Like everyone who comes to Istanbul, we always choose accommodation in the old city so that we can get everywhere easily and especially on foot. We know that the accommodations here are quite modest, but we are satisfied with that because in Istanbul (but not only), we ran and I always found a clean bed at the Turks regardless of the other conditions. We happened to find even better and we are very happy, as it was this time.
I reached the hotel easily. If on the first roads we were scared by the traffic in Istanbul, now we are not at all. The road doesn't seem so confusing anymore. For the old city, you only have to go straight from the entrance to Istanbul, on Adnan Menderes Blv following the direction of Aksaray, and there are countless signs to help you.
For our current hotel, we absolutely followed the signs for the old town until a ramp where you turn left to enter Ataturk Blvd, which we walked until we passed the Valens Aqueduct. Right after him, we turned right and then left and arrived at our hotel.
I think I said before that we don't orient ourselves by GPS, but do our homework well at home, we orient ourselves by the map and signs and strictly for the area we need to reach, we make our route online that takes into account the unique directions in Sultanhamet and not I had problems too.
Stone Art Hotel is located in the Fatih district, on Vefa Caddesi, about 500 m from the Suleymaniye Mosque, 2-300 m from the Aqueduct of Valens, the only ancient aqueduct, so well preserved to this day, 1 km from the Grand Bazaar and that of spices. Nearby, about 200 m, is the Sehzade mosque, built by Sinan on the order of Sultan Suleyman. The hotel has 10 rooms, I think they are all triple, 2 floors on the front, 3 on the back, and 4 rooms on the landing.
Located on a more airy street than others I've stayed in, quieter, with a lot of pie shops but also small restaurants with very good and cheap food. Left and right, small shops but also a supermarket, where we found everything we needed, but above all, at one of the lower terraces, next to the hotel, we solved our breakfast problem with ayran and their good pies.
There was also a bar very close to us, something you rarely see in Istanbul, as alcohol is banned in public spaces as we know. It is a location only in the windows, absolutely in sight, you don't eat, you only drink, and it was always full there, especially young people.
And opposite the hotel is a mosque, small it is true, but if you are a light sleeper, it's a bit difficult to wake up at 5 o'clock... However, I don't know where you can stay in Istanbul without hearing something like that.
Although we were entitled to a free parking voucher at a public car park a little further from the hotel, we were told that we could also park on the street in front of the hotel, which we did. I didn't move the car from there, as it always happens when we arrive in Istanbul, and I kept an eye on it the whole time, although I never had a problem.
We always handed over the car with the key to a Turk, who took it to a parking lot, he knows where, and he also brought it to us when we left. If on the first trips we got palpitations, in time we calmed down and let them park the car without any hesitation.
From the street, I entered a small and narrow hall, with a sofa right at the entrance and at the end of the hall a small reception. We were greeted at the reception by a handsome, English-speaking, smiling, and very kind young man. He showed us to our rooms on the 2nd floor overlooking the street and was helpful with a lot of information related to our schedule.
The next morning when our boys came down to buy us a hot pie and an ayran we had to face it because our receptionist was sleeping on that sofa, wrapped in a duvet, and other items that had fallen on the floor and were blocking the hall.
He apologized and told us that tourists don't really leave the hotel before 8, but if we are early risers he will take care of it the next day. The poor man was funny and I assured him that nothing would take us out of the house before 8 o'clock on the other days we were going to stay there.
Although it has only 2 floors, the hotel is equipped with an elevator, which we did not use, but went up some circular stairs with brick-clad walls that give the appearance of a cave, but are not scary. The hallways on each floor are quite narrow and carpeted and from there you enter the 4 rooms.
Our rooms were identical, on the 2nd floor, triple, with high beds and lots of pillows which we really like, a king-size double bed and a single. The double bed was positioned by the window, with a single bedside table with a lamp between the 2 beds, but that didn't bother us in the least.
Cleanliness everywhere, pleasant smell, minibar, air conditioning, TV, parquet on the floor, chest of drawers, very beautiful curtains and drapes, ceiling with a spotlight system. The minibar was built into a chest of drawers that had an electric kettle on top, 3 cups of coffee, but also tea bags, sugar, 3 glasses, and 3 plates. Room with little space due to the third bed which we used for storage but it was so clean, warm, and good that we didn't feel like we were missing anything or need more.
