submitted by Audrey Hulsey- Pegasus Travel Omaha
What I loved about Istanbul - food, Doner Kebaps, lamb, yoghurt, eggplant,seafood, Grand Bazaar the most famous shopping center, Spice Bazaar and endless shops, including every upscale designer in modern Istanbul(Prada, Escada, Chanel. The immersion in history that smacks you in the face, over 2000 years of Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman culture packed into an area called Sultanahmet.
Throw caution to the wind, enjoy the thriving city, embrace the gracious hosts and even join in the sport of haggling. Very low crime rate in Istanbul.
People that would enjoy this destination would be historians, art lovers, foodies, those looking for great value.
It is good to learn a few phrases in Turkish (Merehaba (hello) Tesekkurler (thank you) Lutfen (please) Hesap (bill) Tuvaletler nerede (where's the toilet) ....you will be amazed at how friendly people become.
This amazing trip was designed to be the last European adventure I would take with my daughter (who has been living in Germany thanks to the US Air Force and will return next week to Wichita). We even timed it to be in Istanbul on Mothers Day, (which btw is celebrated there as well as most of Europe on the same day) Everyone I talked with prior to the trip who had been to Istanbul declared this would be my best trip ever....that's quite a challenge, but I heartily support that Istanbul is without a doubt a most magical city. Be sure to prepare for the history of Istanbul by reading about the different cultures. Topkapi Palace (home of the sultans and the harem), the Blue Mosque, Aya Sofia - (church in 537 turned mosque in 1453...early recycling effort) the Roman Hippodrome, the most extraordinary Grand Bazaar. What makes it so enjoyable is all these sites are walking distance from any location in Old Town. There is one luxury hotel in Old Town, Four Seasons Istanbul, but there are many 3 and 4 star hotels that make great headquarters for power sightseeing. We stayed at a 3 star booked through TravelBound - Adamar, it's a perfect location and the hotel's accommodation are definitely more than 3star; put together with a staff that is most helpful and accommodating it is a great value (paid $140 a night with breakfast) an absolute steal. Modern bathroom, comfortable beds - each floor a different vibrant color theme, ours was orange, small rooms of course, and small closet, no drawer space, but what it lacks is more than made up by it's rooftop terrace with amazing views of the Blue Mosque, Topkapi and Aya Sophia, modern Istanbul with it's skyscrapers and the Marmara Sea beyond. Street food is plentiful, good and cheap - a great fish sandwich at the Galata Bridge was about $1.50. Dinner is late, usually 8:30 and goes on for hours. We were invited to join a couple at their table as we finished dinner one night....that was fun - their English was definitely better than our Turkish but that's not saying too much. They taught us how to drink Raki (think ouzo on steroids). At the end of the evening we were new friends and they've invited us to visit them in Kadikoy where he has a carpet shop, who knows they may turn up in Omaha some day too. A highlight of our trip was the leisurely cruise down the Bosphorous , a comfortable ferry, making about 5 stops before arriving at Anadolu, at the Black Sea. We had about two hours there to explore a fortress ruins at a highpoint of the village with an expansive view of the Black Sea. A word about yoghurt....I enjoyed some of the best I ever had, both at our hotel for breakfast and then on this Bosporus cruise when they brought cartons on from one of the ferry stops, serving it with a huge dollop of powdered sugar. I can't wait to try that but am worried the yoghurt we have is not going to make it quite the same. Fellow cruisers urged us to be sure and try this yoghurt, we met a couple from the UK and enjoyed their conversation - the trip took from 10:30 til return at 4:30pm. I have some cool pictures of the bridges across the Bosporus - here's Europe and there's Asia . I cannot recall when I've been so excited about selling a destination; let me know if I can ever help you with Istanbul