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Trip report

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Southern Highlands...
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Trip report

My trip to Istanbul is a bit different to most people as I am here on research business trip. There will be parts of my trip that I won't be reporting on, as I'm sure you can understand.

So yesterday I arrived. I had already obtained a speical visa so I did not need to purchase one prior. Immigration only took around 30 minutes to clear and to get to my baggage. I had been concerned about whether I would be questioned because of the visa ect When I handed over my passport the immigration officer went through it and then asked "visa?" I had to find the special visa and as soon as I showed him he was happy, stamped it and I was on my way. Nothing like what I thought would happen, after having travelled to the USA many times on business, they seem to give me a harder time! After clearing immigration it was on to collect my baggage, it is always one of those nervous times when you hope that all your luggage has arrived. When I went to get a trolley I founded out that you need to pay for the use of the trolleys. As you clear immigration and walk down the ramp on the right hand side is a small booth which can give you change (I didn't know this but someone pointed it out to me which I was very appreicative for). My luggage arrived very quickly and I was on my way... so I thought!

When you walk out of the baggage area you are greeted by a sea of people holding up signs, look through them I didn't see my name..... Through the hotel I had organised a transfer but they had messed up my arrival time, this was partly due to the company I am working with here in Istanbul I think giving them a wrong time ect.... anyway I had to phone up the hotel to check that the transfer had been organised ect. After about a hours wait they did arrive. They were very helpful as I had a meeting organised for that afternoon and they had agreed to take me there, drop me off and then bring back my luggage to the hotel (that's what I call service!) By the way I am at the Tan Hotel.

The drive was an interesting one, last time I had arrived in Istanbul was in the evening and I don't really remember all that much of the trip into the city, this time it was around 3pm and peak hour. Yes the traffic was not the best as everyone had warned me, but it was nice to take in the trip. What I did find interesting is in the traffic jam the people in the center of the road selling stuff, is it nuts or something (I'm sure someone can tell me) In Australia we can have window cleaners at the traffic lights, I think I much prefer the sellers you can find over here!

The weather was cold and wet so it was also nice to be in a warm car.

As part of my special visa, I am have to use a production company here in Istanbul for all the permits ect, so after the meeting I had to opportunity to have dinner with the members of this company. Those of you who have seen the Food Question I posted, will know I was a bit concerned about what exactly my first meal would be..... it was fine. We went to a place called utis in Emirgan. When you walked up to it, the restuarant is a beautful light and very white place. The front windows are full of the delicous desserts they have on offer and you can see the different food sections including the Doner Kebabs ect. I was shown a menu in english but my hosts decided to order for me.... this could have been dangerous! They asked me do I prefer Lamb or Beef or Chicken. Hmmmm I went for the Lamb, cooked medium . When the food arrived there was a wooden platter which had pieces or lamb, cooked to perfection, lightly seared, very jucy, flat bread, a mixture or sauteed spinach and mushrooms and a slow cooked roasted potato. Really nice and I very much enjoyed it. We also had a selection of breads for the table, I just soooo love the bread here, it is something that I remember, but had forgotten just how good they are.

Anyway after a very long conversation and "getting to know" them and they of me, it was time to call it a night, even though it was only 7pm. They drove me back to my hotel, ohhh the traffic once again, I would be so scared to drive a car around this town, the city of Sydney is bad at the best of times, but they are just crazy over here, pulling in where they like, the airport transfer car when it was taking me to my meeting reversed the wrong way down a busy street! Anyway made it back to my hotel in one piece and checked it very quickly. The man who checked me in was very friendly and had everything organised for me, my bags were in my room when I got there also. After relaxing for abotu 3o minutes I decided time to go and have a walk around. Rugged up with a jacket and scarf I walked down to have a look around the Blue Mosque. Ohhh what a sight at night, you see the photos and all but when you are here it is so special. I walked around to take some photos and wandered down to the fountain which is lit up with different colours, once again taking lots of photos. Pretty much I was left alone, except someone did want to clean my shoes, I had forgotten all about this. I often wear boots when I travel and in many countries find that I am approached to have my shoes cleaned, I simply told him no and he tried a couple more times and then took the hint as I just kept taking photos and was more interested in that. On my walk back to the hotel I passed many vendors selling their wears and hot food, it smelled so good but I was full from dinner. After stopping off to purchase some beverages from a local shop it was time to hit the sack as it had been a long day and tomorrow is an even longer day.