We spend so little time in the room when we go to Istanbul that we just pray that the weather will be with us and we won't have to retreat to the hotel which never happened. We've always had good weather, even if it's been colder, the important thing is that it doesn't rain, and it hasn't rained much so far.
The whole wall of the room facing the street was almost entirely in windows. A double window like in any room and a door like a balcony but which didn't lead to any balcony. That was not very good. Not for us, but I was thinking that for a family with a small child it is not very comfortable to know that that door leads to the street and not to a balcony.
I suggested to the guys hanging around the reception to convey to the owners that there must be a railing there even if there is no balcony, and they said they knew it was coming, that's why they made a door and not just a regular window. Hopefully next time we come it will be like that.
The bathroom, was large, clean, and modern, with a shower cubicle with very good drainage, a hair dryer, toiletries for 3 people, disposable slippers, and clean towels that they changed in every day.
Free wifi available throughout the hotel which worked very well everywhere.
The reception is open 24/7, as I said, check-in starts at 2 pm, and check-out is until 12 pm. They say they also have a luggage room at no extra cost, but I think it's about the area reception, where I saw luggage stored.
Although we like to change places, I don't rule out that on my next visit I will also look for Stone Art Hotel. I liked its location, the proximity to the main objectives, and the fact that we were not going up and down to get to the center of events, as happened to us when we stayed in other areas.
From Vefa street, immediately exit onto Ataturk Blvd, and from there, to the right you immediately reach the Ataturk bridge but also to Galata and to the left through the Valens Aqueduct you come out to a very beautiful area, with a large park on the left and on the right, with a section for children but also with sports equipment. On the opposite side, we immediately reached the University and quickly in Ordu Caddesi which is the landmark of the old town. An area different from the ones I've stayed in before, where I will return with love.
This road was our best to Istanbul. I left home later than usual and spent 45 minutes at the pallet, on the Giurgiu bridge. We also stopped at our kings in Bulgaria (at Kotel, about 50 km before customs), as we always do and a few times to decompress the driver. With all our stops, at 3 pm we were staying at the Stone Art Hotel, in Fatih, on Vefa Caddesi, which I wrote about here.
After the customs, about right by Edirne, the warning signs begin that the automatic toll booths are coming. They are no longer valid, but they still warn you about the price of about 2 km. We stopped at the point we knew (about 40 km from customs), but we found out that you no longer pay there, but at the entrance to Istanbul. I don't know if that's necessarily what they said because the people there don't know English at all, we know them for the past few years, but that's what I understood. 2 years ago I purchased a €15 sticker with which I passed 4 times and I knew that a pass was about 6 Turkish liras. Now we had the sticker stuck on the windshield and I don't know if they "read" some money on it, but it is certain that we passed through the gates there and at the entrance to Istanbul without anything happening.
The truth is that we didn't stop either, but I didn't see others either, so I didn't realize if there is any highway toll, at least on the Edirne-Istanbul distance. At the entrance to Istanbul where I always got stuck in traffic jams, now there was a line. I only caught normal traffic lights with 2-5-7 cars in front, no more. We didn't even think that such a thing was possible in Istanbul.
Maybe in this article, I will also refer to objectives that I have seen another time, but you will realize which one I have passed on now and I will only upload photos from those taken in this outing.
How did we get so addicted to these visits? Well, I told you, at first it was out of gratitude to a doctor who took care of me. Then we simply fell in love with them, the Turks. We love everything about Istanbul.
The buildings, the mosques, the bridges, the narrowest strait, the bazaars, the dervishes, the hubbub in the city, the madness of the evening when there is so much bustle with the closing of shops, with the collection of garbage.
We love eating chestnuts on the street and they are a very serious reason to make the trip. We are addicted to some products from them and go to buy them regularly. We love the morning when their pubs in all the streets are full of Turks who come to eat a pie, drink an ayran, but above all to read the newspaper.
I love their relaxation like this with the night in their heads, I love to see them running around during the day, carrying boxes and boxes under which they can't even be seen anymore, and over time we have come to terms with the smell of their sweat, obviously, especially in means of transport. I love talking to them, they are extremely friendly and if there is chemistry you are their brother for life.
The husband loves to negotiate with them, anything, for the sake of negotiation and not for any economy, we like to drink tea and sit on stories when we want to buy something (usually leather or gold). I love the spice bazaar, but not the Grand Bazaar, which I've only been to twice. I like to get lost in the streets between the Grand Bazaar and the spice market, where there are streets organized by stalls and you can see things there that would not cross your mind, I like their streets with grocers and I like to taste all of them.
