Day 1/8 – 27 March
Finding Istanbul, Finding Cevahir
We arrived at Ataturk Havalimani at 16:00 local time. There was our van to take us to our hotel (Style Hotel Sisli). It was cloudy and some drops of rain could be seen on the windshield from time to time. We arrived at the hotel before 17:00 and started loving everything. The old simit fella, the manav and kasap, the stone paved alleys and the cats and the dogs who were being fed, instead of getting kicked all around like where I come from.
We checked in and decided to go visit Cevahir Mall that was only 10 minutes walk from the hotel. Walked up to Abide-I Hurriyet, then passed the Sisli Cami and got into Cumhuriyyet St. which looked like the busiest street on the whole planet. So there we were, at Cevahir. Soon I and my wife found out that this is the place to do the shopping, whether you want to spend 5% of your time shopping or 95% of it. So we called it fact no. 1, There is no other place in Istanbul you need to visit for shopping except Cevahir.
We wandered about for a bit, changed money at the doviz on the basement and went to Cinemaximum which is a theater with 11 or 12 movies. We bought the tickets and watched Recep Ivedik 4 which was one of the main reasons we were in Istanbul.
Bought kestane on the way back, didn’t like it. Walked back to Hotel and called it a night.
Day 2/8 – 28 March
They said they are going to take us to a shopping tour in the city which was normally 20$ but they are giving it to us for free. Lucky us!
So after breakfast in the hotel (which was passable) they took us to a place called Ender, where we thought Cevahir was a far better place to shop. Then to a place selling leather products and there were coats for 1200$, nobody bought anything and we asked the leader to take us to a place where we can actually buy something. So he took us to Istanbul Sapphire. Again we didn’t buy anything, instead, paid 18 TL to go up on the roof and view Istanbul. That was so fun but it was only 56th floor. I've been to higher ones. So we came back to the hotel, rested for a bit and left the hotel for a Bogaz turu on a cruise with Iranian and Turkish bands and singers and DJs and dancers. The est part was obviously the belly dance part performed by a dancer called Hulya. My wife told me to have a 20 TL bill ready in case she gets close to the tables I had to put it in her dress. She did, but to the other tables, not ours. I put the bill back in my wallet.
We went back to the hotel at 12:00 and decided never to trust our tour guide again. So fact no. 2, TripAdvisor is better than a tour guide. We called it a night after a wasted day.
Day 3/8 – 29 March
This was our day for historical Istanbul. We walked up to Sisli metro station, used the metro to go to Taksim, took a few pictures of Taksim, took the funicular to Kabatas and then tram to Sultan Ahmet. We started with Aya Sophia, took us like half an hour in line to get us into the place. The ticket was 25 TL but there are guys wandering about getting 35 TL or even 30 TL and taking you inside without having to wait in the line. We took a million pictures from inside then left the place for Topkapi Sarayi. This was another main reason of our trip to Istanbul. We are a big fan of the TV series Muhtesem Yuzyil. So visiting Topkapi was a must for us. After 3 hours in Topkapi, I decided to lie down and die of hunger, thirst, weariness and tiredness. But then changed my mind and we walked another 700 meters in the direction tripadvisor smartphone app showed us, and we were at Sultanahmet Buhara Kebab House, where I had Kuru Kofte and it was one of the most delicious things I have ever had in my life. It is too good to be legal!! They should ban it! Anyway we continued our way to Kapalicarsi which may be interesting for many, but for me, coming from the city with the biggest covered bazar in the world (Bazaar of Tabriz), it didn’t seem too appealing. So we spent like half an hour there and then kept walking up to Cemberlitas. Took the tram from there back to kabatas, then Taksim again and Sisli to Hotel. There I passed away on the bed for about half an hour but then, we thought we shouldn’t spend an evening in a hotel in Istanbul. So got up again and walked to Cevahir Mall to cinemaximum for the second time and watched a Turkish horror film called Ammar. I don’t recommend it to anyone. Walked back to hotel and seriously died this time.
Day 4/8 – 30 March
A day in Cevahir
Now because we were so tired because of yesterday, we decided to take it easy for the day. So we went to Cevahir again and did a lot of shopping for us and our family and friends then had lunch at KFC cevahir. In the afternoon, I realized that I am too tired to go on but my wife was fine. So fact no. 3, "enough" has different meanings for you and your wife. So she decided to go on and I took all the stuff we bought and went back to hotel, left them there, took a little rest and went back to Cevahir again to find my wife. Had a coffee at starbucks, went to D&R and bought like 6-7 books of Aziz Nesin in Turkish which I have been looking for for a long time. Then went back to hotel and changed dress and went to Kervansaray. It was a restaurant and night club with dance shows including Asena (with whom we took a picture). It was a better nights of our stay in Istanbul. Took a taxi back to hotel at around 12:00 and that was it.
