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There's something magical about this city...

Thessaloniki, Greece
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There's something magical about this city...

But i haven't yet found what this is..Are the stunning sites?The lovely people?The city's history?Well,i'm sure it's more of a combination of all these!

We're just back after 4 wonderful days in Istanbul.We arrived there after a long and exhausting trip from Thessaloniki which took us around 10 hours.We bought our tickets for metro and tram,which carried us fast and safely to our hotel!Our adventure had just started!

WHERE WE STAYED:

A big thank you to those of you who suggested hotel Erboy..Honestly,i can't think of a better choice.The staff was always helpful,the hotel itself very clean,great breakfast every morning..They asked us why we didn't use their free airport shuttle since we were staying at least 3 nights and i replied that we arrived at the Otogar,so it wasn't possibe.Then,they offered us a welcome dinner at their restaurant instead,which consisted of 3 courses for each one.What a touch!Hotel's location was also excellent for a first time visitor..Close to everything and very charming too!

WHAT WE VISITED:

Istanbul is a very big city,so it was impossible to see everything in 3,5 days.Instead,we decided to visit some major attractions and also have enough free time to enjoy the city leisurely.

Hagia Sophia and Topkapi should be in everyone's must see list..And i suggest to do them seperately in different days because they both require some time to spent.Audioguides are really well worth!

Grand Bazaar and Spice Market were a fun place to spend some hours watching and shopping.We did buy wonderful things in good prices.

Bosphorus cruise is another must for me.For only 10 liras,you can do the short 2-hour cruise.The views are simply amazing.Even though it was 1st of March,the sun was shining and the deck was full of people.Not cold at all!

Blue Mosque:Stunning,beautiful and it doesn't require much time.Be sure to check the closing hours for prayers,so as not to wait in lines.

Taksim/Istikal street:Vey busy,lively area,especially on Friday and Saturday.One can be spoilt for choices there for food,drinks,shopping,etc!

FOOD AND DRINKS:

Pasazade restaurant :Hotel's restaurant had great food and the people there were very attentive.Even though,our dinner was free,they all went out of their way to satisfy us!

Red River pub :We found this place to be very relaxing,enjoying few glasses of Efes and some appetizers too!

New Hatay restaurant :Situated next to our hotel,this place had lovely food!Generous portions and nice staff with good sense of humour!

Balik ekmek :This has been discussed many times,i'm not going to say much,just one thing.Be sure you don't leave unless you try one of these fish sandwiches under the Galata Bridge!

Ara Cafe :We sat outside for a cup of tea.It seems a very popular place and the interior was also very beautiful!

Address bar :We found it after exploring Istikal street,settled in a busy sokak.Had some drinks followed by nice live music!

Cafe Mese :We followed your advice and went there for breakfast on our first day!The breakfast platter was very tasty ,more than enough and the staff were very welcoming and friendly.Back again for a lunch on our last day yesterday.They remembered us and were warmly welcomed again.The chicken wrap was very very tasty!

Kizilkayalar : Of course,we couldn't leave without tasting one of these famous wet burgers!The only bad thing was that they were quite small..Smaller if you are also hungry.

Hafiz Mustafa :Nice place for sweets and coffee or tea,with very good views from the upper saloon!We had to wait some minutes to get a table but it was worth it!

TO CONCLUDE:

-One thing we were disappointed with was some taxi drivers.When we asked our hotel to call us a taxi we payed around 12 liras to get to Taksim.When we wanted to return back,we went to piazzas in Taksim and Tunel but they all said it was a flat rate of 25 liras.They wouldn't lower the price.We were even quoted 35 and 40 liras.So,it was a challenge to find one.If it was just for 1 day i wouldn't care so,but since we had this situation for 3 days,it was somehow tiring to ask 3-4 taxi drivers every time in order to find the one.

-We were very surprised that many people(in counters,restaurants,bazaars,taxi drivers) were speaking very good Greek.In fact,in Grand and Spice Bazaar,we were discussing in Greek!!

-Concerning safety,we felt perfectly safe wherever we walked,in metro,trams,etc!Not different at all comparing with other places in Europe i have visited!

-I really felt that walking in Istanbul,eating in restaurants,etc was like doing it so back home..It's the first time we have this feeling about a place!

-People were amongst the friendliest we have met and you have this feeling that you are in good hands wherever you go!

My advice to future travellers!Just relax and enjoy this magnificent city!Take your time,don't plan too much and make sure you have enough time to soak up the atmosphere!

Grigoris

Edited: 03 March 2013, 17:43
Canada
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1. Re: There's something magical about this city...

I agree, Istanbul is a special city that requires multiple visits. We were there at the end of January this year, and already we are thinking of a return visit. Our sight seeeing was limited to the Sultanahmet area, and would like to see other parts of the city next time.

We also did the Bosporus cruise, and this was memorable, too.

Cheers !!

"Every new day is a gift. make the most out of it."

Istanbul, Turkey
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2. Re: There's something magical about this city...

