Day 23: The Return of the Inferior Zulus

Istanbul Travel Blog

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Taking the ferry to Istanbul
People I met here and/or traveled with: Derk & Ed (Netherlands)

And so, two weeks later than planned, I arrived in Istanbul by boat. Okay, the ferry ride was more like an hour and 36 minutes than 36 hours, but a boat is a boat. I had succeeded to (sort of) stick to my original plan.
Getting to the boat I first had to take a bus to the town of Yalova from where the ferry leaves. Incidentally this was the bus to Istanbul, which might even have gotten me to Istanbul quicker, as I had to wait two hours for the ferry to leave, but this couldn't bother me. I'd set my mind on a boat, so a boat was what it would be.
The Blue Mosque on the left and Aya Sofia on the right, dominating the Istanbul skyline

I was somewhat cross when I found out the same company also runs direct ferries from Bursa to Istanbul, but that was just a minor gripe.

Arriving to Istanbul by ferry is a wonderful experience. As you approach the city the skyline with the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque sticking out prominently looms up in the distance. My gawd that is a handsome skyline.

The ferry arrived at Yenikapi docks a good 40 minutes late. I had received a text message from Derk and Ed that they had arrived and were in the metro to the city centre. So rather than walking 2.5 kilometres uphill and trying find my way to the hotel I decided to take a taxi instead. Well, that was quite an experience. The driver had no idea where I had to go.
approaching Istanbul
While it didn't surprise me he didn't know the hotel, I was somewhat surprised that he had no idea where the street I showed him was, even after showing him the map of the area he had no clue.

He had satnav in his car, so I advised him to switch it on. Turned out he didn't know how it worked! He searched for hotels in the area and got a non-alphabetical list which he tried to scroll through. With over 500 hotels in the area alone that wasn't cutting it.
It was a shared taxi, and he dropped off the other passengers first, then he asked some people in the street where my hotel was. We got directions, but ended up at the hotel Kebali, instead of the hotel Küpali. Once again I tried to explain to him he should enter the street address in his satnav, but he just wouldn't. So in the end I just programmed it for him.
Look at all the goodies they brought: my new passport filled with visas, as well as loads of reading/watching/listening material for the second leg of my trip!
Turned out the hotel was a mere 600 metres away. But even with the satnav on, he would still get lost. The machine told him to turn left, and he would turn right instead. In the end we ended up driving backwards in a one-way street until halfway to the hotel, at which point oncoming traffic forced him to stop. I got out and decided to walk the last bit. He then tried to ask me for more money (tip to taxi drivers of the world: if you want to rip off a tourist, make sure you don't have any other paying passengers in your taxi so that he can see what the going rate is). He reasoned that it had taken a lot longer than normal to reach the destination. Hey, I wasn't the one who got lost - twice! Gheez.

I found the whole experience laughable. In the end the uphill walk would probably have been faster.
Entering the Kapalı Çarşı (Grand Bazaar)
I arrived at the hotel to find Derk and Ed standing at the reception, they had just arrived a few minutes earlier and were checking in. Talking about great timing!

We had to wait for our room to be ready, and I think the hotel staff either wanted to get rid of us in the lobby, or they just liked us a lot, because they decided to give us the bridal suite with an extra bed added.
I must say, this is now the second time on this trip that I've had a jacuzzi in my hotel room. Backpacking ain't what it used to be! Not that I'm complaining of course.

And thus began the 2010 edition of the annual Inferior Zulu Road Trip. To explain the odd title to you: seven years ago we undertook a trip to the UK for a weekend convention organised by the band Marillion. We participated (and subsequently won) in a pub quiz for which we had chosen the politically incorrect team name, based on the Marillion song “Interior Lulu”.
inside the Grand Bazaar
The name stuck, and so did the annual road trips. Sometimes to music festivals, sometimes to European cities, always heaps of fun. So what better place to do this year's road trip than the European Capital of Culture of 2010? A city, which, not entirely incidental, was also one of my major destinations of my Silk Road trip (ok, at first I tried to convince them to come to Kiev instead, as that would have been easier to fit in my schedule, but the guys wisely chose Istanbul as a better alternative).

As we only had half a day left, we decided to take it easy and acclimatise a little bit in the area of our hotel. And what better way to acclimatise than the bazaar?
Kapalı Çarşı, of the Grand Bazaar is busy, bustling, noisy and a quintessential Istanbul experience. The Istanbul bazaar will have a hard time living up to its hype though.
The University gate
These days most locals prefer to shop elsewhere, and the ancient covered market now resembles a huge souvenir shop, rather than an Oriental market place. That said, there are still locals braving the masses of tourists in order to shop for clothes or curtains in the kilometres of labyrinthine streets.

