Cold and cloudy morning greeted us today with chances of rain. Decided to take the hop-on-hop-off tour buses going through regions of Istanbul and visiting major sights.
Bus departed at 10:30 from our area. Made our way the Gelata Bridge, famous for connecting the new and old parts of Euro Istanbul. The bridge has a lower level lined with Fish restuarants – we could all smell the “wechaat” fishy smell, not the most pleasant one.
(Gelata Bridge area, old Istanbul side, New mosque near the bridge)
Over the to the new side, things did not really look that much different, till we moved further in. This had a more euro feel to it, the bus stopped by at the famous Taksim Square – the place where just a couple of months back were scenes of riots and mass protests. There were no signs of protesters, however we could see some of the damage caused and the repair work going on.
Approaching the massive Suspension Bosphorus bridge, its size is only realised when viewed up close. It is over 60 meters above sea level and over 1.4 km long, this thing is big! Being so high, the gale force winds combined with the cold were not making things too comfortable in the open top section of the bus that we were in!!
Across the bridge, we entered the Asian side of Istanbul, the only stop here was the Beylerbeyi Palace. Got off there to explore that on the Asian side.
The Palace itself was not that great, the entrance on the other hand was nice….
Caught the bus back, got off just after the Gelata Bridge on the old side. Good lunch place near by, grabbed Pizza and Sandwiches – we were opting for more non-turkish cuisines now.
Lunch was good, now to explore some side streets.
Somehow we ended up at the Spice Bazaar, which was great, Nita & Priya were after some Saffron, time to explore that.
This place had lots of spice, food, sweet stalls. Found a place that seemed to offer good saffron, only to work out towards the end of the transaction that he was inflating the prices with crazy margins, luckily we walked out of there without buying anything and this was after he had offered us all the Turkish teas and sweets !!!
Moving on from there, we headed out of the bazaar taking one of the numerous alleyways leading out…. and these were crammed with people, walking through them was a task in itself. The alleyways were a bit strange, they were connected to the spice bazaar yet the shops were selling stuff from discount variety to water pumps/hardware and kitchen stoves, everything and anything was there!!
We emerged near the “New Mosque”, opp Gelata Bridge. Time for some Mosque visiting.
Finished off the Mosque sightseeing and decided on a walk to the hotel, we had to cover off so many streets. Ended up passing the street directly outside the Grand Bazaar and remembered the coffee/cake shop there, good time for a coffee break. The place had some very good chocolate and cake varieties.
Whilst there, the Priya & Nita made friends with an elderly man, hoping to get some info on the sights to see and not to see, places to eat etc. His name was “Ahmet”, and he was very helpful in providing lots of information on all the good things to do and see, even booked a “good” dining place (according to him) for us! Also wanted to take us home for dinner, which the girls cordially declined – am so glad I am for that!
(Interesting things to follow with Ahmet in the next few days …. ). Thanked him and headed backed to the hotel, with the evening plan already sorted by Ahmet, it was one thing less to worry about.
After a quick pit stop at the hotel, took a Taxi to the Turkish restaurant in Aksaray that Ahmet recommended, it turned out to be just a fast food lunch time style place.
Decided against that and took a taxi back to Sultanahmet, there were far more better options there. Along the way we came across a street with some nice restaurants and pubs, told the driver to stop there – time to explore this area, which we had no idea of where it was. Took us a while to settle on which one we wanted to go to, all the while people trying to lure us in – always hard here to look at the menu and not be pressured to come in!!
Decided to go to “KLAS” restaurant one with live music. Food variety seemed good there, a bit of mexican, sandwiches and grills, we should be ok. Drinks were very good there, we had cocktails, gin/lemonade, Red wine and Beers, all worked out good. Food was also above average and to our liking.
(Evening at KLAS restaurant)
Music was starting to get louder by the time we were through our meals, and our table being located next to the dance floor was great had the best sounds and views. The live singers were putting an awesome show and it wasn’t long before we all jumped in. We did not understand any of the words, but whatever they were singing sounded and felt real good!!
Finished off way past midnight, it had been a great night.