Istanbul - Tips and Notes

Istanbul - Tips and Notes

After a week in Istanbul, here are some random notes I have accumulated, along with some tips for anyone who might visit in the future.

Look for the white beans in a red sauce. If you see it, order it with rice. It's amazing. Many restaurants have it. Erzincanli Ali Baba next to the Suleyman Mosque is supposed to be the best. Really fantastic - don't miss it.

There's a nice cafe / Nargile bar at the end of the Hippodrome (go to the last obelisk and bear left down the hill). Great spot to chill for a little while. Backgammon, hookahs, food, desserts, etc. Another large Nargile cafe (no food) is located on the tram line near the Grand Bazaar.

There are cats everywhere. No one seems to mind.

Turks (especially men?) drink a lot of tea. Whenever there’s a break for anything, there seems to be a young man bringing tea on a small hanging tray. Tea is almost always served in glasses, not in paper or plastic cups, even if it means a taxi driver has to leave his glass on the curb for the tea server to come back later to pick up.

Read More

Istanbul - Day 6

Istanbul - Day 6

Today was our 6th full day in Istanbul and I haven't had a chance to write since day 2. We've been seeing and doing so much during the day, and so tired at night - there's not a lot of down time. I know some people go to a city like this for just 2-3 days, but I really enjoy being here longer. It gives me a chance to get to know the city better and see different parts of town - not just the touristy areas. Still, I want to make use of every minute here, exploring until I'm exhausted, then back out after a rest.

Since Tuesday, when we did our food tour and visited the Grand Bazaar, we've been all over Istanbul:

Hagia Sophia (pronounced Aya Sophia) - first a church, then a mosque, now a museum. Reminded me of the great churches of Italy. Tons of tourists.

Galata Bridge - hundreds of fishermen on the top level, dozens of restaurants on the lower level. The bridge connects the Old and New cities. Need to go back to try the fresh caught fish from the boats at the Old City side.

Read More

Istanbul Grand Bazaar and Nargile Bar

Istanbul Grand Bazaar and Nargile Bar

After our food tour of Istanbul, we were both pretty tired and came back to the hotel to rest for a while. Rachel eventually took a nap and I went out and walked the 2-3 blocks to the Grand Bazaar to explore for an hour. It seems like most of the shops are gift shops for tourists, but I only wandered around for a little while and saw small sections. It's like a maze of streets inside, and I think there are sections that are for certain types of shops. What I found most interesting was how the vendors all try to get tourists to come over to their stall (hello, jeans, good price - where you from?) and the tiny tea shops and mini restaurants hidden here and there for the workers. I definitely want to have lunch at one of those places before we leave.

Read More

Istanbul Food Tour

Istanbul Food Tour

Today was quite a day, so this will be a long blog post...

It's now 6 PM and we are still recovering from a 6 hour food tour in the Old City. The tour took us to places in the city we never would have found on our own and introduced us to a ton of interesting food as well.

We booked a tour thought Istanbul Eats, and our guide was Connie, a German journalist who has lived in Istanbul for 9 years. She writes for the Guardian and is a tour guide on the side.

Read More

Istanbul - Day 2

Istanbul - Day 2

It's 4 PM in Istanbul and we've had a full day already. After breakfast in the hotel we took the tram to the heart of the Old City to see some of the big sights. I typically like to get the big famous things out of the way early so the rest of the trip feels more relaxed and there's less pressure to see or do certain things. We visited the Blue Mosque, the Underground Cistern, and Topkapi Palace. The first two were really stunning... Topkapi Palace was expensive, underwhelming, and practically a zoo full of groups and tourists. We couldn't wait to get out of there. Reminded me of Chichen Itza and the Palace of Versailles, just less interesting.

Read More

Istanbul - Day 1

Istanbul - Day 1

Now that the Paris trip is over, I have time to slow down a bit... I had planned to blog in Paris but I just didn't have time for anything more than uploading a photo once in a while. I arrived in Istanbul last night around 11 PM. I had arranged a private transfer for myself, which was a good idea since the airport was mobbed and there was a looong taxi line. I went out for a walk down the street a couple blocks and had a chicken sandwich and a diet coke, then came back to sleep. I am recovering from the Paris trip, which was all work. I even laid down across a row of 5 empty seats on my flight here and slept for a couple hours. People thought I was nuts.

Read More