Istanbul Journals

The Wait for Turkey - Finally!

Best of IgoUgo

An October 2000 trip to Istanbul by Ishtar

Typical Fruit Display Photo, Istanbul, Turkey More Photos
Quote: Istanbul was the ultimate 50th birthday gift: how fitting to have 2 ladies of a "certain age" come face to face!. However prepared I may have been, the sizzle of Istanbul, the smells, the cacaphony of the open markets need to be experienced. The best Greco-Roman ruins are all here!!

The Wait for Turkey - Finally!

Best Of IgoUgo

Overview

St. Sophia's Church Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
There will never be sufficient room for the best of Turkey: the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul along with the Egyptian Spice Market. Iznik's famous green/blue tile artisans born millenia ago; St. John's tomb in Ephesus , and the 20,000 seat amphitheater; the food, the food, the food! The hot Springs at Pamukkale ; the palaces which flank the sides of the Bosphorus; Bursa's fabulous kebab and textiles; the magnificent city of Bergama (Pergamum) with ...Read More

Hotel Pamphylia

Best Of IgoUgo

Hotel | "Pamphylia Hotel"

Hotel Pamphylia Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
We found the Pamphylia Hotel on the internet after a long search. This is a family run business, and we recently met the owner in Queens where he has a restaurant. Located in the Sultanahmet area which is where you want to be, if you want to explore the old city. As with most lodging in the area, it affords a wonderful view of the Bosphorus , the Golden Horn, Aya Sofia and the Blue Mosque ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on July 7, 2001

Hotel Pamphylia
Ebusuud caddesi No:8 - Sirkeci-Sultanahmet
Istanbul, Turkey 34410
+90 (212) 5120133

Best Western Obelisk and Sumengen

Best Of IgoUgo

Hotel | "Obelisk Hotel /Best Western"

Best Western Obelisk and Sumengen Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
We actually had two rooms here. The first was on the ground floor, and was comfortable, but when we drew the drapes open, we got a wall and some weeds looking back at us. So we moved to the third floor. The room was not as romantic as the first, but very practical. Once we pushed the 2 single beds together, it looked bigger. The clothes armoire, albeit a bit larger than the one at the Pamphylia, still could not hold everything. We enjoyed having a chest of drawers! Everything that could be used as laundry lines was, including the backs of the armchairs. There was no dryer here. The hotel offers spa and massage services, but we found them to be a bit exorbitant. Try for one o...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on August 9, 2001

Best Western Obelisk and Sumengen
Mimar Mehmetaga Caddesi 17-19
Istanbul, Turkey
90 212 5177173

Saltanat Restaurant

Best Of IgoUgo

Restaurant

Saltanat Restaurant Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
For a traditional Turkish meal at a reasonable price, the Saltanat Restaurant is an excellent choice. Located on the sloping streets behind the Blue Mosque, the restaurant specializes in traditional Turkish food. Chuck and I had decided to stroll up and down the streets until we found a place that suited our fancy; as we walked up the slight slope, there was a gentleman behind a podium which had an open menu. He motioned to us to come on in, and the decor looked lovely, and a glance at the menu was all the convincing we needed. So we sat outside, and got a lot of attention from everyone. Istanbul is hurting as the number of tourists has dropped dramatically when we were there. . At the restaurant ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 26, 2001

Saltanat Restaurant
Behind the Blue Mosque
Istanbul, Turkey

Gar Music Hall

Best Of IgoUgo

Restaurant | "Gar Night Club"

Gar Music Hall Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
Dining at the Gar Night Club is sort of a postscript experience. You actually go there to see the show. These are usually coordinated with the tourists in mind; there are entire bus loads that come into this music hall of sorts which has tables set in a semi-circular fashion around the stage. To the right of the stage is a separate "box" where you see the orchestra. The belly dancer is the highlight of the festivities, even though the dance itself is not Turkish in origin. Also the dancers wear high heels which is a no-no in traditional belly dancing. This was also the first time that I saw 2 women belly dancers on the same stage, which is unheard of. If a woman is to be accompanied, in the classi...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 16, 2001

Gar Music Hall
Mustafa Kemal Pasa Caddesi No. 3
Istanbul, Turkey
90 (212) 588 40 45

