Istanbul Journals

Istanbul (not Constantinople)

An August 2002 trip to Istanbul by isewell

The Egyptian Obelisk Photo, Istanbul, Turkey More Photos
Quote: We spent 3 days in Istanbul to finish up our 3 week Iceland, Greece, and Turkey vacation. We were backpacking and not part of a tour group. There is a LOT to see - 3 days was really tight.

Istanbul (not Constantinople)

Overview

The Egyptian Obelisk Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
- The Blue Mosque is truly a sight to behold. It's even more beautiful than I had imagined. - The underground cistern is unforgettable. Although the cheesy classical music and strange lighting put me off at first, it won me over by the end. - The Grand Bazaar is not to be missed. Although not as exotic as other places we've been, it's a great way to pick up a few souvenirs. - Topkapi Palace, although excrutiatingly expensive, can't be missed. It's huge. There is an incredible amount of culture inside its walls. - The ferry to Kadikoy was cheap and rewarded us with some incredible views of the Bosphorous and Sultanahmet. - The Tunel metro in Taksim (the oldest m...Read More

Moonlight Pension

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Hotel

Quote:
For the sake of convenience (and not because of price!) we found a hotel in Sultanahmet. Moonlight Pension (http://abone.superonline.com/~moonlight, 517 54 29, 87 Akbiriki Cad) was our guidebook's recommended hotel - and while it was clean and conveniently located, it wasn't the nicest place we've stayed in. The hotel is located about a 5 minute walk from the Blue Mosque, and it was pretty easy to find. As you try to find your hotel, you *will* be hassled to go to another hotel. Just ignore the pushers; they are not persistent. If you take a taxi, and he claims the hotel is no good, or is already full, insist on going there anyways. They're often paid a commission to re-route you to the...Read More

Member Rating 2 out of 5 on November 15, 2002

Moonlight Pension
87 Akbiriki Cad
Istanbul, Turkey
517 54 29

Aya Sofya/ Church of Holy Wisdom

Attraction | "Aya Sofia"

Aya Sofya/ Church of Holy Wisdom Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
The Aya Sofia was built in 532. The exterior was painted blood red by Emperor Justinian to warn potential revolutionaries. The dome was originally a lot higher and bigger then what you see today, but an earthquake just 20 years after its construction destroyed it. It remained one the most beautiful churches in the world for a thousand years, when Mehmet the Conqueror tacked on a Minaret and converted it into a Mosque. Finally in 1932 Attaturk converted it into a Museum. Unfortunately when we visited (Summer 2002), the interior was undergoing massive restoration and we couldn't see much of the roof. The size is amazing, but we were underwhelmed by the state that it was in. There's a lot of da...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on November 15, 2002

Aya Sofya/ Church of Holy Wisdom
Sultanhamet
Istanbul, Turkey

Topkapi Palace

Best Of IgoUgo

Attraction | "Topkapi Palace part 1"

Topkapi Palace Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
Before you visit, make sure you have a high enough credit limit. The Palace is the most expensive site we've ever visited, anywhere. Admission to all three sections of it (main entrance, Harem, and Treasury) will cost you about $30. Of course, we paid. I understand gouging the tourists (and applaud their understanding of capitalism for doing so - who is going to come to Istanbul and *not* see the Topkapi palace?) but what was unfair was that the prices for students and for Turks was not substantially lower - putting an amazing part of history out of the reach of a lot of people. Ok, so it's time for a note of warning. The Palace is big. Really, really big. There is a lot to see. And i...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 15, 2002

Topkapi Palace
Sultanahmet Square
Istanbul, Turkey
90 212 5224422

Topkapi Palace

Attraction | "Topkapi Palace part 2"

Quote:
Oof. I get tired and dizzy just thinking about the amount of stuff in that museum. The Harem now requires you to take a guided tour. You must first line up to buy a ticket (it is not available in the main ticket booth). Then, you are herded through the narrow corridors of the Harem (we counted 50 tourists in a group that was only supposed to have 30) with your tour guide so far ahead you have no chance of being able to follow. Make sure you bring your own guidebook - especially if you want the time to take pictures. A security guard brings up the tail of the pack, and prods you on if you fall behind in the tour, so that you don't get mixed up in the group coming right up behind you....Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 15, 2002

Topkapi Palace
Sultanahmet Square
Istanbul, Turkey
90 212 5224422

Basilica Cistern

Attraction | "Underground Cistern"

Basilica Cistern Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
This underground area is located between the Aya Sofia and the Blue Mosque. It is a huge cave with 336 columns, with walkways leading you around the cave, over the water. Water drips down the roof above, and piped in classical music accompany the funky light show playing off the pillars and water. The cistern was created for the Topkapi Palace - it's served many purposes, from moving goods to watering the lawn. Watch your step as you walk here; the ground is often wet from the dripping water. Be sure to check out the sideways and upside down Medusa Head at the end of the cavern, whose origin is still debated today. There is a cafe overlooking the water, where there are sometimes concerts. ...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on November 15, 2002

