Talkin' Turkey - Trip Report Part 1

Old Oct 28th, 2008, 02:48 PM
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Talkin' Turkey - Trip Report Part 1

Our overseas trip to Turkey was the first overseas trip that DH and I had taken together in quite a while and I had forgotten what a dreadful flyer he was. Itís just a given here that just about anywhere we want to go is going to take around 24 hours to get there. You just accept it, get over it and get on with it. Somebody forgot to tell DH that! Not to worry our flight path consisted of Brisbane to Singapore Ė 7.5 hours. Three hour layover in Singapore. Singapore to Dubai Ė 6.5 hours with one hour layover in Dubai and then about 4 hours to Istanbul. I have to admit it did seem to take forever to get there but at least I didnít complain about it!

We arrived in Istanbul bright and early in the morning and our hotel Ė The Alzer - had arranged for a car to collect us at the airport. We booked The Hippodrome Room, a lovely room that overlooked the Blue Mosque and the site of the old Hippodrome. I am definitely a budget traveler, but for me, this was a little bit of a splurge at €130 per night. (Now stop rolling your eyes, you lot Ė yes I can hear them rolling all the way over here. I know that a number of Fodorites accommodation budgets are a little more substantial than mine but I figure I only spend about 10 hours in the room and have better things to spend my money on  ) Sadly for us, during our travels, the Australian Dollar absolutely plummeted and we ended up paying more than anticipated. Overall though, I had actually overestimated some expenses and so we didnít come out too far over budget! Ok moving on!

We organized a boat trip along the Bosporus River for the afternoon and with a morning to kill we set off on foot for a walk around the neighbourhood. We returned at 1pm to be picked up from our hotel for our little afternoon tour. We arrived on the 1st October which coincided with the first day of Bairum Ė a very happy time for celebrations after the month-long fasting period of Ramadan. Bairum lasts for 3 days and we were very happy to be a part of the festivities. We enjoyed the river tour and there are some really very beautiful places along the river that include Sultanís Palaces and Summer Houses and old forts. The Turkish flag can be seen flying proudly on every hill and every boat/ship on the river without fail, flew the flag!

So by the time our tour finished we headed back to Sultanahmet in search of some dinner. Our experience of Turkish food? It was all good, fantastic, delicious and every meal was a winner! Again, our dining experiences were on a budget but we started off at The Pudding Shop (donít ask!) where my husband had the doner Ė which was lamb, yoghurt on the side and delicious fresh tomato type sauce on the other side and I had a chicken shish with rice. I have to say that I think the way the Turkish people cook their rice is the best I have ever, ever tasted Ė delicious and I also think that they give the French a run for their money with their bread, not only Turkish style bread but also their baguettes etc were as light as a feather. Enough already Ė my mouth is watering.

The next day I had organized a private tour guide to take us around the sites. Actually, I had organized this through a fellow Fodorite Ė Murat Ozguc Ė who I think, is a very good contributor on this site. In the end I emailed him personally and he organized our guide for us. She was excellent! Extremely friendly and knowledgeable and we got along extremely well. We started off at the old Hippodrome site where the Egyptian pillar was explained to us etc. Next we headed off to the Blue Mosque and once inside I felt like it was quite comparable to the famous mosque in Cairo (forgive me but it was nearly 30 years since I was there and forget itís name). The Blue Mosque is still in use and of course with our hotel so close we could hear the call to prayer each morning. Then off to Topkapi Palace, which was absolutely stunning and I was really surprised by the artifacts inside and could have spent hours and hours looking at them all. But DH is easily bored so it was next onto Hagia Sophia. This was a very interesting place with a curious history Ė the church starting off as an orthodox eastern Christian church, the ceiling and walls of which were once covered in beautiful gold mosaics and then converted to a mosque, where the beautiful gold mosaics were plastered over! Well thatís the short version, I hope you can go there for yourself to find out the full story. It is incredibly interesting to say the least!

stormbird is offline  
Old Oct 28th, 2008, 02:53 PM
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Our guide Pervin, then took us to the Basilica Cistern, an ancient cistern lying right under our feet. It was really beautiful down there and only discovered in the 1980ís. I believe there is another cistern in Istanbul that has a really lovely restaurant but Iím sorry I donít know its name but I understand it is quite a dining experience.

Pervin was a really interesting young person and it was from her that I learned about Turkey and its superstitions. She gave me a seed from a tree and told me to keep it in my handbag always as it was good luck Ė okay Iím up for that Ė nothing to lose and everything to gain! She also mentioned The Evil Eye but that became more apparent later in our trip!!! So at the end of the day we said goodbye to Pervin and readied ourselves for our departure the next morning to Kayseri where our Aussie friends D & L were going to meet us. D is a hot air balloon pilot and he and L live in Urgup in Cappadocia. Some of you may recall that my travel buddies and I caught up with them last year in Prague at the end of our big girls trip and after they had done their first year in Turkey. And there they were waiting at the airport for us and it was a fantastic reunion.

Before I start in Cappadocia just a quick recap in Istanbul. Quite a clean city despite such a large population. Cars were all modern and in good condition and I didnít see a Ďbombí anywhere! The driving standard amazed us. We were expecting frenetic but it was all very comparable to here in Australia. Public toilets were plenty and very clean Ė in all of Turkey I only came upon one squat toilet and in fact had to face more squats in France!!!! The squat in Turkey was also very clean. (I actually used it but I was busting at the time!) Food Ė fantastic! People Ė incredibly friendly. Istanbul? We loved it! But we were coming back for another night at the end of the trip Ė yes The Grand Bazaar Ė closed for Bairum but donít you worry about that Ė Iíll be back!

Iíve got more to come but if Iím waffling too much please let me know and I can give you the condensed version!!!
stormbird is offline  
Old Oct 28th, 2008, 04:01 PM
Join Date: Nov 2006
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Great start, we are going to Istanbul in 3 weeks and can't wait. Do you have any contact information for your guide?
happytotravel is offline  
Old Oct 28th, 2008, 04:37 PM
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Hi Happytotravel,

Murat is a regular poster here and extremely helpful - I suggest you email him direct. He can organise anything you may need in Turkey.

[email protected]
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Old Oct 28th, 2008, 04:48 PM
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This is wonderful. And timely, too, after the recent Turkey-bashing. I loved my one trip to Turkey many years ago and look forward to going back. Thank you.
StCirq is offline  
Old Oct 28th, 2008, 07:15 PM
Join Date: Jun 2004
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I am enjoying your trip report immensely. Keep it coming. I don't have any immediate plans for a trip to Turkey, currently, so I need to experience it by a well-written travelogue like yours. Thanks.
annetti is offline  
Old Oct 28th, 2008, 08:29 PM
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Delightful report that refreshed memories of my own visit to Istanbul. I definitely agree about the bread in Istanbul - it was a wonderful surprise. Look forward to hearing more.
Seamus is offline  
Old Oct 29th, 2008, 09:54 PM
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It is not too long at all--I'm enjoying it!
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