Sultan Pub Restaurant

Best Of IgoUgo

Restaurant

Sultan Pub Restaurant Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
The Sultan Pub Restaurant is in the Sultanahmet area, so when you plan to go to dinner, you just leave your hotel and start walking. We had seen this place during the day and it looked quite attractive. It was within a few yards of the Pamphylia Hotel and obliquely across the street from Aya Sofia. They offer outdoor dining, a bar downstairs with a limited menu and a dining room upstairs with all the amenities. The atmosphere is quite romantic. There is a lot of dark wood here as in chairs, tables and windows. Also the area is lit with old fashioned wall sconces which make it very European. We must have been the first American couple to hit this place in a long time, as we had 3 separa...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 9, 2001

Sultan Pub Restaurant
Divanyolu Caddesi No. 2, Sultanahmet
Istanbul, Turkey
+90 (212) 528-1719

Spice Bazaar (Misir Carsisi)

Best Of IgoUgo

Attraction

Spice Bazaar (Misir Carsisi) Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
Also known as the Egyptian Spice Market, it is rated as the second largest in the world. You will encounter very little English here, even though it has become quite a touristy spot. The vendors, especially those of cheese, all want you to have a piece and I am not one to turn down cheese of any kind (except maybe cottage or farmer). It is a chaotic place, but at the same time, dazzling with color. Please remember, that as with most public places, this one is closed on Sunday as well. It was built in the late 1600's. Today, some of the shops have added items which might appeal to tourists. As a matter of fact, Chuck and I both picked up a bottle of Acqua di Gio for a song. ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on July 9, 2001

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

Bosphorus Strait

Best Of IgoUgo

Attraction | "Cruising the Bosphorus"

Bosphorus Strait Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
This was one of the best guided tours we had. Our guide which was bestowed on us for just one day happened to be an English teacher, moonlighting. His command of the language was excellent, and he was replete with all sorts of acnecdotal information which made listening to him a divine pleasure. We were going to get out at Sareyer, a typical fishing village on the European shore. The Bosphorus, also known as the Strait of Istanbul, is less than 30 miles long. You can see at the narrowest point of the straight 2 huge fortresses which were built to protect the city from invaders. You will also marvel at the largest structure on its banks, the Dolmabahce Palace. This served as the last residence of the...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on July 19, 2001

Bosphorus Strait
Eminonu
Istanbul, Turkey

Flea Market

Attraction

Flea Market Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
There is an incredible bustle of activity every Sunday behind the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. This is where Turkish people bring their wares and display them on tables, on sidewalks, stairs, just about anywhere they can find a spot. It's a well timed activity, as most of the major sights are closed on that day. We didn't know that here could be so much more to see and really get the feeling of being one of the native people. The smell of roasting kebap is going to be everywhere, as they had also set up outdoor grills with fresh lamb, and on the side were the tomatoes, cucumbers, onion and pide which is the equivalent of the pita bread, only tastier. I am fairly certain that this is for the citizens of...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on August 18, 2001

Flea Market
Behind the Blue Mosque
Istanbul, Turkey

Basilica Cistern

Best Of IgoUgo

Attraction

Basilica Cistern Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
It is easy to miss this place, as a very small ticket booth and a fairly large sign designating are partially hidden. It was relatively quiet when we went, so we were happy to get up close and personal with the columns... It goes by the name of Yerebatan Saray which means underground palace. The vaulted roof of the cistern is supported by 336 columns!! The water is very clean down here, and although they told us we'd be able to see fish, there were none. I don't think it would add anything. There are pathways that were built so that you can walk through to the end, where an enigma awaits you, and to this day, no one knows why 2 of the columns have Medusa's head all but upright. Her face is almost c...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 16, 2001

Basilica Cistern
Southwest of the Hagia Sophia
Istanbul, Turkey

Elegance Rug Store

Best Of IgoUgo

Attraction

Elegance Rug Store Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
Let's just say that we were brought here by gentle persuasion. We were making our way back to the hotel; a well dressed young man came over to us, and asked where we were from. When we replied, he exclaimed, oh! yes...do you know Gloria Gaynor? Listen, there's has to be a pickup line: be it Gloria, his uncle, his brother, his cousin twice removed, every Turk we met knew someone in AMERIKAH. He insisted on showing us his carpet store despite the fact that we told him we were not in the market. We reluctantly followed. As we entered the store and were introduced to the owner, our buddy went to get some apple tea for us. This means serious negotation time! In the corner was a woman sitting bes...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on August 18, 2001