I like that every time I go I buy trips that take me to places I don't know about and where it would be very difficult to reach on foot. I love the friendliness of the hotels I've stayed in, one I haven't encountered anywhere else. I like young Turks because they are handsome in spades. On Istiklal, the most famous and busiest street, 3 km long, which takes you to Taksim Square, where we are talking about modern Istanbul, around 11 at night, when people come out into the streets, I saw the most beautiful people per meter square of my life. I like the area around the Galata bridge and I like the balik with pickles from the floating restaurants, I like drinking fruit juice on the street, freshly squeezed, I like how they stop their cars on the sloping streets to buy a banana, or a newspaper, or to drink a soda and I never heard a horn from the rear.
I trust Turkish drivers and know that even though it looks like chaos on their streets, especially the narrow and sloping ones in Sultanahmet, they are actually very careful and protect others from the traffic as well. I like it when I want to enter a terrace where you don't pay two cents to enter, but after you pass the door, very friendly, large, beautiful spaces open up, where young or older Turks play backgammon, chess... I read the newspaper or just talk.
I love their food and there is nothing I didn't like. Our boys are upset that they can't find anything to drink, or find it harder or expensive, but they have come to terms with it and somehow they solve the problem. And I'm glad that on every road when we think there's not much left to see, we discover incredible things/places. Istanbul is inexhaustible and I don't know if we will ever say that we have nothing more to do in it. Now, because we are relaxed and we are oriented differently than on the first roads, it is as if we are going home.
As we said in the accommodation, we also settle, like everyone else, in the old town, to be close to everything. In all these years since we have been going to Istanbul, only last year we used the tram because we refused the accommodation we had at Luna Apartments and we were offered another one, at Green Park, 23 stops from the center. Otherwise, I only went on foot or by bus/minibus, when we had organized trips.
The main thoroughfare that runs through the old city, Sultanahmet, is Ordu Caddesi, which is served by the tram line T1. This is the artery that we take as a landmark because almost all the important sights in Istanbul are concentrated here. If you are on Ordu Caddesi, somewhere before the Beyazid and University complex, you only have to go down, on the tram line and pay attention to the signs.
You pass by the Column of Constantine, located on the site of the old Forum, very close is the Grand Bazaar (Kapali Carși) and you reach Sultanahmet Square with Saint Sophia (Saint Wisdom), once a church, which became a mosque, the Blue Mosque, named after the 20,000 blue tiles inside, but it is also famous for its 6 minarets.
Also in this area, you can find the Hippodrome, a long and narrow building used for sports competitions of which nothing remains, but in its place, you can find important ancient traces: the Egyptian Obelisk, the oldest obelisk in Istanbul, the Serpentine Column, the Walled Column and the German Fountain ( it is located at the beginning of the horse street, in memory of the horse races that used to be held here) and was built on the occasion of the visit of the German Emperor Wilhelm II.
The 2 city tours, the red line, and the blue line, hop-on, hop-off type with free Wi-fi on the buses depart from Sultanahmet Square opposite the Hagia Sophia at km 0 of Istanbul, the park, the Cisterns and also from Sultanahmet Square. Through the side of Hagia Sophia, between it and the Blue Mosque is the street that takes you to the Topkapi Palace, and going on the tram line down from Sultanahmet Square, towards Galata, you go through streets full of shops, restaurants with pillows where Turkish women prepare gozleme and şuberek, traditional Turkish pies with cheese or meat, you can also find the big Koska store on the way, famous for traditional Turkish sweets, shit, baklava, etc. where we waste a lot of time.
You reach the Galata Bridge area by passing the Yeni Mosque, on the other side, up the hill, you can see the Suleymaniye Mosque but also Rustheim Pasha and of course the Spice Bazaar in the area. Under the Galata bridge, the oldest bridge over the Golden Horn, there are a lot of restaurants that invite you to come in, on the bridge you can enjoy the show offered by the fishermen lined up along the entire 490 m length of the bridge.
If you have arrived in Galata, you can admire the Golden Horn on the left, the Bosphorus strait on the right, a strip of water that separates Europe from Asia, connects the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara, and is the narrowest navigable strait.
Crossing the Galata Bridge, you reach the Galata Tower, where you must climb for a 360-degree view of old Istanbul, but also of the Eminonu district, on the banks of the Golden Horn. If your legs hold you can reach Dolmabahce Palace on foot or by tram, from here there are buses to Princes Island (Buyucada), Taksim Square is also close by with shops, terraces, luxury hotels, and the Independence Monument, where you can walk with the historical tram also called nostalgic.
