I should start with thanking the DEs of TA, few names remember are Enigma, Taurus, busy retired; those who had posted wonderful trip reports and a big big gratitude to TA, without whom I wouldn’t have made this trip as much charming as we experience now.
I wonder my review will be bit longer as I wanted to write in detail that may help any first time visitors.
Finally on the 13th March 3pm, a six month long waiting of mine and 3 member family came to an end when the Saudia flight from JED landed at Istanbul. Almost all passengers are tourist except a very few locals. It seemed to have majority of them are first time visitors as a sudden voice of clapping that broken the silence was aroused onboard when the flight landed. Due to the long time experiences of JED emigration we were quite concerned while seeing the long queue at the emigration. But to our surprise, it took only just 15 minutes to pass the emigration as the number of counters are many and officials are very speedy unlike JED. And another 15 minutes for baggages.
Adam was waiting at the exit passage to arrange our conveyance to Sultan Ahmet, where we booked our stay. Outside weather was chilling. Metin from Sultan Apartments was there with a warming smile to receive us and took us to the second floor of a newly and wonderfully renovated premise of Sultan Apartment (I will write a separate review about Sultan Apt). The facilities were beyond our expectation at a very reasonable rate. After being freshed up Metin took us to Eyub, his friend who works as the manager at a neighboring hotel, who made some plans for our six day tour. Coz of the 4 degree weather and tiredness of jet lag, the day of arrival ended at 9.30 after having a nice dinner.
DAY 2 – Walking Tour
All are fresh and woke up early. Took some light breakfast and headed straight away to Blue mosque surroundings. The mosque opens only in the afternoon due to Friday prayer. The congestion of the streets opened to a very vast and beautiful place, where blue mosque, hagia Sophia, basilica and many other monuments are. Basalica is a real wonder; we never felt that treasure is there beneath when walked on top. Seeing an ad of 5 euro for a photograph wearing the traditional royal dress of ancient ottoman empires, we thought to try that. To our surprise, the photographer was clicking nonstop and took around 60+ snaps in a couple of minutes. After a strong negotiation, the vendor gave us a dvd for 80 TL, which we thought not a waste as to memorize forever. Headed towards the poor Medussa, who has been there upside down and tilted for centuries.
Next is Grand Bazar; thousands of shops holding variety of products under a roof. A straight passage from start to end while many sub routes to the heart of the bazar. We made some window shopping, joined the Friday prayer at the masjid outside (the rituals are bit different than we practice from childhood). It seems there are no common toilet for masjid as we had to pay 1TL pp to pee. After having the lunch, moved to Suleimaniya mosque yumming the roasted chestnut. The compound is very wide and beautiful as we took many snaps. It is worth to taste the mixed juice of pomegranate & orange from a street vendor for just 2TL.
Our next aim is the famous Spice Market. The passage is fully crowded. The smell of various spices that welcomes the visitors is a nice experience. We bought different variety of Turkish delight in bulk to gift our kith & kin as we got it at very reasonable price. My nine year old younger son was totally out of mood as this is the first time in his life walking that much. He was yelling and wanted to rush home. Took some nice evening snaps in & out of spice market and headed to Sultan Ahmet over a tram.
End of the second day had bagged many nice memories; friendly locals, Moroccan Younus who works at spice market, taste of different local food and many many. We didn’t feel the language barrier as many locals and salesmen speak good English.
We are planning to go for the Bosphorous & Golden Horn cruise in day 3. Hope to post the review sooner.