More tomorrow!

Edited: 12 March 2014, 05:03
Istanbul
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1. Re: Trip report

tams, Thank you very much for a wonderful first day trip. You had a very good first day. Sutis is a chain of restaurants like Starbucks. For the benefit of many readers at this forum, here are the reviews for Sutis at Taksim: "tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g293974-d7…". In time we would love to see your wonderful photos. Looking forward to your next installment.

enjoy a beautiful day today,

enigma...

Istanbul, Turkey
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2. Re: Trip report

Tams, I just take this first part as an entré which comes before the delicious main course. Anxiously waiting for the next installment.

Thanks!

Borus

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3. Re: Trip report

Tams in Oz, you're making me want to go back, and I haven't even completely unpacked yet. :>}

Maryland
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4. Re: Trip report

Yes, seeing the Blue Mosque and Aya Sofya for the first time was such a thrill, I just stopped in my tracks and stared! Istanbul's lovely, can't wait to get back in June...

Southern Highlands...
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5. Re: Trip report

Day 2: Today I knew would be a long day as I was heading down to the town of Iznik. Iznik is best known for the tiles that were created and are still being produced today.

The morning start was an early one for me as I woke up about 10 minutes before the call to pray. Lying in bed I didn't want to get up but couldn't get back to sleep. The call to pray started, one after another it is a blend of voices that come together, I have travelled to several Muslim countries and when you hear the first call to pray in the morning it is hard to explain, but it is rather special (unless of course you are trying to sleep!).

So after getting ready for the day it was off to the ferry port. Today I was once again to be accompanied by my translator and a driver. Because we were taking a car with us we used the car/fast ferry to Yalova from the departure port of Yenikapı Terminal. All the cars are lined up and they file onto the boat. After this you walk up to the main cabin and find a seat. Once the ferry starts up they lock the doors so that you cannot access the cars. The ferry trip itself was pleasant, I wasn't sure what the water way would be like, if it would be rough or what, but it was fine. The ferry itself is very clean and there is a small food shop on the boat were you can purchase food and hot beverages. The trip took just under 1 1/2 hours. Unfortunately due to the fog you there wasn't very much to see on the trip there. Once we arrived at Yalova you return to your car and wait until you can drive off the boat, I did wonder how many cars get damaged as they are soooo packed in.

Anyway once off the boat we were on our way. The day wasn't looking too good, lots of fog and a threat of rain. The drive to Iznik was good, the road was in not too bad a condition however can I say I will never complain about the potholes that you find back in my home town. The speed was interesting that the driver was driving at, are their speed limits? The road started out to be rather windy and the scenery I didn't realise just how hilly this area is. You pass many Olive groves along the road and I was told that this area produces some of the best olives (they may be bias however!) Suddenly as you are driving through the area you get to see glimpses of the lake between the trees, it looks so still but with the fog still around it was hard to even see the other side.

After I think it was just under an hour (especially at the speed we were going) we arrived in Iznik. The town is larger than what I would have though, approximately 30,000 people live here. As you enter into the town you see the wall that once protected it, there are still some well-preserved areas of this wall. Driving down the streets of the town it is all hustle and bustle, the streets are not very wide and there is lots of action happening. Our destination for today was a visit to the Iznik Foundation. This is an organisation that have spent many years researching and using similar techniques to those that were used 400 year ago to create the original Iznik Tiles. Visiting the factory today I gained a greater understanding about the process of the creation of the tiles, how they are formed, the design transferred, the colouring and firing. It is a very labour intensive process which is why these Iznik Foundation Tiles are expensive, each step is completed by hand but the quality of the finished product compare to the “cheap” mass produced pieces there is nothing to compare. In the "painting" room there is a large table where the designs as placed together. If you have the opportunity to go into one of the subway station in Istanbul you will see the large tile wall and these were created by the Iznik Foundation. It was a great opportunity to visit and very enjoyable.

