“Speciaaal priiice for you my friend”

Istanbul Travel Blog

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Hagia Sophia

 

I arrived in Istanbul with the full intention of writing something each day but as it has turned out I have totally failed! Anyway here is a summary of my first 3 days in Istanbul and then onto a daily update.

 

Arrived in Sultanahmet at 10pm at night, tired after a long days travelling. The bustling atmosphere, combined with the bustling atmosphere really made me feel like my trip had started. The fist night was a bit of a washout as I was so tired but had a few cans on the roof of the hostel with some Americans and a British guy and then to sleep.

 

The next morning it is up early and off to go sightseeing.

The Blue Mosque
I started at the Hagia Sophia, formally a church, then a mosque and now a museum. I had always fancied visiting it after seeing it in From Russia With Love and the place inside has not changed a bit in the 46 years since the film was made. Entrance was YTL20 but I came out feeling rather underwhelmed. There are some interesting things to look at but nothing really to tell you anything about the exhibits. Worth seeing it as I am a James Bond fan but if you are not I would not bother going inside unless there was a tour guide.

 

Next to the Hagia Sophia is the Blue Mosque. It is a magnificent building with spectacular minarets. It is a working mosque so visitors have to respect the Islamic traditions and remove their shoes (girls have to cover their shoulders).

Basilica Cistern

 

Across the road from the Hagia Sophia is the Basilica Cistern. Built as an underground reservoir in the 6th century it supposedly holds 100,000 tonnes of water and is supported by hundreds of marble pillars. YTL10 to get in and good to do on a hot day.

 

After plenty of sightseeing my feet were aching so a late lunch and a chill at the hostel. It was called the Agora and is only 2 months old. Very clean with hot water all day, secure lockers and free laptops as well. Spent the evening drinking beer and smoking water-pipes in nearby bars with a Finnish girl who was staying in my hostel. Had great fun with two Irish guys who were on about setting up an “Irish Kebab Shop” in Istanbul as the Turks were, in their opinon no good at kebabs “they don't fry the onions here and you never get any sauce”.

Grand Bazzar
On the promise of taking me to a “bar where mercenaries hang out” the Finnish girl then dragged me half way across town only to take me to some place that was full of posing men with ponytails.

 

The next morning and I wake up in my dorm with a sore head, dying for the loo (how much beer did I drink?) and soaked in sweat (the Americans I was sharing with did not seem to like having the air conditioning switched on at night). After much fresh orange juice I decide to go over to the other side of the Golden Horn to Taksim.

 

Taxim is the centre of the new Istanbul. It is the place with all the trendy bars, restaurants and art scene. However the main shopping street could be anywhere in the world with all the usual international stores. Anyway I had a nice day wandering the streets and taking pictures.

 

Needing to make plans for moving on I went to Sireki station and enquired about a train to Bucharest.

Spice Bazzar
The night train leaves at 10pm each night but does not get in to Bucharest until 19 hours later with no food being sold on-board. Now, as the crow flies, it is less than 300 miles between the two cities making the train (including stops) average 15 miles an hour! Back to the hostel and expedia says I can book a one hour flight for under £100 (not much more than the train). With transport booked it is off to the bars around the corner to watch the football on TV. Turned into an all afternoon affair but back in bed for oneish.

 

A trip to Istanbul would not be complete without a trip to to the Grand Bazzar. The place is colossal and teeming with stalls selling rugs, jewellery, clothes and tatty junk. However you do get tired of being approached by all the vendors “speciaaal priiice for you my friend” so if you are not seriously going to buy anything then don't hang around here too long.

 

The Spice Bazzar is near the station and is much smaller (and better in my opinion but then how many blokes like shopping?).

 

My 3 days in Istanbul came and went so quickly but it was Monday afternoon and off to catch the plane to Bucharest.

 

TigerTips

  • Different transport lines seem to use different tokens (Jetons) depending on the line (suburban train/tram/fernicular) so just buy enough for what you know you will need as you cant use them on different lines
  • Need transport back to Ataturk airport? Just pop into any travel agents and for €4 they will pick you up in a mini bus from your hostel. Collection times are displayed in the windows
  • The price of the beer varies tremendously anything from YTL4 to YTL9+ for a large one so it is best to know the prices before you run up a huge tab.
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Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia
The Blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque
Basilica Cistern
Basilica Cistern
Grand Bazzar
Grand Bazzar
Spice Bazzar
Spice Bazzar
Istanbul
photo by: Memo