Amazing Istanbul

Mar 18th, 2009, 05:44 PM
  #21  
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 6,036
Opaldog, welcome back! I was looking for your trip report a few days ago...so glad I stumbled acrossed it. I'm glad you didn't let the weather get you down either. It certainly wasn't great when we were there, but we were in Turkey and in the end the weather didn't matter as much as I was thinking it would. Looking forward to the rest!

Tracy
tcreath is offline  
Mar 18th, 2009, 06:04 PM
  #22  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,604
tcreath: glad you found my report. I enjoyed reading yours especially as it was so close to our trip. I found myself saying, "I can't believe I'm sitting here right now in Istanbul". It was so much more than we expected.
opaldog is offline  
Mar 19th, 2009, 08:44 AM
  #23  
cd
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 8,981
We so enjoyed Istanbul and thank you for such a good report. I relived our 3days there as I read. I had forgotten about all the feral cats and dogs. Did you go to the Grand Bazaar and Spice Market? We got completely lost at the Grand Bazaar and my old legs were killing me trying to find our way out. A French man who spoke some English saw that we had no idea which way to turn and tried to help us, but at that point we just decided to grab a cab to take us back to our hotel. That was the only bad experience we had in Istanbul, he way, way, way overcharged us.
cd is offline  
Mar 19th, 2009, 09:05 AM
  #24  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,604
cd: We did go to the Grand Bazaar and Spice Market, more than once for souvenirs. We had some funny and at times exasperating (for me) experiences there. I'll get into those as I continue along the days of our trip. I am going to post some photos tonight after I am home from work. I did upload some last night, but thought better of having them on the web in the manner that I uploaded them. I questioned the security of my account. I'll try again later. Two of the pictures were taken at the Grand Bazaar.
opaldog is offline  
Mar 19th, 2009, 09:51 AM
  #25  
cd
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 8,981
I look forward to seeing them opaldog.
cd is offline  
Mar 19th, 2009, 01:08 PM
  #26  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,604
I just fooled around with my pictures and hope that this link works correctly. Here goes. http://picasaweb.google.com/opaldog1...nbulMarch2009#
opaldog is offline  
Mar 19th, 2009, 05:36 PM
  #27  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,604
Day three continued: We arrived back in Eminou from the Bosphorus tour at 4:30. From there we walked in the direction of where we thought the Spice Bazaar was and then we knew we could probably find the Grand Bazaar. I was getting nervous about buying souvenirs for the family as we only had one full day left. I try not to spend too much time on the souvenir buying, but I alway end up getting anxious about getting it done. Can't forget the kids, no matter how old they are.

We waded through the "sea of humanity" on the way to the Grand Bazaar and kind of stumbled upon the entrance. I had an idea of what we needed to purchase. We bargained for a Fenerbache soccer shirt for soninlaw and in the Grand Bazaar bargained some more (I was actually pretty good at it, or so I thought) for scarves for daughter, mother, and myself. We bargained hard for t-shirts of the Turkish flag for son and husband. The price started at 15 lira and we got it down to 6 lira after walking away 3 different times. I was looking for soap with evil eyes wrapped around them that I had seen previously and just couldn't spot them. I finally got tired and felt a need to find the nearest exit and get out. We weren't exactly sure where we were, but ended up walking around in circles and were actually right next to a large wall that surrounded Istanbul University. We asked directions for Aya Sofya and were told that Sancta Sophia was straight and to the left. This was not the last of our Grand Bazaar expeditions.

It was beginning to sprinkle and I realized at that point that I had lost my umbrella. I thought back and remembered hanging it up at the restaurant at the top of the Bosphorus. How sad, that little umbrella has been to many destinations with me. I hope it enjoys it's new home in Turkey. We headed back to the hotel and stopped on Divanyolu at a place called Coffee Me. I was craving a cappucino. 15 lira for 2 coffees. They were kind of like dishwater. We stuck with espresso after that.

