the next day we met up with some friends who are in the Peace Corps in Moldova who came in for a few days. We went to the Grand Bazaar - just basically to see it.. definitely decided before we went that we would not spend any money there. that seemed to work well for us. there are many other places to spend your money.. and less crazy. then.. the Spice Market which was smaller than i had imagined.. and it is hard to determine who you want to give your business to.. it just seems like all the same choices everywhere you look. It really is beautiful though.. all the spices, lokum, teas... senses overload! :o). we then took the ferry up the Bosphorus - 1.5 hours to Anadolu Kavagi. it is at the northernmost tip on the Asian side. You get off the Ferry and are in what was once a cute fishing village.. but is now a tourist trap (in my opinion). There are tons of restaurants, souvenir shops, ice cream vendors. we hiked (i told my husband it was 80-90 miles straight up! but in reality it was only about 20 minutes) up to a castle ruins and saw a great view of the Black Sea. then back down and had lunch at one of the fish restaurants.. not great. actually not even good. they work very hard getting you into their eatery, but then the service was terrible and the fish was very overcooked. 2 hours later, back on the Ferry for another 1.5 hour ride back. This is the part of the day we all agreed we could have skipped. Ah, lets see.. the Ferry was 25 TLY pp.

We took a walk across the Galata Bridge where there were people lined up all across, fishing. We walked up to the Galata Tower but i decided to sit that one out.. there were (of course) a lot of people going in, and i'm not much on crowds - or heights. So i sat at a little cafe (Molly's cafe), had some apple tea and talked with the owner. They had only been open 2 days and it was interesting chatting with him. (again.. the people really enjoy practicing their English). I liked that area a lot. (the next street over was shop after shop of musical instruments.. i found that fascinating and almost purchased a violin - not that i play, but i am starting lessons next week!)

i have to tell you about my new all-time favorite restaurant! it is about 10 steps from Empress Zoe Hotel.. and called Aloran Cafe and Restaurant. Our waiter was Veysel and the Manager's name is Fatih (he told us we could remember his name by thinking of Fatty women! they do have a funny sense of humor there..haha). We ate there 3 times in our trip.. we had to bring our friends, and our last day we actually pulled in some people who we met in Cappadocia. The website is on their card, but unfortunately it does not come up. Maybe it will for you - www.aloranistanbul.com. The best item (in my humble opinion) was the Manti (Turkish Ravioli) appetizer.. YUMMMM. i also loved the Chicken Santa Sophia.. omg.. delish! (side note: i originally ordered a salmon dish, but the waiter suggested i not have that.. he wanted to make sure i enjoyed my meal and the salmon was not the best that day.. so he recommened the santa sophia chicken.. and told me that if i was not happy with it, he would cancel it off our bill).. my friends had the Testi Kabob which they said was also delicious..(you can get either chicken or lamb). the waiter brings it out on a flaming tray and cracks the clay pot in front of you. it is quite a fun experience as everyone watches and oooohs and aaaahhs. Of course that wouldnt be so great if it didnt taste great. ok.. the Testi Kebob was 65 TLY for 2 or 34 for one. the chicken sophia was 26 TLY and the Manti was 9TLY. Efes - 7TLY

big shout out for Efes beer. mmmmmm.

next day we went to the Chora Church... absolutely beautiful Biblical stories in mosaics.. Every inch of the place is covered.
we met up with our Peace Corps friends again and spent over 4.5 hours at Topkapi Palace. There is tons to see and its a beautiful outdoor courtyard to walk around . it was 25 TYL to get in.. and an additional 15 for the Harem. I would highly recommend paying the extra for the Harem.. VERY cool.

walked around that evening purchasing some souvenirs and munching on Turkish Delight,Turkish Baklava, ice cream and Turkish Coffee. i think i have been cured from ever drinking coffee again. it was not my favorite (tho my friend LOVED it) and i have switched to Apple Tea. :)

saying goodbye to our PC friends.. we went to one of the outdoor cafe's on our street and smoked some hookah.. it was definitely one of the Istanbul experiences i was determined to have. it was lovely.

next morning... off to Cappadocia!!! i'm going to add the rest of the report later on today... i need a nap. :) I hope this trip report is interesting and helpful to someone. ... i just have to say again... this is an absolutely amazing part of the world to visit.. and i would recommend it highly.

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