Coming from a Greek citizen this is a very special review and once again highlights the fact that differences are so often between governments not between people.Americans often ask about about anti-US feelings here and I always say one must separate people from politics and Turks can do this very well :)

I wholeheartedly agree with your final sentence.I often feel frustrated with posters come on to the forum planning their trips down to the very last minute and allow no time for spontaneity or just to sit drink a glass of tea and simply...enjoy.

Come back again soon!

Selcuk, Turkey
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3. Re: There's something magical about this city...

Thanks for that great report.

The taxi question is interesting: some of them have to wait for quite long periods before securing a customer. At the airport, for instance, they line up in a pound on the airport perimeter, sometimes for hours, before they're allowed to approach the terminal. If the customer then wants to go a very short distance, they will be disappointed. At the airport they have no choice but to accept the fare, but in the night-life areas they will be hoping for a party of diners who wish to return to Zekeriakoy (for example). They're perfectly entitled to refuse a trip that will bring in only 12 TL, and leave them on the wrong side of the Golden Horn late at night, when they might want to get home to Pendik (on the Asian side of the Bosphorus), say!

I've also had drivers explain to me that they need to be in one part of Istanbul to hand over the vehicle at the end of their shift at a certain time of day.

Houston, Texas
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4. Re: There's something magical about this city...

Hi Grigoris - You are back already!

Thank you for sharing your days with us. Your review is informative and very charming, and no amount of planning and resarch can quite prepare you for all the intangibles this city offers: the helpfulness and hospitality of its citizens.

I am glad you enjoyed the Erboy, and the Pasazade restaurant as your fist meal featuring Ottoman cuisine.

And thank you for making my day with great memories.

Sharon

Thessaloniki, Greece
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5. Re: There's something magical about this city...

"once again highlights the fact that differences are so often between governments not between people"

Sarikanarya,i totally agree with you!If people shared this thought,our world would be much better!

Trave2learn,Robert and Sharon,i appreciate your comments!

Edited: 03 March 2013, 19:37
Istanbul
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6. Re: There's something magical about this city...

Grigoris, Thanks for a brief but informative trip report. Again coming from a Greek citizen, your poısitive and objective comments carry a lot of weight. You spent too little time in Turkey. Come back again for more.

good luck,

enigma...

Texas
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7. Re: There's something magical about this city...

Robert L, I am anticipating a very aggravated taxi driver if we want to taxi from the airport to nearby Yesilkoy. To avoid that hassle, the hotel also suggested we could grab a taxi on a street where the outbound passengers are being dropped off. Does that sound possible?

I also thought all official taxis must use the meter if a passenger demands it. This now sounds like wishful thinking by some Istanbul experts and websites. Some people suggest avoiding taxis if possible.

Istanbul, Turkey
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8. Re: There's something magical about this city...

I can't agree more with you. I came to turkey on last september for the first time. I was staying for 8 days. I traveled to other region out of istanbul for 5 days. And the rests, I spent in istanbul. A lot of things need to be seen and done. The time was not enough to explore all corners of city. Two months later, I had transit time in istanbul for 18 hours. I didn't miss the chance to explore the city again until my flight departed. I was even more in love with this city. My wish came true. Three weeks ago, I got award ticket to istanbul and brought me back here. So, here I am, to explore istanbul for the third time.

Thessaloniki, Greece
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9. Re: There's something magical about this city...

Nurul,it seems you are having a great time there!Lucky to return for third time!

Enigma,thanks for your comment.Unfortunately,we had only 4 days!Next time,i'll make sure to have more time to explore other parts of Turkey too(plus Istanbul of course!).

Grigoris

Selcuk, Turkey
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10. Re: There's something magical about this city...

MarcoPolo says<<< I am anticipating a very aggravated taxi driver if we want to taxi from the airport to nearby Yesilkoy. To avoid that hassle, the hotel also suggested we could grab a taxi on a street where the outbound passengers are being dropped off. Does that sound possible?

I also thought all official taxis must use the meter if a passenger demands it. This now sounds like wishful thinking by some Istanbul experts and websites. Some people suggest avoiding taxis if possible. >>>

I wouldn't avoid taxis altogether. The problem of course is communication. The hotel gave good advice: get the lift down (?) to Departures, where any taxi passing through will be happy to take you to Yesilkoy (I used to do this when I lived there myself, many years ago!).

For sure, if a taxi agrees to take you, they must use the meter. But I suppose they have the right to refuse to take a fare. Even a black cab in London will sometimes say "sorry, mate, I'm not goin there this time of night."

A similar issue occurs at (the much less busy) Izmir airport: I sometimes wish to get a cab only as far as the main road, where I know I can flag down a passing dolmus to Selcuk. In that case I go to the taxi controller and say "Gaziemir". He then calls up a cab from the back of the queue, rather than the one at the front who has waited for much longer. I don't believe that would work at Ataturk Airport, where the cabs may have waited in a pound for some hours.