We planned a four day stay in Istanbul Turkey before flying to Bodrum. If you’re thinking of hiring a car while there, here’s what to do. Forget it! It’s one of the most complicated and disorganised cities I have ever visited. The road system that is. With an official population of 13 million many think the unofficial is around 5 million more than that. It is one of Turkeys busiest and most populated cities.
We experienced a ‘white knuckle ride’ from Istanbul airport to our hotel. Don’t expect every taxi to have functioning safety belts either. You just have to either ask before you get in or get in and pray. We thought that this driver may be a one of, but were not disappointed. Taxi drivers in Istanbul all drive the same. Ensure that you have your destination written down clearly as not every cab driver will understand.
Our hotel had only just been built and was one of the most amazing hotels I have stayed in. The Hilton Bomonti was 34 floors of a fantastic awesomeness. The staff were amazing and couldn’t do enough for you.
The concierge Beyza Tomruk pictured in the above selection of photos was very knowledgeable and always went out of her way to help with recommendations and advice. The staff at the Leisure facilities were fantastic, consisting of a pool, steam room, sauna, somewhere you could relax and a very well equipped gym with very helpful, happy and knowledgeable staff.
The only issue with the hotel was it’s location, it was a couple of miles away from the centre. Taxis were plentiful at the main entrance to the hotel. Depending where you wanted to go the taxi ride from the hotel was around 25 TL that around £7.50 sterling.
The breakfast was out of this world and catered for everything. One of the serving staff asked if there was anything that was lacking. For once in my life I could not offer any further advice, I was stumped! They had thought of practically everything. Again, here the staff went well out their way to please with fantastic friendliness and service. Next time I’m in Istanbul I will definitely stay there.
Istanbul has more mosques per square mile than any other city on earth. So it can be a bit noisy at certain times with the call to prayer. The most well known is the Blue Mosque. Probably not worth the time and effort to visit as it was fairly uninspiring. Here’s a photo to satisfy your curiosity.
You’d be better off to stick with a visit to Ayia Sophia just across the road instead. Entrance is 10 Turkish Lira that’s around £3.00 sterling. It was well worth the visit.
Visiting Istanbul took me by surprise. As a visiting English Cypriot I didn’t expect the Turks to be so polite and accommodating. Even though English was not generally a problem from time to time they were very tolerant of my inability to communicate. They did take it with good humour. Fortunately, I had a very good translator with me, Serdar.
There were so many things to do and visit in Istanbul but so little time there. The following are recommended:
Grand Bazaar (Kapali Carsi) at Beyazit Gate – This is great if you like genuine fake goods, ceramics and spices. There is no point in buying fake goods, not only are they illegal to bring back into the UK the quality is very poor compared to the original so no point. There are sections in the bazaar that are grouped by type of goods. It’s well worth the visit for the experience, but expect a bit of hassle and snide remarks from the stall owners if you ignore them. I tend to only visit the stall owners who don’t hassle. Be prepared to haggle if there is anything you want. You cannot leave there without buying some double pistachio Turkish Delight mmmm.
Ayia Sophia (Hayia Sophia) at Sultanahmet – Usually open every day except Mondays. check their website for further details. Do not leave Istanbul without visiting Ayia Sophia it has wonderful history and architecture. Here are some photos.
Meshur Sultanahmet Koftecisi in Divanyolu Street almost opposite the Blue Mosque/Hagia Sophia – One of the oldest restaurants in Istanbul famous for their meatballs. Very busy but very fast service. Something you got to try.
There are many other sites and interesting things to see around the Sulatanahmet area. Here are some:
There is also a pedestrianised shopping street Isticlal. There are many shops and eating places. One we tried was Midpoint, they have drinks food and free WiFi with additional views at the back. We have already established the amount of Mosques in Istanbul, imagine my surprise when we bumped into a church down the same street. Admittedly behind iron gates but nevertheless it was there.
All having being said I loved Istanbul and would love to visit again if it will have me.