I have been in Istanbul for 5 days now. Time has gone fast as I was trying to get a feel for the city, its history and its people. It is now clear why there are guide books dedicated only to Istanbul as one could stay here for weeks without seeing the same place twice.
On Tuesday, I visited the archaeological museum. As it is expected, it has some great artifacts collected from all the corners of the empire during the Ottoman era. The most impressive certainly are the sarcophagus of the necropolis in Sidon (Lebanon) that is so well preserved. I stayed a long time contemplating the so-called sarcophagus of Alexander that I had wanted to see since I had heard about it in Lebanon.
Yesterday, I visited the Dolmabahce Palace. It is the last palace used by the Sultans which replaced the Topkapi Palace as the Sultan’s residence. It is an impressive place and is definitely worth a visit. Too bad I had to get on guided tours. I ended up being rushed around without much time to admire and contemplate what I wanted to see. With more than 2000 paintings and more than 200 rooms, it was surely worth more than my 1h45 visit. But unfortunately that is how long I was allowed to stay in the palace. At the end, it all blurred together as the guides were pushing us around from one amazing room to the next.
I also met with Taylan and some other friends of Elif for two evenings. Since she was not able to be here when I was visiting her country, she had given me the contact info of her family and one of her friends. Thanks so much Elif. Not wanting to bother her family I decided to contact Taylan instead. It was very nice as many of the guys speak very good English.
The first evening, I met Taylan and his friends in Taksim, the most bustling part of the European side. I found them quite easily and we went around to some cool bars drinking “Efes” beers. At the end of the night, I was offered a very good small hamburger that Taylan presented as a staple of late night eating in Taksim. I do not remember the name though!
The second evening, I accepted to join them on the Anatolian side (as they call the Asian side) so I had to find my way to the bustling street called Bagdat street. To tell the truth, it took me some time to get there as I did not have a map of that side (the Asian side is not documented in the guide book!) and I did not know how to get there either. Well, I went to the ferry dock and started asking around which ferry to take. First window, the guy tells me to go to the next on the left. I go there and the guy tells me to go to the left… hum, maybe he meant the next peer. Next peer, first window, the guy tells me to go to the next on the left again! I assume he means next peer so I go there and the guy at the window tells me to go to the next on the left again! Fortunately, it was the right peer as there was no other on the left! 🙂 Well, I managed to get to the other side and a taxi whisked me away to the right place. Taylan had invited some other friends of Elif this time. I had a good time but frankly, I did not notice much difference between Taksim and Bagdat. They kind of looked the same with clothing stores, cafes, restaurants and plenty of Starbucks!
Tonight was a mellow evening as I went to the Turkish bath for a complete cleaning. It was very similar to the one I had last time albeit more expensive but less dangerous :). I also splurged myself and got a 30 minutes oil massage for that much more. I can tell you I was feeling great and was radiating peace as I was walking out of there. When I arrived at the hotel cafe, I was welcomed by a belly dancer who took me on the dance floor for some dancing. It was a great way to finish my stay here :).
That’s it for Istanbul. Tomorrow I am going South along the Aegean Sea :).