Istanbul, Turkey (Day Two)

My second day in Istanbul was a lot more energetic, so to say. I was feeling better and spent the day with my friends exploring more of the city, even despite the wet weather in the afternoon (and it was also freezing cold).

We got up early in the morning and visited the Topkapi Palace. We hoped to beat the crowds, but it was already filling up by 9am – still, I can’t imaging how many more people there would have been later on in the day. The Palace is incredible and really does exhibit the wealth and influence of the Ottoman Emperors. For architecture lovers, this is another one of those must see buildings – a definite blend of the eastern and western aesthetics. Truly a beautiful complex – which I hope you can get some idea from the photographs.

After spending almost half a day at the palace, we wondered through the spice markets to stock up on baklava and turkish delight, and then made our way of the the Galata Bridge towards Taksim. We saw the many men fishing from the bridge and went up the Galata Tower. We were so lucky to have a break in the rain and see the sun come out for 10 minutes whilst at the top of the tower, giving us a spectacular view of the city below. The incredible skyline, dotted with mosque spires is far different from any other modern city-scape I’d seen before.

We then wondered through Istiklal Avenue, along with many other people. Despite the horrible weather, by now it was getting darker, colder and the rain was increasing, the place was buzzing. I would have been lovely to stroll through the central shopping strip on a warm evening, listening the the buskers and tasting the street food whilst meandering through the stores. Oh well, maybe next time.

We planned to have dinner in Taksim, but the weather was uncomfortable and the riot squad presence making it even more so. So we headed back to Sultanahment on the metro, to have a quiet dinner in a more familiar place. After dinner, we made a leisurely stop for me to purchase a beautiful kilim rug (now taking pride position in my lounge room) before bidding farewell to this amazing city which is Istanbul.
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Essentials:

Shopping:
I just wanted to add in a little something about rug purchases in Istanbul. Many people come to Istanbul to purchase the beautiful tribal rugs from rural Turkey. Make sure you do  your research and buy from a reputable place – I’m sure that there are a plethora of imitations out there. I bought my kilim rug from Noah’s Ark Carpets and Kilims located on Divanyolu Caddesi in Sultanahment. They were recommended by National Geographic and the service was amazing. The staff were incredible knowledgeable and went out of their way to make us as comfortable and well-informed about our purchases as possible. They come highly recommended and I would definitely buy from them again.

 

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Istanbul, Turkey (Day One)

Istanbul is now one of my favourite cities in the world – I absolutely fell in love with the place during my two day stay. There is something about the city that makes it somehow magical – the architecture, the atmosphere, the little cobblestone streets, the food, the people, I don’t know, but there is just something special about Istanbul. And even thought I was unwell and the weather was terrible, I still managed to fall in love with the place. I was also lucky enough to have one of my close friends and her fiancé in Istanbul during the same two days I was there, so it was great to explore the city together.

I wasn’t well at all on this first day in Istanbul, so I only managed to see the Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque) and the Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya), and squeeze in a bit of lunch is a cute little restaurant in Sultanahmet. I was absolutely awe-struct by the architecture and design of the two buildings – they definitely have that wow factor. Both buildings are so enormous and so spectacularly decorated, there really isn’t much like it in the world.

I would have liked to wander around Istanbul, particularly the little streets around Sultanahmet, a bit more on this first day, but the rain increased and I wasn’t well enough, so I spent the afternoon in my hostel having a good old chat with my fellow roommates.
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Essentials:

Stay:
I stayed at Cheers Lighthouse Hostel. I newly opened hostel, located in Sultanahmet, only a short walk from the Blue Mosque. The rooms were immaculately clean and the staff incredible friendly and helpful – they even made me a cup of lemon tea whenever I was in the common room, to help me get better.

Eat:
There are a plethora of restaurants and take-away food options in Istanbul – the locals, and the tourist, obviously like their food. In Sultanahmet there are plenty of restaurants, and the competition is high, so I’m sure you’ll find that most places offer good food at a reasonable price. for something sweet, head to the Spice Markets for an enormous selection of pastries, turkish delight and other goodies.

