What about Istanbul?

Mar 1st, 2007, 05:06 AM
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I never got the notes, send again.
richardab is offline  
Mar 1st, 2007, 08:07 AM
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Istanbul is a fabulous place with a mix of both old and new heritage and cultures.

I won't repeat the sound advice given by others and the Fodors Guides re: things to see and do such as the Blue Mosque, etc.

I also recommend some kind of water trip on the Bosphorous. Ask the advice your hotel about the nearest place to pick up water craft, whether you just want a short ferry cruise, a dinner or tour cruise, or (as we did one time) a ferry to a nearby suburb with a number of semi-casual-but-very-good waterside fish restaurants -- a lovely evening or lunch on the weekend.

Some prefer to stay in the older section near the cultural sites, but I've only stayed in the major chain hotels across the Golden Horn in the more modern areas, largely chosen for business/professional purposes (two Hiltons and a Swisshotel.) These often have major security clearances, but such is life.

We enjoyed a touristy stop at the Whirling Dervish show at what was the terminal of the Orient Express. Yes, it's touristy, but the show was truly lovely. The restaurant that adjoins it has good (not great) food.

The food is often wonderful (or at least good) at any price level if you are reasonably adventurous in your tastes. One thing that is common in the "everday" places (read: not the tourist-oriented cafes right near the famous sites,) which have a cafeteria-like set-up where the dishes are displayed at the serving counter, you tell the waitstaff what you'd like, and you are served. I've found these in different directions a block or two away from the main tourist strips. People are welcoming and cordial; pointing to the dish that looks good is the norm for those who do not speak Turkish (I do not.) Probably the cafes around the tourist spots are good enough, but they are often busy, at which point I head down the block and try my luck.

The menus can range widely, but vegetables and fish are a big part of the diet, as well as meats. It is not difficult to get a healthy meal here.

'Must admit that I am not that impressed wth Turkish wine. It's serviceable, but there is a lot of better wine in the world, even at cheap prices. But I tried it everywhere I dined.

Prices go from relatively cheap to as expensive as in many world-class cities with significant numbers of midde-and upper income people. FYI: if yougo on a cuirse of the Bosphorous, some of the homes rank right up there with Manhattan penthouse proces. Of course, these are not the average Turk's abode.

Many enjoy the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Market. While really interesting, and with some good finds, my problem with the Grand Bazaar is that almost every shopkeeper will want to chat with you -- in a row of 30+ shops on each side of an aisles, and there are many, many aisles. It's part hard sell, part courtesy, part of the bargaining process if you show the slightest bit of itnerest, but I find it tiring and hate bargaining. To each his/her own. 'Too bad for me, since it is an interesting place. Still, I know that many of the shoppers here are wholesalers, not just the individual shopper, and you may find some questionable goods, e.g. there were many knock-offs of Bulgari necklaces last June. Don't count on a dressing room in these tiny stalls, either. Just come prepared and enjoy.

Some other background:

The Turkish lira went through some gyrations in value last year (mostly down,) so many hotels prefer to book in US dollars or euros for reservations and other payments. Also: there SHOULD be no "old" Turkish lira around, but even last June when it was supposed to be out of circulation, some older shopkeepers or one taxi driver would try to pass it off. The old lira has at least three 0's after a digit. Yes, I've seen a 250,000 lira note, that was worth practically nothing. Again, this was a very rare occurrence, but it happens.

While I have not been everywhere in the world, this is also a place where I would ask the taxi driver how much he will charge to take you to _______ before you get in the cab. You should also ask your hotel to advise how much you will be charged from one place to another. Life may be tough in these parts, but the taxis drivers here impressed me with how often they'd try to cheat, e.g. quoting 2-3 times the normal rate. Many were very honest; more than a few were not. Again, it might have had something to do with the fact that we stayed in upmarket US/European hotels, but I've rarely had this level of hassle in other places in the world. (But again, some of the dicier places have the company hiring a driver for us.)

None of this should scare you off Istanbul. My usual experience there has seen very warm, courteous, hospitable people (including some trips to Ephesus, Kusadasi, etc.)

Many people there speak English, but not all.
madameX is offline  
Mar 1st, 2007, 08:41 AM
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Recently visited Istanbul and loved it. Great place to go. Split our time between the Empress Zoe hotel (highly recommend!) in Sultanahmet and the Ritz-Carlton in the "new" city. We MUCH preferred staying in Sultanahmet-far more atmospheric. Took took a taxi over to the town of Kanlica on the Asian side and had lunch at the Ajia Hotel which is on the water and fabulous.
Mar 2nd, 2007, 11:12 AM
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I am surprised to hear so many positive coments.
richardab is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2007, 11:18 AM
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Another thumbs up for Istanbul and also for the Empress Zoe. Spent over a week there in October 2001 and would love to go back.
wombat7 is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2007, 12:14 PM
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Glad I came across this post. I will be in Istanbul for a total of 6 days in September/October and the information in this post is very helpful for my trip planning!
LowCountryIslander is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2007, 06:13 PM
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Got your email. I sent you the notes a couple of days ago and again just now to [email protected]. Maybe your spam filter is blocking me!
worldinabag is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2007, 06:22 PM
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I've been thinking about Turkey for this September. Seems like a good idea to get a bit exotic and still feel comfortable.
TravMimi is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2007, 03:24 AM
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"I am surprised to hear so many positive coments."

Why surprised? Didnīt you like it? I have not met a single person who didnīt enjoy Istanbul. Definitely a town where we will return often. Nowadays I am also planning to combine it with Bursa.
elina is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2007, 04:00 AM
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I agree with all of the positive comments. Here is a trip report from my visit there in October, 2005; note that I was traveling alone for much of my time there:

ekscrunchy is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2007, 05:29 AM
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Sigh. Istanbul is nice but it is no longer cheap. Until a few years ago, the basic currency was for travellers was USD. Now prices are primarily in Euros. With the low dollar againstthe Euro, prices have skyrocked for Americans. It's cheaper than western Europe, but no longer cheap. Historic sites in Turkey also tend to be very expensive. They were expensive even before the Euro switch.

At least they did away with the ridiculous $100 tourist visa for Americans.
lmhornet is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2007, 07:15 AM
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We will be heading to Istanbul in 2 weeks (for a quick 1 day visit to hook up with a friend) - and then on to Kusadasi and Bodrum for several days. This will be the 3rd March in a row that we've hit Istanbul! LOVE the city and the country!
Grcxx3 is offline  
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