This is how you find all the points of interest in Istanbul, following the T1 tram line, on Ordu Caddesi. Even though it is famous as a winding city, if you are in Istanbul for the first time, even the second, or third time, my advice is to sit in the old city, take the main artery Ordu Caddesi as your landmark and pay close attention to pointers. Along it, you will find everything you are interested in, and when you wander through the narrow streets, left-right from the tram line, you discover a fascinating world.
During this stay, we had very good weather. It was twenty or so degrees all day, not very hot but not cold either. There were also clouds in the last two days but without rain. We go, almost without exception, in May and in October-November to Edirne or Istanbul, and in these months we always got only good weather for walking.
Their currency is the Turkish lira and the best exchange I've always had from EUR. Every year we noticed an increase in prices, which means there is inflation in Turkey.
If diesel fuel was always much more expensive than here and we used to get it from the country or fill it up at the Bulgarians, this time it seemed better to us. I bought diesel for 3.85 lei/liter, which at a parity of 1.40 lei/liter meant about 5.40 lei/liter, better than before.
And now let me tell you what we did in the 4 days.
After a quick stay at the Stone Art Hotel, I also flew into the city and after passing by the University, a very beautiful building, located in a similar square, I went out to Ordu Caddesi, past the Beyazid Complex, and at around 4 p.m. I was in Sultanahmet Square and feasted our eyes on Saint Sophia and the Blue Mosque that we had missed so much. We were happy because from our hotel we went out to Ordu without going up and down like before and that was a great help to us on the other days as well.
A year ago we discovered a terrace with dervishes in this area where we also ate, where we really liked it. I didn't know its name anymore, only that it is in the area of Sultanahmet Square, but on which street when there are a lot of streets there?
We poked around a bit and finally found her. Phew, what a joy! It's called Maşele Cafe, it's inside a textile bazaar and you get to it by walking past Sfânta Sofia (not down the T1 tram line towards Galata, but on the street on the right). Maşele Cafe is a very large venue and they have three musicians playing specific Turkish instruments and whirling dervish dances any day of the week. And good food, like fast food, but not only that. Here, two Turkish women are preparing šuberek, a Turkish pie with all kinds of meat fillings, but also gozleme, cheese pies, buneeee...
This time I had a platter with mixed meats, grilled vegetables, and sauces, all good but also quite expensive, 38 EUR, platter for 2 people. It's a bit nasty to drink apple tea after such a meal, but that's what we did because they don't serve alcoholic drinks here and our boys hadn't had time to get their bearings. We also ate a hearty gozleme (3 pounds) and admired the whirling dervish dances for a while, but not too long, because our boys' throats were dry.
We left there to solve this burning problem and on the way home, we stopped at a few agencies because we wanted to buy a trip but weren't quite sure about anything. During these years I have seen almost everything there is to see in Istanbul, I am referring especially to the famous sights, some more than once because I have changed travel buddies and every time I repeated something in addition to the more pass each time, willy-nilly.
But that didn't bother us, we always enjoy going to places we've been to in Istanbul. We finally decided on a day trip, we agreed on the next day because we knew it would be the most beautiful weather-wise, and we chose a trip that included a Bosphorus cruise. The trip was 70 EUR per person at all the agencies we passed and we chose to buy from a Turk who served us sh*t (!!!) and in the end, we convinced him to give us a discount of 15 euros. I don't know the name of his agency anymore, but it is located in Ordu Caddesi between Sfânta Sofia and the Grand Bazaar.
The day trip, route no. 6 of their catalog, included:
- race on the Golden Horn, the main port for (Byzantine, Constantinople), Istanbul for over 2000 years
- race on the Bosphorus - this is the only way you have a chance to see all the palaces and pavilions lined up along the shores
- Rumeli fortress - the largest fortification in Istanbul, which can be seen from the strait
- Pierre Loti Hill - named after the French novelist and naval officer Pierre Loti who came to Istanbul for 2 years, fell in love with him and a Turkish woman, and stayed for 15 years. He wrote a lot about Istanbul and started introducing it to the world, especially France, which made tourists come to Istanbul, and the Turks appreciated this and dedicated this hill to him as a sign of respect
- the cable car from the top of the Pierre Loti hill, from where you have a special panorama all the way down
- the city walls, broken only 2 times in their entire existence, in 1600 years
- shopping opportunity at a leather factory where a fashion show was also included
- lunch close to Kardiga district
- visit to Dolmabahce Palace which was home to 6 sultans, after Topkapi, from 1856 to 1924
- crossing the Bosphorus Bridge - one of the largest suspension bridges connecting Europe to Asia
- by coach on a hill in Asia, up, for a view of the Bosphorus and old Istanbul
The next day we presented ourselves in front of the hotel as we had agreed with the agency and at 9 o'clock a minibus took us and at 9.20 we were already in the port looking for the Seremoni ship with which we were going to embark on the cruise. The whole trip was very well organized.