Basilica Cistern
Southwest of the Hagia Sophia
Istanbul, Turkey

Taksim

Attraction

Quote:
Taksim Square is the location of some very upscale hotels, as well as the Ataturk Cultural Center. Istakal Cad is the main road leading off from the square, and is an upscale shopping area during the day, and a club scene at night. There is a tram that runs up and down Istakal Cad, but it's not really faster then walking, and it closes early. At the bottom of Istakal Cad is the Tunel Metro, which is the world's oldest (and shortest) subway. It's only got one stop, and leads straight down to the port and Galata Bridge, near the fish market. Istakal Cad at night is an amazing scene, and it is not to be missed. Be careful however to plan your route back. At midnight, we found ourselves a bit st...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 15, 2002

Taksim
Istanbul
Istanbul, Turkey

Grand Bazaar (Kapali Carsi)

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Attraction | "The Grand Bazaar"

Quote:
The Grand Bazaar has over 4000 shops, banks, mosques, police stations, fountains, and restaurants. It is the largest bazaar in the world. As you walk in on Kalpakcilarbasi Cad., you will think it's just like a shopping mall. This is only jeweller's row, however. Take a right and dive into the main bazaar area, with shopkeepers nipping at your heels, carpet sellers begging you to have tea with them, etc. After our experience in Moroccan medinas, this seemed pretty tame. The shopkeepers knew when to back down, and the carpet sellers, while persistent, were never threateningly so - even when we teased shopowner after shopowner as we tried to find the perfect carpet. Almost the entire bazaar is ...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on November 15, 2002

Grand Bazaar (Kapali Carsi)
Kalpakcilarbasi Street
Istanbul, Turkey

Spice Bazaar (Misir Carsisi)

Attraction | "Egyptian Spice Bazaar"

Quote:
Misir Carsisi, or the Egyptian Spice Bazaar, is a good next destination after the Grand Bazaar. Walk through the narrow streets filled with everyday shops, and you will eventually get to the Spice Bazaar. Don't be worried about asking anyone for directions, everyone we talked to was very helpful.

My guidebook describes the Spice Bazaar as a "sensory overload" and I couldn't agree more. There are dozens of stalls selling very fragrant spices, tea, nuts, etc. We got the feeling that this was more authentic then the Grand Bazaar (and no carpet shops!). Just outside the waterfront gate in the Spice Bazaar, Rustem Pasa Camii is a mosque worth seeing.

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on November 15, 2002

Spice Bazaar (Misir Carsisi)
Behind the Yeni Cami Mosque
Istanbul, Turkey

Kadikoy

Attraction

Kadikoy Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
We took a ferry from Eminonu to Kadikoy to get a sampling of the Asian side of Istanbul. This is a residential and commercial area that is an easy escape from the tourist trap that is Istanbul. Frequent ferries run quickly there. There is a street market, jeweler's stores (with reasonable prices), bakeries, traditional restaurants, etc. There is not much English spoken here, and we felt we were the first tourists they had seen in months! It was an interesting experience though, and we got some killer photos of the sunset over the Blue Mosque on the way back. We'd like to say that was planned, but, well, not so much.

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 15, 2002

Kadikoy

Kadikoy, Turkey

Aya Sofya/ Church of Holy Wisdom

Attraction | "The Blue Mosque"

Aya Sofya/ Church of Holy Wisdom Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
Our first stop in Istanbul was the Blue Mosque. It's not actually blue on the outside, but the tiles inside it are. It was the Sultan Ahmet's response to the Aya Sofia and was completed in 1617. Be sure to attend outside prayer times. Men should be wearing pants, and women should cover their head (if you don't have a head covering, one will be provided for you). When we visited, the Mosque was packed with noisy tourists. The locals who were praying seemed oblivious to it, but I can't help but think they get tired of it. Yes, there were a lot of tourists, but people were not making much effort to lower their voices - they just didn't seem to care this is actually a holy place of worship, an...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on November 15, 2002

Aya Sofya/ Church of Holy Wisdom
Sultanhamet
Istanbul, Turkey

Crossing the Bosphorous Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
We arrived in Istanbul from Ankara on the bus. The bus first stopped at a port on the Asian side of the Bosphorous, then went on to the main bus station. As is the case elsewhere, the bus station is located quite a distance from downtown. We made the mistake at this point of taking the free 'connector' bus service to downtown. This small shuttle waited around at the station for about half an hour before leaving for downtown. We would have done much better getting local transportation to get downtown (although this is slightly complicated, and involves taking a bus, and then connecting to the tram). For tourists, Sultanahmet is the place to be. All of the big 'must-sees' are clustere...Read More

Safety

Story/Tip

Quote:
Unfortunately, there are a few safety issues you should be aware of in Istanbul. Taxis are notorious for ripping off tourists picked up in Sultanahmet or Taksim - make sure the 'day rate' is set during the day (one light on the meter, not two). It's a good idea to ask at the hotel you're staying at where there is a reputable taxi stand.

In addition, be aware that there are other tourist scams going on in night clubs. New 'friends' will leave an exorbitant bill. That drink might be drugged. Use common sense. It's a very, very big city with typical big city safety problems.