Trip report: Istanbul in 3 days

Old Aug 20th, 2007, 04:05 PM
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Trip report: Istanbul in 3 days

It can be done! "We" are two 20-something women, where one lives in the US and the other in Africa with her wonderful husband who lets her take spectaular vacations! I will point out immediatly we never felt unsafe. Both of us currently live in major cities and suggest traveling in Istanbul like you would any other city. Just pay attention to what is going on around you. My friend did notice that all the women had their shoulders and legs covered. Most Turks thought we were Australian because both of us are redheads with freckles. Everyone told us we had "spicy hair" which gave us a laugh.

Like many others on this site, I noticed a lack of American tourists and my hypothesis is we tend to get distraced by Western Europe that we forget there is life beyond the Rome's of the world. Next time you head to Europe, stop in Paris for a short while then continue on to Istanbul!

My friend arrived about 6am at the hotel and was able to check in easily by prearrangment with the Tan Hotel. I arrived in Istanbul about 3pm from Paris on Air France (who didn't lose my bag during the entire trip!) to a lovely hotel and excellent staff. Soon after settling in at the hotel we began to explore Sultanhamet. We walked around until about dusk and then made our way over to the Blue Mosque. While walking around we met two gracious Turkish gentlemen who were our age, who escorted us into the Blue Mosque and then joined us for a drink at a nearby pub. It was fantastic to have a long conversation about life in Istanbul vs. US, youth culture, music, our jobs, etc. Priceless!

We slept in until about 1pm the following day, but we were still able to leisurely knock out the Hippodrome, Hagia Sophia, Basicilia Cistern, stopped by Topaki Palace but didn't go in because it was late in the day and didn't want to be rushed, and bought a rug.

A note on my rug purchase: All roads lead to a carpet store. As we were leaving Topkapi a man and a woman stopped and asked us if the Harem was still open. Turns out the guy was an American visitng his sister...and he happned to own a with a carpet store. I had already planned to purchase a rug, so I decided what the heck, let's check it out. So his sister escorted us to his shop and they taught us about rugs (the different types, dyes, this kind will burn, this one won't etc) I picked one and had it shipped over by DHL with no problems. So anyway, I got a rug I probably paid too much for, but I love it. That's all that matters if you ask me.

That night we took a taxi to Taksim Square for dinner. Our original intent on going over the bridge was to hit the Pera Palas Hotel for a drink, but it was closed. I don't remember the name of the restaurant we ended up at, but it was a nice place. I will note that I was surprised by the lack of sit-down restaurants in the area. There were several small kabob places, but we wanted something more formal. We did not return to Taksim for the nightlife though it was highly recommend by the guys we had met the night before.

The following day we were up early and we hit Topkai Palace and then Dolmabache Palace. We did the audio tour including the harem at Topkai, but did not do the Harem at Dolmabache.

Why didn't we do the harem? We took a cab ride from Topkai that have cost about 10 YTL, but ended up costing us 100 because my friend got caught up in a scam, which we were fully aware was happening. Our suggestion is to negotiate with the driver before you leave because the meters are too easy to alter. Although you may offer higher than what the correct metered rate would be, at least you won't be out 80 YTL. His meter said 47.50 when we arrived at Dolmabache...and there is no way it should have been more than 10 lira. We took the same drive the NIGHT before (when it costs double) for 10 YTL. Later that day after negotiating a rate with another driver he tried to get another 10 lira out of us at our destinaion, but I refused to give in after the debacle earlier in the day. The cab rides that day (or anytime, anywhere) were hard on our morale.

That night we had some friends who took us on a wonderful night on the town. We had dinner at Reina and enjoyed the club scene that night. Our friend lived on the Asian side so afterwards we took a cab over there so we could say we had "been to Asia". Our last day we spent at the Grand Bazaar. We realized we were going to pay more there than at other shops, but I love looking at the plates I bought there and thinking of our time shopping there.

Our last night we took a Bosphorous cruise our hotel set up. Was it spectacular? Eh...the fish came with the head still on it, which for an American is novel, but still edible of course. They did a couple of tradiontal Turkish dances and had a belly dancer. It was great to see the bridges lit up and pass by Rumeli Castle. Was it worth the $75 Euro? Maybe. We didn't research this much, so I can't say if we did alright or not.

