"Too little time......." Istanbul by leics
Istanbul Travel Guide: 7,828 reviews and 20,233 photos
..but I knew there would be.
This was a brief trip, just 3 nights...two whole days and a morning. enough, I knew, to do nothing more than scratch the surface of this huge and vibrant city, to see the major historical sites and to spend just a short while exploring the realities.
And so it was.
I chose a hotel right in Sultanhamet, to ensure I spent as little time as possible getting to and from the places I wanted to see. I knew it was the 'tourist area' but for this short visit it suited my purposes. As it turned out, the hotel was right on the edge of Cankurtaran, a much more 'real' area and one which I enjoyed wandering for a while before breakfast and after my evening meal.
My priorities were simple: Topkapi and the Harem, Ayia Sofia, the Blue Mosque and anything else I could mnanage to fit in. As it turned out, I managed to fit in quite a lot more than I expected by dint of walking and walking and walking from (more or less) 9 am until 5pm, with only the briefest of breaks (usually for tea and something sweet to get the blood sugar back up again!).
But it was crowded....far more so than I had imagined. I was at Topkapi when it opened at 9am (there was a 15-minute queue even then), and by 11.30 it was heaving with tour groups, school parties and a huge contingent of what I assume were Turkish sailors on a daytrip (all terribly smart in their uniforms).
My visits to Ayia Sofia and the Blue Mosque were also accompanied by tour groups and school parties (I have to say that small Turkish schoolchildren are just as noisy as their UK equivalents!).
What must Istanbul be like in the high season? I have realised that the return visit I plan for the future must most definitely be in low season....I found the crowds I encountered quite irritating enough (and every tram I saw was packed to the gills with people)!
I managed to fit in (not just ticking boxes, but taking my time and looking):
Topkapi and the Harem
Sultanahmet Camii (the Blue Mosque)
Ayia Irene (from the outside only, but finding some rather fascinating excavations tucked away behind)
Yerebatan Sarnici (wondrous)
the Hippodrome and its sundry columns
the Archeology Museum
the musuem of the Ancient Orient
the Spice Bazaar
a wander across Galata Bridge into Karakoy and a visit to its fish market
Rustem Pasa Camii (with the most wonderful Iznik tiles)
a wander along some of the sea walls, and what is left of the Palace of Bucleon (hardly anything visible, in truth)
a very quick whizz round the Grand Bazaar
Beyait Camii (beautiful courtyard columns of marble, serpentine and porphry)
various wanders around Cankurtaran and Kumkapi
It may seem like a lot.....but there is still so very much more to see and explore.
Things which stick in my mind:
the huge variety in clothing styles
the beauty of tiles
the friendliness and courtesy of ordinary folk
the quiet inside huge buildings, even when they are full of visitors
the tulips....such bright colours and so many of them
walking back on the lower deck of the Galata Bridge and being 'hooked' by a fisherman above...and how kind and concerned were the two men who rushed to my aid, how they disentangled me (the hook had, fortunately, caught in my shoe rather than in me) and insisted I took the lead weight as my 'good luck' charm..
the delicious smell of fried fish around the Kayakoy fish market and the many people thoroughly enjoying their fish sandwich lunches..
the umpteen street sellers of simit and roast corn on the cob and roast chestnuts, and the knife grinders, and the shoe-shine-men...and the few small boys I saw with their plastic bags of tissues and their sets of scales...
the sheer massive variety and diveristy of what was on sale, everywhere....
the ebullient, gregarious and totally tireless chef-hatted owner of the Kayat Cafe, just up the road from my hotel, whose cries of 'My sister! My brother!' to all and sundry ensured his cafe was full of people whenever I passed....and whose food was excellent, and well-priced, and whose much quieter relative served everyone with courtesy and modest smiles.....
glimpses of ancient Sultanahmet still visible, hidden between and beside 'newer' buildings....six hammam domes seen from my hotel but entirely inaccessible....a chunk of city wall protruding ...a watchtower leaning drunkenly over a narrow street...
the lack of health and safety regulations.....no nanny state here....people trusted to know their own abilities and take responsibility for their own lives...
the sheer number of people....not tourists but Istambullu....
the wooden houses in Cankurtaran, patched and re-patched, full of holes, leaning drunkenly at angles above the streets...and still lived in...and many with satellite dishes....
So very different in so many ways, but I felt safe there.......and next time (yes, there will be a next time) I will explore more......
- Pros:Stuffed with history and things to see
- Cons:Vast and busy...and the traffic
- In a nutshell:Wonderful city full of history
Ancient indeed, dating from 439AD and built (not in person!) by Cyrus, prefect of the East. Theodosius later extended... more travel advice
Divan Yolu was once the main approach to Topkapi, thronged with people making their way to and from the Divan. Before... more travel advice
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