After a quick kebab lunch we followed our tour around the bazaar district and walked over to Beyazit square, a nice, pigeon infested square which has the Beyazit mosque on one end and the impressive gates to the Istanbul University on the other.

We walked around the University in order to get to another mosque which was recommended in our guidebooks: the Süleymaniye camii. Unfortunately Istanbul being the European Cultural Capital of the year means that they received a hefty sum of money for restoration works.
enjoying a nargileh at Lale Bahçesi
Restoration works which were currently being carried out on this mosque and it was therefore closed. A pity, since apparently the inside of this mosque is particularly impressive.
Instead we had to make do with the cemetery and a couple of tombs behind the mosque.

We finished our little sightseeing walk at the Lale Bahçesi, an open air nargileh and çay café favoured by university students. It was a nice place to sit and wind down at the end of the day and wonder about the crazy flavours of the nargilehs, and the weird colours of the tea (though after a while we more wondered about the crazy flavours of the tea and the weird colours induced by the nargilehs).

For dinner we went to the popular Hamdi et Lokantası restaurant, which boasts stunning views over the Golden Horn (a sea arm that divides the European side of Istanbul) and the surrounding mosques.
Yeni mosque
That is, if you manage to secure a table on the glass-walled top floor, which we hadn't, since we had walked in without a reservation.
We had a nice selection of mezze, skipped the main course and went straight on to a delicious baklava dessert. The food was nice, but we felt a bit unwelcome here, the food was rushed to our table and before we knew it we were already staring at the bill, a mere hour after we had entered. (To clarify: mezze is not something you eat fast).

After dinner we walked down to the Galata bridge, which crosses the Golden Horn. Underneath there are dozens of restaurants side by side, and while touristy, these places do occupy one of the best spots in town.
Raki is the Turkish spirit of choice (it is an aniseed distillate, pretty much the same as Greek ouzo, or Syrian/Lebanese arak) and the three of us had a glass as a night cap.

We were all knackered, so we called it a day after that.

(you can also read Ed's Blog here)

Jeroenadmiraal says:
reminds me of good old times :)
Posted on: May 06, 2010
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Taking the ferry to Istanbul
Taking the ferry to Istanbul
The Blue Mosque on the left and Ay…
The Blue Mosque on the left and A…
approaching Istanbul
approaching Istanbul
Look at all the goodies they broug…
Look at all the goodies they brou…
Entering the Kapalı Çarşı (Gra…
Entering the Kapalı Çarşı (Gr…
inside the Grand Bazaar
inside the Grand Bazaar
The University gate
The University gate
enjoying a nargileh at Lale Bahçe…
enjoying a nargileh at Lale Bahç…
Yeni mosque
Yeni mosque
Who knows, might come in useful al…
Who knows, might come in useful a…
Ed and the pose he would retain fo…
Ed and the pose he would retain f…
hello, hello my friend, brother, w…
hello, hello my friend, brother, …
Beyazit mosque
Beyazit mosque
inside the Beyazit mosque
inside the Beyazit mosque
inside the Beyazit mosque
inside the Beyazit mosque
Beyazit mosque
Beyazit mosque
Inferior zulus on the road
Inferior zulus on the road
the cemetary behind the Süleymani…
the cemetary behind the Süleyman…
tombs behind the Süleymaniye mosq…
tombs behind the Süleymaniye mos…
inscription on tomb
inscription on tomb
Lale Bahçesi
Lale Bahçesi
Biedjees on fire
Biedjee's on fire
Derk and Ed trying some nargileh c…
Derk and Ed trying some nargileh …
Three colours of Turkish tea - the…
Three colours of Turkish tea - th…
the fairy tale of three little nar…
the fairy tale of three little na…
Ed trying to imitate his South Par…
Ed trying to imitate his South Pa…
Süleymaniye mosque
Süleymaniye mosque
view over the Golden Horn
view over the Golden Horn
Turkish salad
Turkish salad
Delicious Baklava - still cant un…
Delicious Baklava - still can't u…
Yeni mosque at night
Yeni mosque at night
Yeni mosque at night
Yeni mosque at night
Galata bridge
Galata bridge
enjoying an after-dinner raki unde…
enjoying an after-dinner raki und…
a glass of water and some raki to …
a glass of water and some raki to…
Derk and Ed enjoying themselves in…
Derk and Ed enjoying themselves i…
Enjoying a Nargileh in Istanbul
Istanbul Hotels & Accommodations review
Not a bad choice for central Istanbul
We had booked the Küpeli hotel via the Internet and received a very good deal. We paid less than half the rack rate for a triple room which worked ou… read entire review
Istanbul
photo by: Memo