The minibus came at the agreed time (I don't know how it calculated its time considering the traffic from them), and there were representatives waiting for us at the port who directed us to the ship, every time we got on or off the minibus during the day, in addition, during the entire trip we had a guide who was very helpful and gave us a lot of information.
It left somewhere after 9:30, I don't know exactly, and we started our trip with a walk through the Golden Horn, an 8 km long route of which we covered a part, as well as the 32 km long Bosphorus strait. We passed under the Ataturk bridge, then under the new bridge built in a more modern style, and then under the Galata bridge, so familiar to us. We admired the Suleymaniye and Yeni Cami (in front of the Galata Bridge) mosques from the boat.
I walked on the left side and passed the Museum of Modern Art, then the mosque and the Dolmabahce Palace, the Ciragan Palace (turned into a hotel, the most expensive in Istanbul, at €34,000 a night in the presidential suite or his pasha to be called by them), built by Sultan Abdulaziz, we passed by the most famous disco in Istanbul, the Reina disco, the Ortakoy Mosque, the Beylerbeyi Palace, an architectural gem, at the foot of the Bosphorus Bridge, then under the Bosphorus Bridge that connects the two continents to the FSM (Fatih Sultan Mehmet) bridge. We passed by the Rumeli Fortress, built in 4 months by Sultan Mehmet who conquered Constantinople.
The exit to the Black Sea begins from the FSM bridge and we turned towards the Asian side and crossed to the other side. We passed a residential area with some gorgeous houses. The guide told us that the houses here cost between 5 and 100 million EUR. Another bay caught our attention, the Bebek Bay (with a child's face), named after a very handsome governor with a child's face, but also the Military Academy, an imposing building. In the waters of the Bosphorus, we also admired Leandru's Tower (Kiz Kulesi in Turkish), or the Maiden's Tower, built on an island where the Bosphorus joins the Sea of Marmara. There are 2 legends about this tower, but today it functions as a restaurant.
I have to tell you that the prices on the boat are high even though the guide told us when we left that we can eat in peace. My husband had a beer that cost 15 lira and a cappuccino for 5 lira, not cheap.
We returned by boat from where we left, passing under the bridges again, admiring the houses, mosques, and city walls but also the Buyucada Island that could be seen in the distance, where we had been last year and from the port, we boarded the minibus no. 9 with which we went to the end of the Golden Horn to go to the Pierre Loti hill to take the cable car. We passed the 4th Golden Horn bridge connecting the highway to Ankara.
Here our guide wanted to make a remark and said, a little affected it seemed to us, that even if Istanbul is the largest commercial and administrative center, with the most inhabitants, ..., Ankara is the capital of the country. Just now, from him, I learned that the population of Istanbul would no longer be 18 million inhabitants as we knew, but that it would be 15 million.
Near the end of the Golden Horn, there is the Dolphinarium and on either side of the park. Then I saw the biggest cemetery in my life, a Muslim one, which stretches over a corner of the hill, it is terraced and after our minibus stopped, we passed through it until we reached the cable car. The only Muslim cemetery in Istanbul, as the guide told us, the others are mixed.
Because God looks at me when I talk about Istanbul and I took a little longer, we will continue the trip and what we did on the other days, in a second part.
After the Bosphorus cruise, we continued our tour and boarded the minibus that was waiting for us when we got off the ship and took us to the Pierre Loti hill, dedicated to the French writer Pierre Loti, as a sign of respect for attracting tourists to Istanbul through his writings. From where the minibus left us, we walked a little further, through the Muslim cemetery, itself an objective, and at the top, we found the famous cafe, Pierre Loti, but because it was not in the plan, we only enjoyed the special panorama that we had it from the top towards the end of the Golden Horn and headed for the cable car.