Day 5/8 – 31 March
A long walk
We went to Taksim with metro and entered Istiklal Caddesi walked down and started shopping again until noon. We used the tripadvisor app to find Hayvore restaurant which was a really good one. I had Kuru Kofte again. We continued our way down to Galata Kulesi. I bought some Lokum and a model of ayasophia and 4 tesbihs (Rosary). Then ended our walk in karakoy, went back to Sisli to Cevahir again and went to cinemaximum for the third time and watched a Turkish romance called Sadece Sen with was quite a fine movie. Walked back to hotel and called it a night.
Day 6/8 – 1 April
We decided to go to Buyukada today. Stayed at the hotel until 12:00 then went to kabatas and took the 14:00 ferry to Buyukada. It took 90 minutes for 3.5 TL each, we fed every single seagull in Istanbul with simit. Got on a Double horse carriage and went for a long tour who took 75 minutes for 80 TL. Up at the other side of the island, there was a restaurant called Eskibag. This was one of the best experiences we had in Istanbul. So if you go to Istanbul, make sure you visit Eskibag Restaurant in Buyukada. It has an outstanding view of the sea, jungle and rocks you can watch right from where you are having your lunch. Definitely try their fries and Tel Peynir. I had Kuzu Sis and Kuru Kofte and my wife had fish and she said it is marvelous. We paid 250 TL for 4 people (2 friends joined us) a bit expensive but definitely worth it. Anyway we left the place crying because we didn’t want to leave, but the last ferry to Bostanci (on Asian side) left at 18:00. I gave the carriage driver a 100 TL and I expected some change back, but not necessarily. I was shocked when he said I should give him 30 more!! I said your tariff says 5 TL for each 15 minutes of stop, and first 15 mins is free. He said that’s the old tariff and I'm lucky that he contents himself for 50 extra TL. I could stop there and argue with him forever but the ferry would leave soon. So I gave him 10 more TL and we ran to the ferry. Luckily we could catch it. Half an hour later I was buying more tesbihs from a vendor in Bagdat Caddesi. And when we took a little walk in bagdat caddesi and looked around for a bit, we understood where the actual Istanbul was. It was as if we came to a different city. The houses, streets, cars, people, even dogs were far different from the European side. Real classy place! So we got tired and we grabbed a Dolmus and went to European side and got off it at Barbaros. We had to take a taxi to Nisantasi. But we were afraid of the fraud after all the stories I read on tripadvisor. So we decided that my 3 companions remain silent during the ride and only I talk Turkish so the driver won't realize we are tourists, while I check my GPS navigator on the way to see if the driver is going where he should go. We did that and got ourselves to Nisantasi, walked to tesvikye, rumeli caddesi and reached Osmanbey metro station. We couldn’t walk more so we took the metro to Sisli and went to Susam Sokagi, bought us some Simit, Borek and Poaca. Went back to Hotel, ate them and gained more weight. We slept and dreamed of a huge Simit on the sea we are riding in and a seagull coming to eat it and we will drown!
Day 7/8 – 2 April
We took the metro to aksaray and changed money, then walked to Laleli to take care of a job I had in laleli. My wife did a bit of shopping in the meanwhile. Most shops are wholesale in this area but they also do retail if you can find something suitable to buy. Then we did another taxi trick to get ourselves to Fatih Carsamba Pazari (faith Wednesday bazaar) we enjoyed being in a non-touristic place a lot. We bought strawberries and ate them right away. I found tel peynir (cheese) I had in eskibag the previous day, I bought half a kg to bring back home, but then I bought a few simits and we ate the cheese with them too. Then we had Doner kebab at a place called Dede Sultan and it was not good at all. But we ate them anyway. What can I say, I'm a glutton!! Then we went to Fatih Cami where Fatih Sultan Mehmet is buried. Then we took a bus back to the Hotel. Rested for a bit and went to Cevahir again. Visited Starbucks, D&R to buy more books, especially one about a guy who lost 203 kg in less than 2 years! Then went back to the Hotel and called it a night.
Day 8/8 – 3 April
We woke up late and missed the delicious grilled potatoes in breakfast. So we went to susam sokagi again and had breakfast there when people were almost having lunch. Then we went to Cevahir again. Did the last shopping we had, had Mc Donalds for lunch and lost eachothers. When we were together again, we went to the Cinemaximum for the fourth and last time and watched Aronofsky's Noah, which was on its first day. Then we came back to Hotel and packed. (They kindly let us to check out at 19:00, instead of 12:00.) A van picked us up and took us to the airport. We came back home.