Getting There:
Istanbul has great connections via air throughout Turkey and the rest of the world. From the airport, most hotels and hostel can arrange shuttle services, or take a taxi or a bus into the centre. Everything in Sultanahmet is within easy walking distance, but if you want to go a little further afield, such as Taksim, there is a good light rail/metro network, or as we did on day two, spend the day wandering through the streets to make the journey a little more interesting.

Pamukkale, Turkey

Sorry that there has been a bit of a break between this post and the last – I’ve just completed my uni exams for this semester (post-grad law – not recommended if you want to have some semblance of a life) and now finally have some free time to continue with these posts!

So my next stop was Pamukkale – located in the Denizli region in central western Turkey, made famous for it medicinal mineral springs and travertine formations, which are made from the carbonate deposits of the flowing water (as much as it looks like snow, it is not). Pamukkale actually means ‘cotton castle’ in Turkish, and when you see the travertines, you’ll understand why the site bares that name. Although they are far from soft.

The old Greco-Roman and Byzantine city of Hierapolis, on of many old city ruins found in Turkey, is also located on the site and a must see for all those ancient history lovers.

Pamukkale is one of Turkey’s major tourist attractions, and does attract many many tourists. I visited in the shoulder season (late September) so I can’t imagine what it must be like in the peak of summer. The ancient city of Hierapolis was virtually empty of tourists, but the travertines were overflowing almost with more tourists than water. So there isn’t much of a chance to spend the day relaxing in the mineral springs, although it still is an amazing place to visit.

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Cappadocia, Turkey (Day Two)

My second day in Cappadocia was the definitely the highlight of the trip – an early morning hot air balloon right over the region. It was absolutely breathtaking – the photos are great, but they do not even nearly describe the incredible feeling, the stillness in the air, and the spectacular sight of the magnificent landscape below. Getting up at 5am was definitely well worth it! If you make a visit to Cappadocia, a hot air balloon right is an absolute must. There are many companies offering this experience – just double check their reviews and safety ratings, as there have been a few accidents in the past.

The rest of the day was spent further exploring Cappdocia, before I heading off on an overnight bus to Pammukale.

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Cappadocia, Turkey (Day One)

The next few posts will be about my short time spent visiting amazing Turkey, well more specifically Cappadocia, Pammukale and Istanbul. Turkey is such a large country, with so many amazing  places to visit. I had less than a week to spend in Turkey, so did not really see enough. But what I did see, I absolutely loved, and will definitely make another trip back, most probably to the Turquoise Coast and Eastern Turkey.

After spending just a night in Istanbul, I had an early morning flight to Kayseri and then onto the region known as Cappadocia, or in Turkish, Kapadokya. This rural region in central Turkey has topped most visitors’ must see list due to the interesting land formations caused by spirts of ash as a result of volcanic activity in the area thousands of years ago.

If you don’t have a car, I would recommend taking a day tour (there are many providers which offer day tours from Goreme), over at least two days, of the region, as it isn’t very well accessible by public transport. On these tours you will visit and experience the region’s great walking tracks, magnificent landscapes, friendly people, fantastic food, and the list goes on.

Here are a few photos on my first day in the region, which comprised of taking a walking through the  scenic countryside, visiting a carpet weaving collective, exploring the town of Goreme and witnessing a beautiful sunset over the surrounding landscape.

Stay tuned: The next post will have some beautiful images taken from my early morning hot air balloon flight over Cappadocia. Not to be missed.
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Essentials

Getting there:
Atlas Airlines and Turkish Airlines have regular flights to and from Istanbul to Kayseri. From Kayseri, try to organise a transfer with your accommodation in Cappadocia, as there public transport system doesn’t cater for this route, as far as I know. There are also regular buses to and from Istanbul, and other cities around Turkey from Goreme.

Stay:
There is a plethora of accommodation options in Goreme. Do the touristy thing, and stay in a cave hotel – a hotel which is built into the ashen rock formations which are found throughout Goreme. I stayed at Peri Cave hostel – the rooms were basic, but clean, the staff helpful and the breakfast amazing – I had an entire table full of an array of fruit, fresh bread, a selection cheeses and olives, boiled eggs, cold meats….