Reporting from Istanbul

Old Oct 26th, 2019, 03:36 PM
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Reporting from Istanbul

Merhaba from Istanbul ! Hubby and I arrived in IST on Oct 24 to very mild fall weather. The customs and immigration formalities were uneventful. We purchased our e-visas on line and presented them to the young immigration officer who took a quick glance at the visas and stamped our passports with the IST arrival date. There were no surprises in the process, everything was exactly as I read in my pre-trip research.

As we walked out of the arrival doors, we went to Bay #15 to take the Havaist airport shuttle headed for Besiktas where our hotel for 5 nights is located, The Conrad. We were dropped off in Besiktas ferry terminal. On our way, we spotted the Conrad building as it stuck out in the area with its 14 storeys, apparently not too many high rises in the area. The bus accepted credit cards and we paid 18 TL per person for the transfer since we did not use the currency exchange offices at the airport having been told that Hava airport bus accepts credit cards.

We travel light so we only had 1 rollaboard luggage each plus our hand carry big purse and large rolling briefcase and the hotel didn’t look that far from where we were dropped off to take a taxi. So off we walked towards Conrad. What we did not realize was the walk was all uphill so there some regret about this decision. There were ATMs in the area which I could have hit to get some TLs to pay for taxi but we were probably less than a minute away by the time we started having regrets about walking. The last 500 feet to the hotel was a steep climb in cobblestone pavement and our suitcases’ multi directional wheels fortunately endured the rough uphill trip well - great job Samsonite !

Check In was quick and efficient and we made it to the free buffet dinner spread in the exec lounge which ends at 8 pm. We went to bed late, past midnight as we unpacked, got settled and took care of some business upon arrival such as exchanging a small amount of USD to TL with the hotel just enough to pay for taxi and buy Istanbulkart tommorow. We planned to use the ATM tomorrow in the Sultanahmet area.


We didn’t wake up until 9:30 am as we puposedly did not set the alarm clock. It was past noon by the time we headed out of the hotel. We took the yellow taxi to Kabatas tram station, fare was 15 TL and took the Tram to Sultanahmet stop after we bought our Istanbulkart from one of the yellow machines in Kabatas. We bought the 5 day museum pass to avoid the long ticket lines knowing we probably wouldn’t get our money’s worth from the pass but it may we’ll be worth spending extra $$ to avoid the ticket lines in the other museums we planned to see. We visited Hagia Sofia first then moved to Topkapi Palace nearby. Topkapi was about to close in an hour so our visit was a bit rushed but we had time to see the important exhibits but not the Harem and Aya Hirene which was extra entrance fee but included in the Museum Card. We planned to be back in the area to see the Basilica Cistern, the Archeology Museum, Blue Mosque and the big Old Town sights so we will just add these 2 exhibits to our sightseeing on another day.

After the palace tour, we have burned off the buffet breakfast we had at the hotel. We took the tram back to Eminonou to have dinner at one of the Balik (fish) Restaurants under the Galata Bridge. The fish restaurants are all lined up in the area with identical menus and prices. We picked the one that looked lively and had comfy looking padded chairs and requested the host for the one of sidewalk side tables to watch the ferries come and go. The salty smell of the Golden Horn added to the ambience of the seafood dinner, Above is, in the upper level of the bridge, there were still a few hardy men casting their fishing rods as the night fell.

Hubby ordered grilled sea bream and I had bass, we had some appetizers - cheese stuffed pepper and eggplant. The total bill came to less than 200 TL which was again a great bargain compared to what that meal would have cost in the US. Ok, at this point I’m going to stop comparing prices because the cost of living in the US is just higher. We were just initially excited because we usually pay more for a lot things when visiting a European country.

