Turkey for Christmas
At Christmas 2004 we went to Istanbul.
We flew there on KLM via Amsterdam.
Here are 13 of the things we did whilst we were there.
1. Took a Ferry across to the Asian side
It provided us with a nice overview of the City. There was lots to see on both the European and Asian shores.
Getting onto the water is certainly a must-do in Istanbul as you it really gives you a great perspective of the city.
2. Visited the Hagia Sophia
This wonderful museum that was once a church before it was a mosque is one of Europe’s most amazing architectural achievements. The scale of the nave under the dome is amazing and the mosaics are pretty cool too.
3. Visited the Topkapi Palace
A wonderful complex of kiosks and pavilions surrounding green courtyards. This is where the sultans used to have their principal residence. The harem and the crown jewels were the two highlights.
4. Visited the Basilica Cistern
This amazing piece of engineering is basically a large underground cistern. Its function was to bring the drinking water to the city via aqueducts that originated in Bulgaria. It features in the James Bond film “From Russia with Love” too.
5. Walked around the Grand Bazaar
We visited a few times during our stay. The bazaar is 500 years old and is one of the largest covered markets in the world. It has more than 50 streets and contains 5,000 shops as well as restaurants, mosques and even a school.
6. Visited the Süleymaniye and Blue Mosques
We actually preferred the Süleymaniye Mosque not least because there were fewer tourists
7. Visited the Pera Palace Hotel
We had a cup of thick Turkish coffee at this historic hotel. Agatha Christie is said to have written Murder on the Orient Express here.
8. Took the little Tram to Taksim Square
The little retro-tram shuttles backwards and forwards down the famous and bustling Istiklal Street between Tunel Square (terminus of the funicular) and Taksim square.
A modern tramway system was also being constructed in Istanbul. It was being tested at the time of our visit.
9. Visited Local Markets
They all had a wonderful variety of produce on offer and were a wonderful treat for the eyes.
10. Ate Chocolate and Choux Pastries
We visited Inci Paastanesi. The shop actually claims to have invented the profiterole.
The chocolate and choux pastries were delicious and went well with the lemon juice they served with them.
11. Got the train out to Kumpkapi
We got a little electric train from Istanbul’s impressive terminal station to Kumpkapi and walked around the fish markets there.
12. Got Scrubbed in a Hamam
Wearing nothing but a small cotton towel, I relaxed in a steamy room whilst laying on hot marble. I then received a brisk soapy body scrub and a massage. (Sadly / happily no photograph available)
13. Ate some absolutely outstanding Food.
On the way out to Turkey we read in the guidebook that Turkish food could be considered one of the world’s 5 best. I must admit at the time we almost laughed.
On the way back we were discussing what the other 4 could be. The food really was tremendous.
When we returned to London we began to seek out Turkish food much more often, but it never quite matched what we tasted in Istanbul.