One Night in Istanbul

Flying to Georgia or Armenia is not very convenient. One flies from Washington D.C. to Munich and then after spending 14 hours in Munich you fly out around 21:30, arriving around 03:00.  As someone who normally rises around 05:00 for my triathlon training, IMGP4942 this puts another layer of unpleasantness to an already challenging trip. I was pleased to find a more civilized way of arriving by travelling through Istanbul.  The flight arrives at 16:30 although it means overnighting in Istanbul. Not a difficult choice … I had really enjoyed my earlier visit and it would be nice to see the city outside of winter.

After transiting in Munich I found myself Sunday afternoon in Istanbul. I couldn’t find the courtesy van to the hotel so grabbed a taxi. The driver was not pleased as it is a relatively short trip. Good thing I don’t speak Turkish as he made mutterings the entire trip.

When we arrived at the hotel there were pipes with water coming out the front gate, and security guards wearing rubber boots. Not auspicious. The driver was told by another taxi that the hotel was closed due to the recent flooding. Full marks to Marriott and their service to ‘Platinum Elite’ members. I had spoken to them not 12 hours earlier to confirm the reservation.

I went into the dark interior and was told that they had arranged to put me up at the Radisson SAS hotel so it was back in the taxi—the driver had wisely kept the meter running—and then another trip. By the end he was much happier as rather than less than 10 TL it cost 30 TL. I’m sending the bill to Marriott.

I checked in and answered some hypercritical e-mails before heading out and grabbing a taxi downtown. It was a beautiful evening with the temperature about 24 degrees and clear skies. Much better conditions than when I was here in January!

I wandered around the spice market area, enjoying the sights and sounds of the market. The streets were filled with people and the stalls overflowing with produce or goods for sale. People had spread blankets out on the street selling everything from razor blades to children’s winter clothes.  There is such an energy to Istanbul—one is definitely back in the Orient.

I caught a tour boat up the Bosporus straight. I was late getting on board—it was scheduled to depart at 19:00 but they decided it was full enough 20 minutes earlier—and scored a seat on the stairs. It was actually the perfect spot to admire the city.

Note to travellers: Don’t book a tour or dinner cruise online or through the hotel, just head to the docks next to the Galatia bridge and there are several cruises at 10TL. Much better than the 75 Euros some wanted for a dinner cruise!

We sailed up the river, passing a number of old palaces and other city sites. The following photos give you an idea of what we saw.

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We turned around just past the bridge and sailed closer to the other bank. There were some very impressive houses on the water. I wondered how long the families had owned them given that people have been living here and travelling the Bosporus for thousands of years: Jason and the Argonauts sailed up here on their way to Poti in Georgia some 4,000 years ago.

As the sun set we headed back to Istanbul with the city bedecked in lights. The photos below do not do it justice. Absolutely magnificent.

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Once we landed I wandered across the Galata bridge past the fisherman and along the water. I then headed up to the Galata tower which was beautifully lit. It was an evening for walking so I just followed the crowds and I soon found myself on a closed pedestrian street with a solid throng of people wandering in each direction. There were many interesting shops ranging from the latest fashions to antiquity books, and everyone was out enjoying the evening.  Istanbul is a city of youth and it was delightful to wander slowly watching the crowds.

I treated myself to a roasted corn before heading back again slowly towards the tower. After buying some fruit I grabbed a taxi back to the hotel.

I really do like Istanbul. September is probably the ideal time to visit, especially if you enjoy just walking around and sampling the city. And it sure beats arriving in the middle of the night in Tbilisi!

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