With the cable car, we immediately reached the base of the hill, it has a route of only 2-300 m. We didn't even get up well because we had to get down.
The 30-seater minibus was waiting for us downstairs, which then stopped us at a leather factory. We were ushered into a room on the ground floor, set up with a catwalk for a fashion show, we were served tea and we had a spectacular fashion show that we had never participated in before.
With music and light games, about four girls and two boys delighted our eyes and what can I say, the products were also absolutely special. I then went to the factory's workshops and also to the shop upstairs where I found absolutely gorgeous products which had a huge price tag on them.
The owner of the factory gave us a speech and told us that only for us any product is at half price (we know these speeches of theirs!), but if you wanted to buy it, you did it for 10 times less. That's how we ended up negotiating for a jacket, but we changed our minds because it was for my daughter, and we can't find these children anymore.
We left the factory, past the city walls facing the Sea of Marmara, and headed to the Kadârga district, where we had lunch which consisted of lentil soup (good, but too spicy for my taste), main course (chicken, with rice, potatoes, and vegetables) and for dessert, baklava with grapes. Just enough and very good, like anything I've eaten at their place.
Back on the Bosphorus, the 1.5 km bridge, was the first to connect two continents. We went to the Asian side, on a hill, at the highest point, to the Mavera cafe. From there I had a phenomenal view of the ships in the strait waiting to enter the port, I took advantage of the observatory that was there and for a lira, I also looked at the strait but also at old Istanbul.
Because Mavera is a very nice place, we also sat down, asked for a menu, and ordered a banana split that looked like the one in the picture. But not in reality. Expensive for this dessert (£24) and small (half a banana cut in half, with some ice cream and some chocolate sauce that got my plate dirty, says the husband) for the price, but nicely presented and good.
From there again in the minibus to the Dolmabahce Palace, which I had seen a year ago.
Dolmabahce is a complex consisting of the Bezm-î Alem Valide Sultan Mosque or Dolmabahce as it is better known, the Clock Tower, and the palace itself with the Treasury Gate. At this mosque last year I saw a sea of people, who had lined up their shoes outside and filled the entire surrounding area. I've had moments of prayer at mosques before, but I've never seen so many people like them.
Located outside the palace, the Clock Tower was commissioned by Sultan Abdulhamid II and built in the late 1800s. It has a length of 32 m, a barometer, and a thermometer and the clock in the tower is made by Paul Garnier and was brought from France.
Dolmabahce comes from dolma which means to fill and bahce which means garden, meaning-filled garden.
I entered the palace a little before the last entrance (16). I received the pinch and entered the ground floor where the reception hall is located with 2 symmetrical left-right areas with chairs and a table. In fact, everything is symmetrical in the palace, as required by the baroque style, 2 china vases, 2 lamps, 2 chandeliers, identical rooms placed symmetrically in the corners of the great halls, etc.
Dolmabahce Palace is of an opulence that was meant to be similar to the great palaces of that time, an expression of grandeur and ambition. It was done because the empire was weak and the sultan borrowed from the great foreign powers to be able to complete it. As an attitude, the sultan thought of himself above all.
He let the delegations wait in the waiting rooms for 2 hours to 2 days because they, the delegations, had to feel that they were meeting an important person. The ballroom, for example, was made for a ball but there was never one there because in their customs no ball was held.
On all sides of the hall, at the height, there are balconies and below, on one side was the throne of the sultan and on the balcony above there was no one sitting (no one sits above the sultan, right?). In front was the balcony where there was music and foreign guests to the left and right. The middle domeit is similar to a dome, painted by the most famous palace painters of the time. Although the palace is by the water and the paintings were made 160 years ago, they have never been renovated, not even erased, and look as if they were painted yesterday.
The Dolmabahce palace is the largest chandelier in the world and it really impresses you when it appears before your eyes. On foot, one can admire one of the largest carpets in Turkey. You can also see in the Dolmabahce Palace the Hall of Ambassadors, the Library, the Music Hall, the Bathroom Hall, the Throne Hall, the Reception Hall of the Sultan-Mother, the official apartments of the Sultan, for receptions, and meetings, and the private apartment where only relatives and friends had access and there they met on the occasion of holidays and also the 2 symmetrical entrances where the girls entered (they were never allowed on the main entrance).
But most of all I liked the Grand Staircase of great elegance, which connects the ground floor and the first floor.
