We were told about a little hotel called the “Side Hotel“. It is right next door to a tour guide agent Ready 2 Travel. (very handy) The Side Hotel has been going for 40 years. The owner said he was the first hotel to be built in the area. It was a very modest hotel with striking marble floors and historic relics on the walls. The best thing about this hotel was the excellent location. We were right in the heart of many attractions all within walking distance. The famous Blue Mosque, and St Sophia were just literally around the corner, as was a wonderful handicrafts bazaar. We saw the German fountain, Topkapi Palace. Such awe inspiring architecture and the tiles in the mosque were absolutely magnificent. Islamic tiles are the most beautiful I have ever seen.
In the evening at sunset families would all gather together at the very large tea garden square between the Blue Mosque and St Sophia. Being Ramadan it was like a carnival with lots of lights, people selling wares, children playing and laughing. Many traditional foods were being cooked for the Muslims to break their fast. It was really pleasant to sit and watch the people go by. I particularly love to sit and watch people. It is so interesting to see their faces and mannerisms. It tells all sorts of stories. We had our first Traditional Turkish icecream (Dondurma) at the square. We didn’t know that they were chewy and stretchy. They don’t seem to melt. The guys that sell them were dressed up in traditional clothing, with little hats on in a special box with a bell. They do all sorts of tricks with their long handled paddles, that they use to scoop the icecream up with. We laughed as we watched unsuspecting tourist (like us), trying to get their icecream from the man, only to be left with an empty cone in their hands.
We visited the Grand Bazaar. It is huge. There are 64 narrow streets (more like pathways) with more than 4,000 shops. All undercover. It is like a labyrinth. Selling all types of wares from leather, kilims (what are they, you may ask. We didn’t know but soon found out), fabrics, spices, jewellery, antiques, food… I found it quite overwhelming at first. So many things to see.
Where we stayed the cobbled streets were full of many different Restaurants. We tried traditional Turkish of course along with many other cultures. The staff were friendly and had a good sense of humour. The buildings were very attractive with all the little Turkish lamps and gourd lights at night. I would like to try and make one of the gourd lamps one day;)
We visited the tour guide man Arif next door and booked a 1/2 day boat cruise along the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn. Along the way we went past historic castles, bridges and monuments. Once we got to the Black Sea we were able to go for a swim in a beautiful bay with sparkling blue clear water. Then we climbed up the steps to top of a hill where a little village overlooked the black sea. A fantastic view. It was hot so when we got to the cafe we had a long cool refreshing drink. It was great value and we learned a lot about the Otterman history in Turkey. Istanbul was a delight to go to. Loved all the mosques and monasteries. The people were warm and friendly. Plenty to see and do. In fact we would like to go back and discover more. Highly recommend going to the area where we stayed. It was great.