Elegance Rug Store
Yerebatan Caddesi No. 46-48
Istanbul, Turkey

Aya Sofya/ Church of Holy Wisdom

Best Of IgoUgo

Attraction | "Aya Sofia"

Aya Sofya/ Church of Holy Wisdom Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
This church/mosque and now museum is considered by many to be the greatest masterpiece of Byzantium art. It was named for Holy Wisdom, rather than for holy figure. It has shrimp colored walls on the outside, and after one has been there, it seems to register very profoundly in the human data base. Sofia was built in the early 500's (yes, that's five hundred) and managed to survive many earthquakes. What is yet another wonder is its main dome: this vaulted dome appears to have been built with absolutely no columns to support it, as with similar type constructions. Emperor Justinian had this built by 2 mathematicians to attempt to restore the "empire's" greatness. Building time took nearly six years,...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 17, 2001

Aya Sofya/ Church of Holy Wisdom
Sultanhamet
Istanbul, Turkey

Aya Sofya/ Church of Holy Wisdom

Best Of IgoUgo

Attraction | "The Blue Mosque"

Aya Sofya/ Church of Holy Wisdom Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
The Blue Mosque was Sultan Ahmet I's answer to Justinian's Aya Sofia; it was a case of "my dog is bigger than your dog", but on a much grander scale of course. It is considered to be Islam's greatest and most beautiful mosque and the only one to have 6 minarets. It is called blue appropriately, as no less than 20,000 tiles from Iznik adorn it. It is an even more awesome sight at night, when it is lit. As we arrived in Turkey, it was well past midnight, and as we made a turn onto Sultan Ahmet Square, I caught a glimpse of one of the minarets bathed in light and gasped. I had no idea what splendor awaited us when we would walk through its chambers. You are welcome to visit the mosque, but you...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 26, 2001

Aya Sofya/ Church of Holy Wisdom
Sultanhamet
Istanbul, Turkey

Sultan Ahmet Square/Hippodrome of Constantinople

Best Of IgoUgo

Attraction | "Hippodrome"

Sultan Ahmet Square/Hippodrome of Constantinople Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
The Hippodrome served as an arena for horse races and other shows. At one time, it could hold over 50,000 people. What remains of it are three columns which are noteworthy; Constantine's Column, the Serpentine Column and Theodosius' Obelisk which was brought from Luxor, Egypt to Istanbul. The original construction dates back to 203 AD. Here rival chariot teams represented the greens and blues which were opposing parties. The loss of one could mean the removal of an emperor's throne, so these games were serious stuff. Over the years, the site was looted repeatedly, leaving the serpentine column headless, and the Egyptian Obelisk at 1/3 its original size. Crusaders in the 1200's tore off al...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on August 26, 2001

Sultan Ahmet Square/Hippodrome of Constantinople
Between Aya Sofia And Blue Mosque
Istanbul, Turkey

Topkapi Palace

Best Of IgoUgo

Attraction

Topkapi Palace Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
The Topkapi Palace served as a residence for sultans for nearly 300 years. The Palace is actually a huge complex of several courts and living quarters within each one. In its heydey, the population inside its walls reached 4,000. It was referred to by Europeans as the "seraglio". Speaking of which...several people had recommended we not miss seeing the harem. At the time we went, certain parts of it were closed to the public for restoration, and despite that, the lines were fairly long. There is a separate entrance fee for the harem, aside from admission to the Palace. We opted not to go. There are 4 separate gates, and with each successive gate, fewer and fewer people would be allowed on the groun...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 25, 2001

Topkapi Palace
Sultanahmet Square
Istanbul, Turkey
90 212 5224422

Taksim

Best Of IgoUgo

Attraction | "Taksim Square"

Taksim Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
Taksim Square is in Beyoglu, which comprised the European area during Ottoman times. It is littered with traffic and people, and is flanked by modern buildings, hotels and restaurants on all of its sides. It is also one of "the" bus terminals, and access to Istiklal Caddesi, which needs its own story book. One of the anchors of the square is the modern, five star hotel, the Marmara. Your eyes will also come to rest on the ubiquitous McDonald arches. There are also a couple of notable monuments at opposite ends of the square: one is the ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 24, 2002

Taksim
Istanbul
Istanbul, Turkey

Café Antre

Best Of IgoUgo

Attraction | "Caferaga Medresesi"