That evening we decided on a restaurant that we had read about in Lonely Planet. The name of the restaurant was Buhari and it was diagonally across the street from the Sultanahmet Fish House. Coincidentally I noticed later that the hotel also recommended this restaurant as an original Turkish neighborhood place, lots of meat dishes. It was definitely unique. The waiters greeted us and seated us in a very gracious manner. They were all dressed in black suits. The lighting was bright, the music was loud American pop and the flat screen t.v. on one wall was playing the Turkish version of Wheel of Fortune, with sound muted. The Turkish Vanna was wearing an outfit that looked like an ostrich costume with rhinestones and she touched the letters with a fairy wand. It was a very surreal scene.

We chose assorted cold mezzes to start and assorted kebabs. Pretty much like the meal we had at Ciya Sofrasi, but very different. The food was very spicy and meat heavy. My husband loved it; me not so much. It was tasty, just not what I would ordinarily go for. The service was impeccable. The wait staff waited about six feet from us smoking and watching Wheel of Fortune. The table behind us was full of smokers puffing away furiously. All tables had ashtrays. It is so unusual nowadays to see this, even in Paris there is nonsmoking in restaurants. After a bit it became hard to breath. Fortunately we were ending our meal. As we got up to leave they rushed to help my husband to put on his coat (I had already put mine on before they could get to me)so to make up for it they picked a flower from one of the tables and gave it to me on my way out. It was another unique yet good dining experience in Istanbul. It was a chilly evening so we hurried back to the hotel. The streets around the restaurant were empty save for the gangs of cats and occasional dog.
opaldog is offline  
Mar 19th, 2009, 06:58 PM
  #28  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 9,114
Great report, opaldog! I, too, am reliving my Istanbul visit through your words.
Seamus is offline  
Mar 20th, 2009, 02:30 AM
  #29  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,604
Hi Seamus: Thanks for the kind words. I appreciate everyone's feedback, without it I would wonder if it was a boring read. I'm also reliving my Istanbul visit. I'll continue later.
opaldog is offline  
Mar 20th, 2009, 05:47 AM
  #30  
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 109
What a great trip report! I am noting the restaurants and hoping that we can get to them in our 3 short days.

What are your thoughts about hotel locations? We are not sure of whether to stay in the old city (Sutanhamet) or try our luck in Beyoglu, Ortakoy or Taksim. It will be our 1st time in
Istanbul and we are enthusiastic walkers so getting around on foot is no problem.

