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Trip Report Istanbul: hectic, opulent, diverse and extremely welcoming

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Being the organiser of a group of 20 adults who were going to Istanbul for four nights, I was responsible for choosing a suitable hotel, a knowledgeable German-speaking tour guide and, as I often do on these trips, a chance to meet some warm and welcoming locals. My requirements for the hotel included a quiet, clean and yet conveniently-located hotel with a rooftop terrace and a view of the Bosporus, which is why I chose the Ottoman Hotel Park. We needed a tour guide for three and a half days and, through internet research, I booked the lovely and highly-competent Serhat Basaran and lastly, we could have not met a warmer and more interesting fellow-Fodorite in Turkey than Otherchelebi.

Istanbul: Istanbul is located on seven (sometimes rather steep) hills. There are many kinds of areas in Istanbul although most people stay near the Taksim area or the Sultanahmet area. The Taksim area is perfect for those who want less historical buildings and more nightlife. Sultanahmet is perfect for those who are interested in the history of Istanbul and want to be near the major sights. Both are connected by a tram that is very easy to use and costs 4TL per ride, or if you have an Istanbulkarte, (6 TL), it's 2.15 TL per ride. This is the cheapest and often fastest transport in Istanbul because the traffic can get very congested at times.

The area around Ottoman Hotel Park: http://www.ottomanhotelpark.com/

The hotel is located in a quieter area between Kumpaki and Sultanahmet. It’s at the bottom of a rather steep hill and across the street from a park visited by the locals. This is a quiet area in the evenings where the locals play rummy and the traffic becomes a trickle. The hotel is tricky to find for some taxi drivers so make sure you have the name and address of the hotel. It’s about a 15-20 minute walk from the Blue Mosque. You’ll be walking uphill on paved/cobblestoned streets. If you are not a good walker, this is not the hotel for you. If you enjoy walking through a quieter area before being surrounded by the wild hectic life near the tram lines and the blue mosque, then this hotel may be just perfect for you.

The condition of some buildings in the hotel’s vicinity: Some people have mentioned the desolate state of nearby buildings. This is indeed true and if you understand the reason behind this state, it will be easier for you to understand why some are in such poor condition. There are many houses listed as historical in the area so they cannot be torn down and must be renovated using similar floor plans as the original building. Because renovation costs are high and often the original plans are no longer of interest for buyers, no one invests in the buildings and wait for them to decay to the point of having to be torn down. This is very evident of some buildings in the area which may make it seem “ghetto-like” for some. I personally enjoyed the area and being away from the busy touristic streets of Sultanahmet. The area was a welcome reprieve from the high-level noise found in many Sultanahmet streets.

Safety in the area: We felt completely safe in the area. In fact, we felt very safe in all of Istanbul. We were told that Sultanahmet and the Fatih area have very little crime and if there are pickpockets, they are usually on the Taksim side. The locals left us alone and there was very little begging. If we looked lost, the locals who could speak English or German were very happy to help us find our way

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