It was also here that I learned that the Harem was not what we knew, that is, the place where the sultan's mistresses stayed, but a school where young women from the empire's elite were brought, trained, and educated to become the wives of the sultan or high dignitaries. Women were not allowed in the ceremonial hall, but there were windows in the hall through which they could also see what was happening inside. It is also worth noting that Ataturk was the first president to use this palace as a residence and he also died there.
Much wealth in the palace. You are not allowed to take pictures and it is better not to risk it because there are cameras everywhere and the tour can be interrupted and the camera will be confiscated.
On the way out, we walked a little through the courtyard and garden of the palace, but also along the bright white fence that separates the palace from the waters of the Bosphorus.
We left the Dolmabahce area around 5:30 p.m. and as the excursion program had ended, the minibus had to drop us off at our homes.
We talked to the guide and got off at Sultanahmet Square because we wanted to enter the Cistern, among the few buildings left from the ancient period, and we could do it until 6:30 p.m. For 20 lira I entered the catacombs of Istanbul, the former water reservoirs of Constantinople, actually a former church converted into a storage place with over 330 columns submerged in water.
Among them, are fish of all sizes. The construction dates back to the 6th century. The walls are 4 meters thick and a special waterproof mortar was used, which made them last so well to this day. As you descend the stairs, to the basement, an atmosphere of semi-darkness greets you. There are panels with the history of the place and signs to the Wishing Well, where people throw money and here we saw the biggest fish, but also the Medusa.
I don't know what connection Medusa had (the worst of the 3 sisters in Greek Mythology with snakes instead of hair that turned those who looked at her into stone), but with the cisterns, it is certain that they are indicators that point to Medusa where you find 2 stone sculptures placed at the base of 2 columns but placed in reverse, one is upside down, the other is sitting on one cheek. It is not known why they got there, nor why they are placed that way. It is believed that they simply arrived by mistake, and are now a target, very well speculated by the authorities.
We returned home on foot, as always, and as it was still early, even though it was dark outside, we went out to the Aqueduct of Valens which we had admired on arrival and to which we had intended to spend more time. It is located in a valley between the University and the Fatih Mosque, in the Fatih district, on Ataturk Boulevard. It was built to collect water from the slopes of the hills which was then stored in three open tanks and is the only ancient aqueduct still existing today.
After the Aqueduct, I discovered the parks on both sides of the road, on the left with a section for children but with sports equipment and on the right with fountains and a huge monument. As soon as you exit the aqueduct, a more airy area opens up. It is a large intersection, with a commercial passage but not congested as we know the one in Galata, for example, then left-right the road is wide, on several lanes, it is an area with public institutions, lit.
We took it to the right, went out through the park, and walked through a beautiful area of Fatih that we had not seen before. We arrived at some streets full of restaurants where we also stopped on the way back and ate Turkish pizza for the first time. I had seen their pizza before but it didn't inspire me. A very, very thin sheet is spread, a beef filling is placed on it and served with a sauce and salad but also ayran.
It's done in plain sight, it was cheap, 4 lira, and the peak has reached us, we're fed up and we wouldn't have said it when we saw that sheet. I recommend you try Turkish pizza even if you don't think it looks too good. We retreated home around 11 at night, broken, broken, but very happy after such a full day.
On the third day we set out to reach Galata, on foot, of course, we weren't far at all. But we were passing by the Suleymaniye Mosque, a mosque built on the crest of a hill overlooking the Golden Horn, and we couldn't help but stop, even if we saw it another time.
The Suleymaniye Mosque is the second largest in Istanbul after the Blue Mosque and was also built by the famous architect Mimar Sinan on the order of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent (Soliman I) for his wife Hurrem, whom he loved very much. I always liked the stories I heard about their love and I regretted that I didn't see at least one episode of the soap opera that was also broadcast in our country.
He addressed her with My Istanbul, My Bosphorus, ... in general all that he had conquered or that were dear to him, he wrote her poems and gave her many proofs of love "at sight", although it was not something common in those times those.
In fact, Suleymaniye is a whole (social) complex that also includes schools, a hospital, a canteen for the poor, a printing house, a Turkish bath, and of course shops, especially souvenirs. Inside it is also a cemetery where there are 2 mausoleums and several tombs including the tombs of Suleyman and his daughter Mihrimah. Hurrem's tomb is in an adjacent mausoleum and Mimar Sinan's is outside the walls of the mosque.
Behind the cemetery is a platform from where you have a superb view of the Galata, the Galata Tower, and the Golden Horn.