After dinner, we headed back to the eminonou tram station to continue our journey to Kabatas tram stop and took the funicular to Taksim Square. As we emerged from the tram station, our first impression was wow, there’s a lot of people in Istanbul. We headed toward Istiklal Cadessi to for the 1.4 km walk down while enjoying a small bag of roasted chestnuts. The street was thick with pedestrians and stores were open late -,many local stores as well as international chains such as Sephora, Starbucks, Burger King, etc. At the end of Istiklal, we took the nostalgic tram back to Taksim Square then yellow taxi back to the hotel. So far we have not had any “taxi incidents” as we were charged a fair price of 20 TL Back to our hotel in Besiktas.


Today is another laid back day with breakfast starting “earlier” at 9 am and it was past 11 am by the time we got through all of our morning rituals. We repeated our commute yesterday with taxi to Kabatas then tram to Grand Bazaar, Cimberlitas stop. We wandered the labyrinth expanse of the Grand Bazaar, exploring the different Hans and stopping at a few carpet stores and gold stores to just browse and get educated with different sales pitches, sp from the carpet sellers. We didn’t buy anything except for a pair of ottoman children’s slippers that would surely look cute on our friend’s little toddler.

We had lunch at a restaurant inside the Grand Bazaar. I have to look up the name and post it later - it was in a dead end location of a sokak and the name starts with an H. It had a fountain outside and has been in business for the last 50 years. Hubby ordered a beef dish in tomato sauce with potatoes and green peas ( it looked like beef stew ) and I ordered the grilled kofteh ( ground beef and lamb meatball ) We also ordered zucchini in tomato sauce and stuffed eggplant to go with our meat dishes - cost : around 160 TL.

We ended our sightseeing at around 6 pm today because hubby just want to relax in the hotel. I planned on hanging out at a Mado for some coffee and dessert but hubby was getting cold because he didn’t bring his jacket. So we took tram again to Kabatas then yellow taxi to hotel - the ride back was predictably uneventful. I would like to try the roasted corn being sold from carts we’ve seen everywhere, hopefully tomorrow.

Tomorrow: Archaeological Museum, Topkapi’s Harem, Aya Hirene, Blue Mosque, Hippodrome stroll.
takemewithu is offline  
Old Oct 27th, 2019, 08:25 AM
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Thanks for solid, factual report.

at various previous posts, i had recommended "Yashar" the whole in the wall gyro (doner) place possibly very close to where you had your lunch near the Bazaar., or "Durumcu Mehmet" near end of that same street. Maybe next time. These are close to the silver shop of Lolita and the coustyard of gold wholesalers.

It would help future travelers if you gave your qualitative views on hotel and restaurants.

Enjoy rest of your trip.
otherchelebi is offline  
Old Oct 27th, 2019, 11:20 AM
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Thank you Otherchelebi. I will have an opportunity to check out Yashar because we will be going back to the Grand Bazaar on Friday to buy some gold jewelry. Can you recommend a reputable store with fair prices? When we went yesterday, the styles of the jewelry were about the same so I’ll probably buy from a store that I can trust. I’m surprised however to not find jewelry set with turquoise stones. I’m interested in buying a 22k gold bangle and a ring and earring set with turquoise in 18-22k gold. I don’t have to buy from the vendors at the Grand Bazaar if there are other jewelry stores elsewhere that have a nice selection of gold jewelry with turquoise set stones.

I’ll report on our Day 3 shortly.
takemewithu is offline  
Old Oct 27th, 2019, 03:38 PM
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Quick review of restaurants we have tried:

1. Galata Sembol Balik ( fish restaurant under Galata Bridge ) the bass and seabreem we ordered were both good. They were both grilled in just the right amount of done-ness. The cheese stuffed pepper appetizer was very good with just a touch of spiciness. Between the 2 varieties of white fish, hubby and I prefer the bream. The fish needed very little seasoning since it already tasted good. I will give the restaurant 3.5 stars out of 5. The service was slow so not a choice for those who have limited time. It took almost 30 minutes for us to get our food.