Lunch today was at the Foundation in a small wooden additional the factory which was just so beautiful. The meal consisted of a dish called Sucuk, they told me a bit about what it was beef with spices so I tried and it was delicious. Also served was plain yogurt, tomatoes and bread. After our visit to the foundation we went for a visit around the town. Driving through the town once again it was very busy as they have just had the call for pray. We went to visit the Yeşil Mosque. This is located across from the museum which is currently closed for renovation. As it was prayer time we could not enter the mosque however we were able to view the stunning carvings around the doorways which are made out of marble and the colourful tiles which cover the minaret which is a composition glazed terra-cotta green, yellow, turquoise and dark purple coloured tiles. Just outside the mosque I did have to laugh the garbage bins around Iznik are decorated in Iznik tile designs, and of course I had to take a photo, my translator just looked at me when I did it, hey I have to play the tourist don't I?

After viewing several other sights within Iznik it was time to drive back to Istanbul. If we had driven back to the ferry we would have had to wait so decided it would take the same amount of time to just drive back. This trip was.... how to put it..... driving with a local sometimes is not such a good idea...... they like to take short cuts. The trip involved driving along these back roads, which were winding in and out along the hills, the views were amazing, however the fog did start to set in and so there was a haze over all the mountain, we really were in the middle of nowhere but fortunately my driver knew where he was going. There was even snow in some of the areas. Along the drive once again there were many olive groves, I was surprise there were not as many farms with animals here, we passed one where there were sheep grazing and a very aggressive guard dog that tried to attack the car even though it was going! The drive involved passing through several small towns with an array of buildings. I did see some one of the town names which included Golcuk and I have since found on a map. Once we hit the main road back to Istanbul it was rather smooth driving, there was traffic however it moved at a good pace.

Once back in Istanbul it was onto the Grand Bazaar, oh how I had forgot just how much fun this place can be. If you can visit the Grand Bazaar with someone who can speak Turkish it is rather funny. As you walk down one of the streets, you get the voices calling out to you "time now to buy a carpet" "I just want to say hello" "come in, come in" "you want to buy a scarf" While some a very pleasant and you simply say no, other do pester you and it was funny to see my translator say something in Turkish which just stopped them dead. The Grand Bazaar was very busy and while I did looks in a few shops, I just couldn't decide what I really wanted to buy and was not in the mood to have to haggle so we ended up walking out and had a stroll down Divan stopping at one of the shops where I did pick up a couple of things and didn't have to haggle as they gave me a good price. Passing Starbucks on the way back to the hotel, I was in need of a good coffee and had to go in a buy one. I really try not to go to any of the “international” brand food outlets while in foreign country but when you have to have coffee, I sure you can understand. It had been a long day and I was really tired and have to get ready for tomorrow which will be another exciting day.

Mount Dora, Florida
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6. Re: Trip report

What an exciting time you are having in Turkey. One of my first road trips in Turkey was to Iznik, and 47 years later we made a second road trip. I was so impressed with the road. Frankly, I was also very impressed with the fast ferry to Yalova as well. Both are a terrific improvement over our first experiences.

I love visiting the Iznik Foundation, and I am sure you had a unique experience because your task gives you greater opportunities to see things, and, of course, enjoy explanations we would probably not hear.

I did have a tiny recollection when you described returning to the city by land rather than the ferry. We also did that 50 years ago. It was a unique experience which I rarely re-visit. Our driver also took a "short-cut". In the end our drive made our trip much longer than it would have been if we would have taken the ferry, even though the ferry in those years took two and one-half hours from Yalova to istanbul.

