1 year is a long time to be able to write one post… Shame on me, but I had to write this anyways…. My Turkey Diaries 2013!
Feb 2013 – Last years Birthday…(Happy Birthday To Me Belated and its almost time for the next!!!) So Abhi decided we needed that one to be grand ( we have a couple of my birthday’s apart) .. So off we went to Istanbul…one place Indians living in UK or USA do not need a separate visa :-)… Visa on entry is permitted.. There is provision for getting a digital visa online which saves a lot of time and is adequate for some airlines who do not get the concept of ‘Visa on ARRIVAL’
I was really excited.. My traveler heart always wanted to go to Turkey… So we booked our travel without further ado. We were to spend 3.5 days there. To be honest I was skeptical as well.. One of my friends did not have a great experience in Morocco…so that niggled me somewhat.. However we were ready for this adventure.. Packed Gublu off to his kennel, and went to work and there after directly went to the airport….our journey began..:-)
We reached Istanbul at about 4 am on 28th.. I slept through the journey. so much that Abhi could not even wish me.. New place.. Unknown language.. We walked around for a bit and took a taxi to our hotel.. Our Hotel was in Sirkeci (cer-k-ji).. Taxi fare should not be more than 50 Turkish Lira to go to that area.. Now you must be wondering why am I quoting prices here… Although I want to share my lovely experience , I wanted to brain dump as well so that people aspiring to go to Istanbul can benefit from my experience..
So the hotel we booked is called Lavni Hotel and Spa.. And probably one the best hotels I have been to. Very friendly, comfortable and posh. Although check in time was 2pm, they got our room ready in half an hour..and upgraded it as well. They even have a client experience executive. Use of hamam is free there and the breakfast is to die for. The hotel was in such a location that everything is at a walking distance. And if you do not want to walk.. tram lines are extremely convenient as well and priced at 3 Lira from one place to the other. So off we went exploring and visited Hagia Sofia, Blue Mosque, Gulhane Gardens, Topkapi palace, Grand Bazar, Spice Bazar(Egyptian Bazar) , Arista Bazar. The Bosphorous cruise is lovely however make sure not to pay more than 10 Euro per person. We took a half a day tour to Pierre de Lottie. Paid 35 euro per person. Works out much cheaper than the full day tour, elements of which can be done separately and a tour guide is not needed for those parts.
Turkey is a place where you can hone your negotiation skills…its just the way things are.. Its like a game..Remember to haggle.. Every where you go.. Remember that the prices will be ten times more that the right value..
Food.. Ahhh it was one of the delightful experiences… Starting from cheese to bread(simit) to meat.. One tip.. Search for a place which is full of locals. Be sure to see what you are eating and confirm the price before ordering. The transactions are made in Lira..a few places I liked: from Hagia Sophia of you walk to Topkapi palace there you can see a few shops lined in your left hand side. The last shop is a food joint. They make and sell some kind of pan cake outside their shop. Its a small shop and has a smaller menu.. But man.. The food is good..:-) The other place I remember is a sea food place under Galata Bridge.. There are hundreds of places and people standing outside to actually coerce you in.. Physically and emotionally… Steer clear if you can.. And go to Neptune Balik.. Very good food and the only owner who told us upfront that they charge prawns by pieces and not by portions. The best kabob joint we found was in Sirkeci and is called Sehzade Erzurum Cag Kebabi.. We found this by chance in a small back alley..4-5 items in the menu..the servers speak very little English but the menu has pictures..the meat is roasted horizontally and trust me.. Its simple and tasty.. Don’t miss this place if possible.. We were so delighted that we had the wrap for lunch and dinner and our hearts still wanted more. The rice puddings are just devine..:-)
We bought some spices and saffron from the Egyptian Bajar. Turkish Saffron is cheap and is like 10 lira or less for 100 gm. Bought a lot and have tried too.. No flavor but imparts a nice yellow color. The more expensive version is the Iranian saffron.. Not sure if we paid a lot or not but is approx 20 lira for 1 gm. I personally did not like the tea aroma in Spice Bajar. However bought my Turkish delights and tea’s from the ‘Home Made Cafe’ (Its the name of the place) at Gulhane.. It was a little more expensive but worth it.
3 days was not enough for exploring Istanbul. Did not even have the chance to go to Taxim area, Princess islands or got a chance to do the Edirne trip. Next time i want to go there for a much longer time.. Do the hot air ballooning and so many other exciting things.. People are lovely and helpful. End of February I thought was a good time to go.. Good weather and less tourists.
I shall go back there again.. Very soon.. As I am in love with Istanbul.. In Love Actually!!!!