The 4 huge columns in the mosque are called elephant legs and there, almost at the entrance, I saw a painting about religion leaning against the wall. Basically, a family tree that says that all people start from the same (religious) point.
After going to Mimar Sinan's tomb and visiting the souvenir shops in the complex, we took the narrow streets to reach the Galata Bridge. There, my husband also had some work and while we waited for him we got lost through the fish market at the end of the bridge, which has been modernized and we didn't like it at all, not at all, we entered through the crowd of shops on the there and drank a glass of pomegranate juice which has gone up in price compared to last time (it was now 4 pounds the average glass compared to 2 pounds last year).
After we reunited, we went to the floating restaurants on the banks of the Golden Horn and ate a balik with pickles, which we really missed (8 pounds now compared to 6 last year in May).
We also did our shopping, Mehmet Effendi coffee, olives, cranberries... all kinds of nonsense from the spice bazaar, and at 3 pm, like slobs, we headed to the house to take our bags. We stopped on the way and cooled off with fruit mix, drank another glass of juice to refresh ourselves, left our luggage in the car, and went for a walk through our neighborhood, Fatih, in the one we had liked a lot, beyond the aqueduct, but which we had not had time to explore.
I exited Ataturk Bld to the left under the Valens Aqueduct and this time from the intersection with the passage I turned left towards the Şehzade Mosque also built by Sinan on Suleyman's order for his and Hurrem's son who died at 22 years old. Suleyman wanted a very high mosque for himself, and because he thought he would order another even higher, he dedicated this one to his dead son very young.
Here I witnessed a moment of prayer of two generations, fathers (young) and children, little boys, between 7-10 years old. In the courtyard of the mosque a bunch of cats of which 2, he and she were courting each other and we couldn't leave until we watched them enough.
We went back to the intersection and passed the park and the monument with horses that says May 29, 1453, but we didn't know who it was dedicated to and went straight ahead on a parallel street to the one we had walked the night before, with small neighborhood shops.
We also entered a few to open our mouths, then we saw a very large mosque, beautifully lit because it was getting dark, towards which people were moving. We also went in there and found a huge courtyard, in fact, a park with benches where people were talking, young people were walking around with rollerblades, rows of flowers and in the middle, there was an imposing mosque. It is called Fatih, it was built later in the 1400s, destroyed in an earthquake, and rebuilt in the 1700s.
I left the mosque through the opposite side and found a street where there were no cars, like Saraclar in Edirne, full of grocers with all kinds of goodies. We went to the end of it and bought a bunch, (for snacks), cheese, figs, prunes, shit, tangerines, mulberries, kataif... When we came back we stopped at a rotisserie where they smelled like chicken, we went in and wanted to sit at a free table but no, "women are not allowed here, there is a family section upstairs where women can also go". So what to do, we adapt to the situation. So we ate a rotisserie chicken upstairs with their good sauces, pickles, and fries, we drank all the ayran but we imagined it was beer, all for 20 family quid.
We headed back home through the park again, glad we made that choice this time and thought it wouldn't hurt to pick this whole area for next time.
Although usually on the last day we make a trip to Galata, buy something from the spice shop, eat a balik and say goodbye to Istanbul, this time we decided to leave after breakfast and stop in Edirne and so I did. At 8:30 I left the hotel with the hot pie and takeaway ayran that I ate in the car, and at 11 I was haunting Saraclar in Edirne.
We then walked to the end of the boulevard, and we went to our fish terrace but it didn't have zargan, we stopped for a tea, then to the grocery store we usually buy from, Sivrikaya, and then to eat at our terrace, cigar tray (fried liver in oil bath) with onions, tomatoes, and hot peppers.
On the way to the car, I entered the courtyard next to the Kervansaray hotel, where fairs are held and now there was a Turkish wedding. We girls also smiled as best we could at some Turks at the entrance and they let us in to look and take pictures.
The last stop was at the supermarket opposite the Selimiye mosque where I had also parked the car for 4 lira per hour from where I got out a wheelbarrow.
I left Edirne after 3 pm and a little after 10 pm I parked the car in front of the house.
That was the ride this time. If you haven't fallen in love with Istanbul, I wish you will. As I said before, things are very clear about Istanbul, and you can tell from the first visit. We tell everyone that after your first experience in Istanbul, you either fall in love forever and make your way to it or cross it off the list. I want you to make a path.
Subscribe to our email newsletter and unlock access to members-only content and exclusive updates.