Café Antre Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
A "medresi" is a school, word deriving from the arabic "madrassa". It is customary to find these in mosques where students are taught the Koran. This particular one was not on the grounds of any mosque, but within a stone's throw from Aya Sofia . It is a Turkish handicraft center and gallery, and its purpose is to keep traditional crafts alive by teaching those who want to learn. I had every intention of seeking such a school before I left the US as I wanted to find examples of Turkish marbling on paper. Since this is the very nature of...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 24, 2002

Café Antre
Caferaga Mah.
Istanbul, Turkey
+90 216 3383483

Village of Sariyer

Best Of IgoUgo

Attraction

Village of Sariyer Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
This was a stop on our round-trip Bosphorus Cruise, and a wonderful way to break up the day. With the company of our superguide, we visited many areas, strolled on the streets where the kids were playing, embraced the smells and sights of the open fish market, and visited an unplanned museum just because it was less than 500 meters away...had crème brulée for dessert, bought a long sleeve sweatshirt because it was just too cool by the water. The road bustles with taverns and fish restaurants; Sariyer has one of the largest fish markets in Istanbul and is also famous for its delicious varieties of milk puddings and börek (pastries). Our stop at the ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 24, 2002

Village of Sariyer
Stop on Bosphorus Cruise
Istanbul, Turkey

Istiklal Caddesi, (Independence Street)

Best Of IgoUgo

Attraction | "Istiklal Cadesi"

Istiklal Caddesi, (Independence Street) Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
To get here, you need to arrive at Taksim Square first. From there, you will have little trouble figuring out which is the most crowded street, as it doesn't allow any motor vehicles, except for a red tram. Its name means "Independence Avenue" and is lined with all the hip shops, the cafés, the restaurants, music and bookstores, mosques, embassies, souvenir shops and some street vendors as well as a fish market which I found in one of the alleys. Do not disregard the alleys; they are literal treasure troves and you'll never know how to get back, but it's more fun that way. The tram was part of a re-urbanization project, although you'd think it had been there for hundreds of years. You are no...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on February 20, 2002

Istiklal Caddesi, (Independence Street)
off Taksim Square, Beyoglu
Istanbul, Turkey

Grand Bazaar (Kapali Carsi)

Best Of IgoUgo

Attraction | "The Grand Bazaar"

Grand Bazaar (Kapali Carsi) Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
This bazaar is the world's largest and is almost 1,000 years old. You can enter from any of several arched gates, and if you can find your way back to the same place, you're probably the first person to do so. We were positively stunned upon entering the bazaar, and landed into "gold alley". You wonder how it is that people survive selling the exact same thing as the guy next door. You can haggle here to your heart's content, and it is expected. Its corridors, alleys within alleys, are covered with ribbons of tourists babbling in every conceivable language. You'll see Turkish carpets, pottery, jewelry, olive oil soaps, clothing, shoes, souvenirs galore, statuettes, lots of blue evil e...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 11, 2001

Grand Bazaar (Kapali Carsi)
Kalpakcilarbasi Street
Istanbul, Turkey

If you go, read this first

Best Of IgoUgo

Story/Tip

Quote:
It's always a good idea to plan ahead for some things, and just wing others. However, you can really do yourself a favor and even save some money in certain cases.DO: 1) Get your visa when you land in Turkey. It's the easiest thing in the world and takes all of one minute. As they see your passport, they hand you the visa and you avoid the long lines at the US embassies. 2) Try to go off-season; rates drop dramatically from the second week in October to the third. 3) Use your mileage if you have accrued a sufficient amount. American is affiliated with Turkish Airlines. It is also affiliated with British Airways, so you can take AA to Heathrow, tranfer to BA for Istanbul....Read More

The Streets, The People, The Flavor

Best Of IgoUgo

Story/Tip

Chili Pepper Vendor Photo, Istanbul, Turkey
Quote:
It is impossible to go anywhere, and not be conscious of one's surroundings, especially when travelling in an ancient land like Turkey. We are both avid people watchers and their faces often reflect the mood and/or malaise of a country. We used to irritate our guide sometimes, because we wanted to slum in the streets with the populace, and it was not on his program. In fact, some of our fact finding missions were far better than his misguided recommendations. Many times, he would suggest that there was nothing particular to see, and we would discover delightful surprises If you are going to Istanbul and beyond, with guides, and they have their place, I hope you have made room for free time for your...Read More