Is the Bosphorus ferry trip worthwhile if we have just half a day? Thanks for your thoughts and enjoy the rest of your wonderful trip.
mairseydotes is offline  
Mar 20th, 2009, 07:37 AM
  #31  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,604
Mairseydotes: Thanks. With only 3 days in Istanbul, I think the Bosphorus trip might take up too much of your time. They do have 1 1/2 hour tours offered by private boats that I understand just go around a smaller area without stopping. You can always do what we did and take one of the ferries to Kadikoy or Uskudar just to get out on the water and over to the Asian side.
I enjoyed staying in Sultanahmet. I loved the Hotel Empress Zoe. There were many hotels in the area. Check with fodors and Tripadvisor for reviews. Sultanahmet does have many of the big sites. It is very walkable. You will love Istanbul.
opaldog is offline  
Mar 20th, 2009, 07:43 AM
  #32  
cd
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 8,981
opaldog
Thanks again, I enjoyed your pictures and am enjoying your report. It was amazing for us to just watch traffic. Everyone shares the same narrow street. Cars, buses, bikes, coming within inches of each other and pedestrians just walking through them all.
cd is offline  
Mar 20th, 2009, 07:48 AM
  #33  
cd
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 8,981
I also wanted to say that we did the same as you by taking the ferry to Kadikoy. We just wanted to know that we had been to Asia. It was a fun few hrs, great to see the Mosque's from the water and have lunch in Asia.
cd is offline  
Mar 20th, 2009, 07:51 AM
  #34  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,604
cd: Thanks, sounds as though we did similar things. I'm looking forward to getting back. There was so much that we didn't do.
opaldog is offline  
Mar 20th, 2009, 05:01 PM
  #35  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,604
Tuesday, Day 5, last full day in Istanbul: We woke to thunder and lightning and pounding rain. I sat at the table and watched the tankers in the misty, foggy air make their way past our window. Too bad I left my umbrella up the Bosphorus. We made our way down to an empty breakfast room filling up on the delicious Turkish breakfast. By the time we were ready to go out the rain had eased up. I wanted to get back to the Grand Bazaar and finish up my shopping. I had a few items, in particular a Turkish hat for son and those soaps with the evil eye ties, that I was scouting for. I located a nice embroidered hat, but out bargained myself with the old man selling them. I did stumble upon the soaps and picked up three of those. After about an hour I was done for, I couldn't take anymore and so we figured out which gate we entered in and exited from it. Then it began to pour, hard. Of course I had no umbrella. We turned back and the first open stall we saw we bargained for an umbrella. Others were doing the same. We got soaked!. On Divanyolu at a coffee/pastry store by the name of Cigdem. I let my husband select the pastry. He pretty much likes the opposite of what I do, but what the heck. My espresso was good and of course I ate the puffy, chocolatey, cakey thing he bought. Back to the hotel to dry off and rest up.

Back at the hotel we debated on what to do with the rest of the day. It was still raining hard. We hadn't seen Topkapi yet, but I didn't know if it would be a good day in the rain. It gives me something to go back for. Since I was still looking for the hat we decided to go back to the Bazaar and find the old man and pay his price. I am a glutton for punishment. By this time a cold front had moved in and it was chilly walking back. We found the man, of course he remembered us and we bought the hat.

All the shopping and the wet weather was tiring me out. We just went back to the hotel and had nice hot showers and watched the boat traffic on the Bosphorus. After some time the rain stopped and we went up on the terrace and just breathed in the smell and sounds of Istanbul.

That night we decided to eat locally again. We walked down Akbiyik Cad. to Magnaura Cafe where we ate the first night. This evening we asked to be seated inside. They recognized us and were pleased that we had returned. They sat us in an upstairs room with a nice fireplace. We shared a cold mezzes plate, Efes beer, both had the mantii, that delicious lamb ravioli, and shared a dessert they called coldron. It was some sort of custardy pudding dish with chocolate and pistachio. It was a nice ending to the evening and a good last night dinner, ending where we started. The room had three other couples, 2 french, 1 german, and us.

Back at the hotel we packed our bags, now overstuffed with all the Grand Bazaar purchases. It was cold and clear out. We went up on the terrace again and enjoyed our view of Istanbul at night. What an amazing city. What a wonderful visit it had been. Tomorrow we would wake up for an 8:00 a.m. breakfast before one last stroll around Sultanahmet.
opaldog is offline  
Mar 21st, 2009, 03:32 PM
  #36  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,604
Wednesday, Day 6 - Final morning: I woke up early, 5:30 a.m. for my last wakeup call to prayer. I sat at the table looking out the window and trying to soak in the views of the Bosphorus. I woke up my husband, had one last luxurious shower in the marble hammam shower and then we went down our private stairway to the breakfast room. I really enjoyed starting each morning here before setting out into Istanbul. It was a real low key, tranquil atmosphere.

The day was turning out to be a beautiful one, all trace of clouds and rain were gone. We went up on the roof and looked out at the scene before us. I could see cats, dogs, carpet sellers, restaurant touts, taksis and drivers, a man on a neighboring roof putting his shirt on, smoking a cigarette, etc., etc., etc. I just wanted to capture it all so that I would remember how we felt there in Istanbul.

