Here is my awaited trip report. I will not write a detailed summary of everything and sites visited, as I feel there are enough reports already circulating for that.
I arrived at Istanbul Attaturk airport nearly 2 hours late due to connecting flight being delayed as a result of latecoming passengers. My thought processes shifted towards the transfer service that I had booked, and I was hoping that the driver would still be waiting for me. After clearing customs, I went outside and was glad to see my name on a hastily constructed paper.
So our bags were placed in the van and we took a seat to begin journey to hotel. I could now relax and enjoy the views that Istanbul had to offer. The driver dropped us off at the Dersaadet hotel where we staying. On first impressions, it did look outdated and outmoded. The area was nice and quiet. We were checked in swiftly and the porter took out luggage to our rooms.
I will probably write a detailed review on hotel later. We had a shower, and now we were ready to get a feel for Sultanahmet. It was approaching evening time, and the sun was dipping away and darkness was beginning to emerge. We walked past our hotel, passing small restaurants which werent busy at all. On route, we came across Arasta Bazaar, which we would walk past every day. This was an assortment of shops, selling everything, from watches, handbags, carpets, and so on. At the end of the Bazaar, there was a restaurant called Cafe Mesale, which always used to be busy every night courtesy of the live music and dervish performance that was on offer. We ate here one night and the food was average to be honest but the atmosphere was good.
Out of the Bazaar, we were now heading towards the main square, the sights were magnificent to behold. I could see the Hagia Sophia on my right, and Blue Mosque on my left and we were hungry so decided to walk on towards the restaurant strip and examine what was on offer. We would tend to eat at this strip quite regularly throughout our stay. Some of the places we ate was Simit Saray, Cafe Devan, Faros, Pudding Shop, and a corner kebap place which was always busy. For the first night, we ate at McDonalds and then wandered back to the square, saw the water fountain which changes colour at night. It was beautiful. The area was teeming with tourists, and i could tell I will come to love this place. It was getting dark, and we had a private tour booked in the morning, so we went back to hotel to rest.
We woke up late due to jet lag and had breakfast hastily and arrived at reception to see our tour guide waiting for us. He guided us to our air conditioned van and we set off. Our schedule for the day was explained. The first place we visited was Sulemanye Mosque. This looked magnificient and I was in awe to see a building constructed hundreds of years ago could look as immaculate and beautiful, even today.
We were then taken to Eyup Sultan mosque and graveyard. This place again, was busy with tourists. Being a muslim, I was aware of the history of Ayub Ansari, so i felt privelaged to see such a distinguished person's grave and offered a prayer there. We were then taken to Topkapi Palace. It was vast with open spaces, many courtyards and great views of the Bosphorus. We spent some time here, and saw a lot of precious historical Islamic artefacts, which again I felt privelaged to view.
Then, we went to see the Blue Mosque, which I had always wanted to see. Upon arrival, I was gazing admiringly, at this beautiful structure, and was in awe. When I went in, it was amazing to see magnificent design and artistry. I prayed regularly here as it was only a 3 minute walk from the hotel. Our next step was Hippodrome, and Basilica Cistern and was surprised to see Medusa upside down in the latter building. We had lunch at one of the corner kebap shops, and we both got chicken donner in wrap with fries. It was fast and tasty enough. Our last stop of the day was the Grand Bazaar, which the tour guide took us outside and allowed us to wonder. On route, to this the guide sneakily arranged a "tour" of a carpet shop where we would see a carpet being made. This never happened but were offered much appreciated ice cold tea and shown many carpets which I could not afford. I was annoyed but did not express my dismay as it provided out aching feet a much welcome rest. I had read the reviews, but nothing quite prepares you for how huge this place is. It really is a maze. We toured around for 30-40 minutes and made our way back to entrance of Gate 1. Shortly after, we bade farewell to the tour guide, and we were making our way back to the hotel.
We were absolutely shattered, as it was extremely hot and we had just done incredible amounts of walking and felt like we saw most of the major sights in one day. Our feet were aching, and if they could speak, they would be screaming "put your feet up and rest". We made our way to hotel, and decided to rest.
We stayed in the hotel for few hours, and ventured out in the evening as the sun's glow was beginning to fade. We went for a meal on one of the main strips, relaxed, ate, and just toured around for a little bit. I loved the desert shops that had cheesecakes and sumptous looking fruit desserts on display. We ended the night going for some nargile at a cafe just right of the Araasta Bazaar entrance. I had a turkish delight flavour, which was surprisingly good.
we just relaxed, had somewhat of a lazy day to recover from yesterday and walked around sultanahmet where i came across a barbers shop and went in for a turkish shave. Lovely experience and one must try this for a shaving experience.
We had a private yacht cruise of the Bosphorus booked in the evening so we got picked up from hotel and we had a lovely lady as a tour guide. We arrived at the Kabatas, and could see our yacht was sailing towards us. People standing nearby were looking at us in awe. The yacht itself was excellent, plenty of seating space, comfortable, spacious - a real treat..
We were told the yacht would circle around the Boshporus and visit the asian side and we would see the sun set. I recommend this experience to everyone, as you really do feel like a billionaire in your own yacht. We saw some grand buildings whilst we were cruising the Bosphorus, including Dolmabahce Palace, The Bosphorus bridges and the Asian side of the Bosphorus, we were told, was home to wealthiest people in Istanbul, if not Turkey. The houses looked amazing and splendid. Who would not want to live there, with such great views. Our trip was coming to the end, and we could see the sunset - beautiful to witness the sun setting over the city. We boarded of the yacht and were dropped back off to Akbil and then went for a bite to eat.
This was a relaxation day. I had spa treatments booked at the Ciragan Palace Kempinski. We just wanted to chill and relax and unwind. This hotel is truly luxury.
For the rest of the trip, the sightseeing was at a minimum. We went back to Grand Bazaar and did some shopping, had tea with some friends on honeymoon. We did go see the Hagia Sophia and again was in struck by the history, design and splendour of the place.
Our last day/night in Istanbul was a mixture of emotions. We walked around Sultanahmet, looking at all the sights and all I kept thinking I am really going to miss this amazing place. I was surrounded by history, and beautiful sights, and lovely atmosphere. On the last night, we found a pide restaurant tucked on the side and we both loved it. We went to cafe Dervish for some nargile and saw a live performance and some delicious hot chocolate. I was soaking in all the sights, with a tinge of nostalgia. I could hear the Azan ring out for one last time. Eventually, we got up and wonderd back to the hotel. I was privately upset somewhat as it occured to me, I may never visit this beautiful place again.