2. Havuzlu Locanta ( inside the Grand Bazaar ) has a nice cool ambience of inside the market dining. There are a few outside seating tables which we preferred for optimal people watching and ambience. The grilled meatball kofteh and beef stew and side orders of zucchini and eggplant were ok. The vegetable side dishes tasted better than our main dish. The zucchini tasted fresh and slightly sweet. We were not really wowed by what we ate here but the food wasn’t bad either. But in all fairness, we arrived for lunch at around 4 pm so most of the prepared offerings are gone. The restaurant had about a dozen or so prepared foods presented in large trays for diners to choose from but they also have ala Carte menu. Service was quick as we selected from these already-prepared offerings. I will give 3.5 stars out of 5.

3; Lokum Restaurant ( in Sultanahmet area, near the Sultanahmet tram stop off Divan Yolu ). The restaurant is located in one of the tiny streets branching off Divan Yolu. There’s indoor and outdoor seating and of course, we would like to sit outside and watch the crowd go by. The area is lively with 2-3 other similar restaurant in the same alley and street musicians to keep diners entertained. Hubby and I both ordered the sea bream and salad. The fish here tasted fresher than the ones we had in the Galata Bridge restaurant the other day. The fish was more moist, well prepared and not overgrilled. Service was prompt and friendly. It’s 4 stars out of 5 for this one.

Day 3 at the Archeological Museum and Blue Mosque still to come...
takemewithu is offline  
Old Oct 28th, 2019, 12:51 AM
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takemewithyou, thanks for the restaurant reviews.

Tiday is a very special day in istanbul. If you get to resd this before the afternoon, you may be able to make good use of the message.

The new mayor of istanbul, a big gain for the city, has organized concerts by good performers at different parts of the city,for tonight in commemmoration of the Republic day. There will also be some good fireworks displays. Some of the best,, Sevval Sam and Group Athen will be at Sultanahmet.Square. However, it will be difficult for you to get there and back.

Also, you will probably find the Uskudar-Harem strip activities more interesting: All you have to do is get down to the ferry and pick either the public ferry or one of the more frequent smaller private company ferries across to Uskudar and alk to your right after you land.

The walk will give you not only great views of the old city and the new city but also yhe following on this special occasion:

- Water, light, laser and fireworks shows
- Istanbul City Orchestra
- The Ottoman Military Band
- Chamber Music
- Turkish Folk Music
- Turkish pop music
- Turkish Classical art music
- Black sea musical instruments (kemence)
- Traditional folk music

Program will be continuous from 7 PM to 11PM. There was no mention of who appears when.

I am sure there will be a great deal of street food. You can also have a seat at one of the restaurants in the area if you ask your hotel to reserve, but I would prefer just hanging around.

This will be a great opportunity for you.

Unfortunately we will still be in Iznik (Nicea) and miss the show, althogh we could have at least watch the light and fireworks shows from our home between Kabatas and Taksim Square.

We had friends in the jewellery business who were artists, exhibiting internationally, but they divorced a few years ago and we have not seen them since. Eser, my wife, has kept in touch and she phoned her just now.

Semra Ecer Galeri, at Tesvikiye, on the street behind Tesvikiye Mosque. Semra Ecer's personal telephone is (530) 402 6991 (I am not sure how good her English is)
Her showroom is on the second floor at
Ahmet Fetgari Sokak
No. 56 apt.3

I also talked to her now. She says she has a turquoise necklace and possibly one other piece.
She works both gold and silver.
We like her desgns. Eser has quite a few pieces from her and we have also bought presents for weddings of children of close friends as well as our daughters.
Just to remind you, there is usually no negotiation or bargaining at locations outside the touristic areas, but she will probably give you a much better price than anyone in the bazaar and you will be sure of the quality of her stones and the carats of her gold and silver.
Give her my name or name of my wife, Eser..

Her daughter went to college to New York and is currently there. Her X may also be in new York..

otherchelebi is offline  
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