We went out for a last walk around Sultanahmet. We headed down Akbiyik Cad. and went where we had not been before. We headed toward the water and strolled through small, narrow, cobbled streets with old wooden Ottoman houses falling down towards us. Some were immaculate, others were derelict. We walked under the train tracks near Cankaturan Station toward the water and turned back to go over a small footbridge back over the tracks. We ended up on the other side of the Blue Mosque. It was the Hippodrome area. At that point we still had time to spare and I wanted to see the ferries and Galata Bridge one more time. We followed the tracks from Divanyolu past Gulhane to Sikeci. We walked up aways on the bridge. A teenage Turkish boy came up to my husband and was very carefully saying something to him. It turned out that he was practicing his english saying, "How are you" very carefully ennunciated.

We headed back to the hotel, checked out and took a taksi to Ataturk Airport. The ride was extreme. The driver impressed my husband with his speed and lane changing. I am normally the worst back seat driver, but I said nothing. At one point I did grab the back of the driver's seat and held on for dear life. (my seat belts didn't work). But we made it there and got on line to check in at Swiss.

I can't say enough good things about Istanbul; the city, it's people, the food, the Bosphorus area, the West meets East kind of thing that was going on. It was a wonderful surprise to me how much I enjoyed the trip. We hope to be able to get back to Istanbul in the next few years. It's on my list of places to go.

I am will give the logistics of our trip and wrap up this report in my next posting.
opaldog is offline  
Mar 21st, 2009, 05:24 PM
  #37  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,604
Trip Logistics and Acknowledgements:

Airline: Swiss International - I recommend them
Lodging: Hotel Empress Zoe - www.emzoe.com - highly recommend
Restaurants: Ciya Sofrasi - www.ciya.com.tr - highly recommend;
Sultanahmet Fish House - www.sultanahmetfishhouse.com; Buhara Restaurant & Ocakbasi- Nuruosmaniye Caddesi, No. 7 - good meat place; Mangaura Café - www.magnauracaferestaurant.com - recommend

I have many fodorites to thank for all of the information that I learned from the forums. Thanks to tcreath,risab, kikiv, tower, NYC88, weekender, happytotravel, Seamus, LowcountryIslander, Wombat7, HappyCheesehead, Michael, Worldinabag, yorkshire, sandra3121, adrienne, weadles, marko and all others who contributed to our great vacation to Istanbul. I don't want to forget everyone who is reading this report and has commented on it, thanks.

This is beginning to sound like an awards night thank you. To wrap it all up, go to Istanbul, you'll love it.
opaldog is offline  
May 11th, 2009, 07:12 AM
  #38  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,604
An addendum to this report for lovers of Turkey and Istanbul in particular. My daughter gave me a beautiful cookbook for Mother's Day; "Turquoise, A Chefs Travels in Turkey" authors Greg Malouf & Lucy Malouf. The photos are beautiful and the recipes look delicious. The authors have written about the places that they explored and Istanbul is highlighted. Ciya Sofrasi restaurant in Karakoy is mentioned extensively. That was a highlight of our eating out experiences while on vacation in Istanbul. I recommend this cookbook, even if you don't like to cook.
opaldog is offline  
May 21st, 2009, 08:25 AM
  #39  
 
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 2,598
What a great report! It sounds like you made the most of your time in Istanbul. I would love doing what you did -- looking out the window (and from the terrace) at the activity on the Bosporus. If I had a choice I would definitely stay in Sultanahmet; it sounds like the heart of Istanbul.

How much time did you have in Andalou Kavagi?

I also wonder at your bargaining at the Great Bazaar. Another poster wrote that prices are fixed. Any bargaining tips?

Thanks for taking the time to write your wonderful report.
Luisah is offline  
May 21st, 2009, 08:32 AM
  #40  
 
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 2,598
Forgot to mention: Your photos are great too.
Luisah is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -

FODOR'S VIDEO

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 11:30 AM.