As for visiting the Blue Mosque after sunset on your first day in the city, I do not think you ever lose that special feeling as you sit on the benches and watch the sea gulls around the minarets. Even that persistent shoe shine person does not diminish my joy at that moment.

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7. Re: Trip report

Such a great read Tams. Enjoying your trip stories.

That olive town must be Gemlik which is indeed very famous for its olives. I,too, like the road between Yalova and Bursa very much even though it is very winding and hilly. The view is simply beautiful. Apart from the tiles and olives, that region is also famous for its pişmaniye, a sort candy flakes. Next time try it. Yesterday we were at the same place almost in the same time. LOL, a sliding doors story?

Southern Highlands...
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8. Re: Trip report

Awwww Borus if only we had known. I am in the local area today, visits to the mosques and checking out locations for a photo shoot.

Southern Highlands...
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9. Re: Trip report

Day 3.

Yet another full day planned. It started off with a delicious breakfast at my hotel. They have a beautiful roof terrace were breakfast is served each day. There is you typical selection of Turkish items including several cheeses, meats, breads plus the option of freshly made to order omelettes, crepes, yogurt, toast, cereals oh and I can't forget freshly squeezed orange juice. This was a great way to start the day.

At 9am I was to meet with my translator once again and head on our way. Today was a someone "be a tourist" while doing work day. As part of my trip here in Istanbul I have gained permission to photograph in several locations within Istanbul and to be able to publish these photos. I would today be going to three of these locations. First up was the Rüstem Pasa Mosque. To get there we used the tram which is very easy to navigate, you can either buy single tokens or purchase a card which you can preload (there are several posts on this site so I won't go into details) The Rüstem Pasa Mosque is located only a short distance from the Station and right near the Spice Market. It's entrance can be a bit tricky to find as there are 2 different doorways you can gain entrance through, they did have a plaque at these doorways stating the mosques name. You proceed through these entrances up these stairs to where the mosque is located. It is very much a hidden gem. Along the facade of the mosque there are several large panels of Iznik tiles. Once at the mosque we had to report to the security with the special permit. It is times like these that having a translator/fixer that really helps. A couple of minutes of discussion in Turkish and they are happy for me to proceed into the mosque. it was time to take off the shoes, cover my head and proceed inside.. Wow this is a stunning mosque. The tiles that adorn the walls are beautiful. It is a very quiet mosque which does see tourist but not that many. When we entered there was only a husband and wife in there, and I spent nearly 2 hours here and during that time there was only 2 small tour groups of about 6 - 10 people each come into the mosque. I was lovely as at times there was no one else in the mosque at all. The walls are heavily decorated in the blue Iznik tiles and there are several different designs throughout the mosque. After taking I think nearly 200 photos it was time to go back outside. On our way out to the main street it was an interesting walk as you pass all these small shops selling kitchen wares, so very tempting to buy some but then I had to think did I have space in my bag for them. Exploring these backstreets around the spice market is on my to do list over the weekend.

Next it was on to Eyüp Mosque. This is a very religious location as it contains scared relics of the standard-bearer of Muhammad. We decided to go here via taxi, as it would be faster. I had concerns just how much this taxi trip would cost. When we arrived I was surprised that the total was only 12 TL. The taxi dropped us off just at the entrance of a street which we needed to walk along to the mosque, this street was lined with shops selling a variety of items from kitchenware to face creams and more, but it was not time to shop. We arrived once again at the security to register with them. They were once again very friendly and while we waiting a group of women came up to use with a box of apricots and offered us some which was very nice. It is interesting I may not have the language to communicate with them but through gestures you can (having a translator also helps at times but she was busy when they approached me). Once the security was all happy we proceeded into the inner mosque area. As we walked through the entrance you could see there was restoration work happening, my heart sank. It was the area where the holy relics are housed and the beautiful Iznik tiles are located. I could not believe it, such a shame. I am not sure when they will be done the renovations but if you plan on visiting you may want to check this out. So unfortunately no photos to be taken here. As we had lunch plans back in Eminönü we decided the fastest way back would be via taxi, once again this trip only cost us 12TL.