Of course there are lots of things we could have seen, but considering our time frame I think we hit all of the major sights and were not in anyway disappointed. Istanbul was the highlight of the trip which later included Athens and Santorini. The people were fantasic, gracious, helpful, accomodating, and genuinely interested in talking to us.
I look forward to returning to Istanbul and exploring more of Turkey: Antalya, Ephesus, Cappodecia and others are definitely on my list. I can't rave about Istanbul enough! Safe travels!
jlt6518 is offline  
Old Aug 20th, 2007, 04:39 PM
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Loved your trip report on Istanbul for several reasons: first, for a whirlwind trip you saw a great deal; second, I also love Istanbul and I smiled reading everything you had seen as it brought back great memories; and lastly, as a fellow redhead with freckles, I loved the "spicy hair" reference!!! Great report and you two sound like great friends!!!
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Old Aug 20th, 2007, 05:28 PM
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My favorite part of your trip report: It was fantastic to have a long conversation about life in Istanbul vs. US, youth culture, music, our jobs, etc. Priceless!

Thanks for sharing your report!
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Old Aug 20th, 2007, 05:37 PM
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Thanks for posting the trip report. I'll be in Istanbul in 33 days...but who's counting!
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Old Aug 21st, 2007, 12:33 AM
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Great report. Thanks for being descriptive and honest. And taking the time for us!
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Old Aug 21st, 2007, 03:03 AM
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I enjoyed reading your trip report. My friend and I (also two 20-something women) will be leaving for Turkey and Greece next week. Hopefully we'll have as much fun as the two of you!
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Old Aug 21st, 2007, 04:32 AM
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I don't get it. You knew you were being scammed by the taxi driver but you went along with it anyway??????? Why didn't you refuse to pay??? You should have refused to pay and told him to call the police.

I have taken cabs all over Istanbul and I was never scammed.

You were scammed by the carpet dealer, however. The couple didn't accidently just run into you. Many carpet dealers pay people to stand in major tourist areas and direct tourists to their "Uncle Ali's" carpet store. You should have gone to a reputable dealer. There are many in Istanbul. A carpet is an investment. To pay too much for junk is stupid.

The Great and Powerful Thingorjus
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Old Aug 21st, 2007, 06:23 AM
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Hi there -

Sounds like a wonderful trip you two had! I was on an organized tour to Turkey this March and Istanbul was definitely the penultimate.

Just a side note regarding your plate purchase. Take this with a grain of salt if you prefer - this information was passed along to me via our tour guide. I do believe and have heeded his advice.

I am a ceramic fiend and tend to buy a plate or bowl wherever I travel. In Turkey, our guide advised us to be very careful where we purchase pottery if the intention is to use it for the display of food. Apparently, there are some vendors who still use leaded paint and our guide indicated that those plates which are less expensive are more than likely to contain lead. He specifically mentioned the plates that can be found in the Grand Bazaar.

As part of our trip we stopped in Avanos at a family pottery store and we made our purchases there knowing that the paint is lead free.

Again, this is just my experience and what I was told by our guide. True or not, I would be very careful about how you use the plates.
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Old Aug 21st, 2007, 06:39 AM
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Great Report, fun reading it
Hope you make to Cappadocia next time....Dinner at Reina ! woow thats fancy.... especially if you stayed for the after dinner portion.

I gather you have joined a cruise with dinner ? An original Bosphorus tour should be made with the state ships costs almost nothing than a chewing gum. Try next time you will like it.
Buying the rug part is funny and you just did it as it happened. Altough I agree with a Carpet is an investment what you did is nice too when you have intention and the budget.

Greetings from Cappadocia

propertravel is offline  
Old Aug 21st, 2007, 02:45 PM
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In regards to the taxi...when you're sitting in the cab with a driver who refuses to recall his english's frustrating. That's all I'm going to say about that. It was a minor nuisance that could happen anywhere.

Carpet dealer- Reputable or not...I love my rug and the experience was worth my money. I had looked at rugs stateside before I left and got something of similar size and quality for what I paid. This was not a place where I was lured by the promise of apple tea and spectacular savings. In fact, they didn't even offer any apple tea, ha! They spent an hour showing us how to distinguish crap from quality and then asked if I was interested at looking at any of their wares without any crazy sales tactics. I am a salesperson by profession, I know what those look like, ha! I do have plans to have it apraised as the dealer did provide certification and contact information after purchase. Again, I love what I bought and obviously have a story worth my lira.

Plates- for decoration only, but thanks for the note. I hadn't even considered lead paints before. Great aside for others reading.

Reina- Yes, we stayed for the after dinner portion as well and it was fantastic!!! I think we stayed until about 3am because we it was sunrise by the time we were coming back from our friend's house on the Asian side. No wonder once we got to Santorini we spent the first day perched by the pool without moving. Our Turk friends, who my travel buddy knew from their rotations in Africa, were wonderful hosts and knew where to take us for a remarkable night Bosphorous-side!
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