Lunch today was at the Hamdi Restaurant. If you would like to eat at a location with a view this is somewhere you may like to consider. It is located on the third level and has a beautiful view overlooking the ferry ports extending across the Galata bridge and views of the Golden Horn. It is from what I have reads since a bit of a touristy restaurant and with those views I can understand why. We had not made a prior reservation but it is recommended but as we were there early they were happy to seat us near the window. The meal was served very quickly and I had ordered the Domatesli kebap which is half beef and half lamb mince rolled into balls and skewered with tomatoes and then cooked. It was served with the usual side, all very nice and filling.

After lunch I had to go our onto the terrace and take some photos of the stunning view and then we were on our way to a quick business meeting.

After the meeting was done it was time for the third mosque of the day. After being sadden by the Eyüp Mosque I wasn’t over excited about going to our next but it was the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, better known as the Blue Mosque . We arrived here by tram, it is such an easy way to travel around on and proceed to the entrance of the mosque. Hmmmm we couldn’t find any security so went to the visitors entrance which is located on the far right hand side of the mosque. There are signs marking this but as I had on a previous trip been into this mosque I knew where to go. This is very much the “tourist” must see mosque and even though it was afternoon there were many tour groups going through. Before you enter the mosque you must remove your shoes and they provide you with plastic bags here that you can carry your shoes in. Once the shoes were off and the head scarf on it was time to go into the mosque. Hmmmm when I entered there seems to be an issue, the Iznik tiles that I was here to photograph were not located on the main floor level, this was to be a bit of a problem. With my translator/fixer on my side we decided to place a call back to the head office who looked after my permits to find out what to do. Would it be possible to go to the second level so that I could photograph……. After a short time my fixer knew what to do and we found the correct person to talk to about this. After much discussion including my translator producing all the paperwork, I didn’t know what was happening I was just hoping they would say yes. My translator then returned to me with a big smile on her face, they had agreed to let us go up to the second level! SOOOOO EXCITING!!!! We were escorted by security to this small wooden door, which had a small spiral staircase with steep stairs leading up to the second level. I looked at it and though how am I going to get up there, I am nearly 6 foot and not a slim build but nothing was going to stop me, I had to be careful not to hit my head. Coming out onto the second level, WOW the tiles are amazing. From what I can tell it was very special of them to allow us to go up here and I am very grateful. My previous trip to the Blue Mosque I wasn’t all the impressed I have to say, too many tourist when a smaller mosque to me can be just as special. But going up to the upper level, it is quieter and you get to look out over the interior and all I can say it made my heart sing. The Iznik tiles line all the walls along this second level. There are 2 types large panels that can be found here, one consisting of many of the same tile repeated and the other a full design made up of different tiles to create an image. These panels are then separated by “border” tiles. As you walk around this level you see the quality of the tiles change dramatically. In the Blue Mosque there are over 50 different tulip designs used on the tiles, I think I may have photographed at least half of these! This was truly an amazing experience and I am so grateful to have had this opportunity. I think in total we stayed there for over 2 hours and took nearly 500 photos! It was then time to go back down those steps. If I thought going up was bad, going down was even worst, nearly banging my head on the thick stone several times. As we exited the stair well we had been told to lock the door and did so. Unfortunately the second level is not open to tourist, which is a shame however I can fully understand why it isn’t. When you visit the mosque please take time to look up at this level as you can see the tiles, a good zoom lens on your camera will produce good photos also.

Still a bit of a daze we left the mosque onto another business meeting which went very well. All in all what started off well, had a bit of a downer ended up being an very special and amazing day. More tomorrow.

Istanbul, Turkey
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10. Re: Trip report

These are all very well known places but you are so lucky to have seen them from different angles. A very unique trip report!

No sliding doors today :)