Istanbul: Spring Break Part I

Trip Start Jan 19, 2012
Trip End Jun 04, 2012

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Where I stayed
Best Nobel Hotel Istanbul
Read my review - 4/5 stars

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

I am breaking up my spring break trip into two blog posts to try and make things easier to read and follow.

Istanbul is the only city in the world that is on two continents, and its beauty was more than I could have ever expected. I started my spring break Friday the 16th leaving Prague around 3 pm and arriving in Istanbul around 2 with a slightly long layover in Munich. Unfortunately for our group the metro does not open in Istanbul until around 5 in the morning so we had some time killing to do in the airport in which we mainly slept on some uncomfortable steel benches. We finally were on our way around 6 and took the metro around 45 minutes to the closest stop to our hotel. 

We stayed at the Best Nobel Hotel in the heart of the old city, it was a great location and newer hotel but still had very cheap prices. The room was quite small for 5 people however, so that wasn't the best situation, but then again we are college students so we can make do. The first day we were all extremely exhausted with the 2 of the 3 people arriving later in the day than Kinsey, Sarina, and I. So while we waiting for the other two people to arrive we went exploring through the area around our hotel. We found a great park area that had military compounds surrounding it, the park went all the way down to the waters edge where there was an amazingly placed outdoor restaurant that had to have had at least 300 tables.  We didn't stay for tea that time because we were so exhausted, but we would return later in the trip. That day we mainly slept and recovered, and that night we were able to go out and find a good place to eat, and have a good and traditional Turkish meal. 

Saturday morning we woke up bright and early and had our complimentary breakfast downstairs. Our plans for the day were to visit the Grand Bazaar and to the Asia side of Istanbul. The Grand Bazaar has over 4,000 shops and covers 52 city streets, it truly is unique in the greatest sense of the word. It was quite an experience to go through and barter with all of the store owners over the price that you were willing to pay for a certain item, my Croatian skills definitely came in handy there. 

After the Bazaar Eric and I went to explore the coastline, while the girls continued to shop some more, naturally. We walked along the sea for some time seeing an incredible amount of ships waiting to go through the straight, as long as many vendors trying to sell their various goods. After exploring for quite some time we went back to the hotel to meet the girls and prepare to go to the continent of ASIA!

Our trip to Asia started from the port that was only about a 5 minute walk from our hotel, it was very convenient. We took the local ferry that also carried an astonishing amount of cars and once again it was only two Turkish Lira to ride, or about one dollar. The Asia side of Istanbul is very different from the European side, it is much calmer and runs at a much more relaxed pace. There is not much to see in the way of tourist attractions however, so we decided to go and explore a few local mosques and just enjoy the calmer pace for a little while. After we proceeded to take the ferry back to the European side and get some dinner after an exhausting but incredibly awesome day of exploring. 

Sunday we woke up pretty early in order to get the large amount of exploring we had planned. We started the day by visiting the Spice Bazaar, which was not nearly the size of the Grand Bazaar, but had many different spices and was not as crowded as the Grand Bazaar was, and it smelled amazing as you could imagine. After that we went and visited the "New Mosque" which ironically is not new at all and was built in the 1500's. After the New Mosque we went and visited the Istanbul University Mosque which was really an eye opening experience because for one we actually went inside of this one, although the girls did have to cover their heads. It was awesome to see all of the beauty that was inside of the building as well as to observe some locals doing their daily prayers to Mecca. After the University Mosque we went and sat in the same plaza and had some really good Turkish Tea and enjoyed the sun for a small while. 

 After tea we decided that it was finally time to go and visit the Blue Mosque, which is probably one of the most famous Mosque's in the world. It was truly beautiful beyond words and I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to go and see it, even though there were way too many tourists for my liking. Following the Blue Mosque we went across the courtyard to the Haggia Sophia, which is an ancient historical church that has been used over the centuries by a number of different religious groups. It was full of historical importance as you could imagine and had many beautiful tile pictures and gold statues. After the Haggia Sophia we went to the Basilica Cistern, which was built in the year 500 A.D. This is a large building that has many columns and was used for storing water for the city, it looked like it was straight out of a tomb raider movie and had a somewhat eerie feeling to it, but it was awesome nonetheless. 

Following our visit to the Cistern we were all pretty tired and were looking to get some food, so we went back towards our hotel and to the port where we crossed a bridge to go to a part of the city that we had not been yet, and to find a good place to get some food. We found a nice little restaurant overlooking the bay and had a great meal. After dinner we walked back towards the bridge and saw a local fish market that we thought we be cool to explore, and indeed it was. There were a wide variety of fresh fish and it had a very unique an awesome feel to it, something that I will never forget. We were pretty tired by this time and we had seen a lot that day so we all returned to the hotel and passed out for the night. 

The next morning we woke up around 9 and packed all of our things and got ready for the second part of our journey. We were all leaving at different times however, so Kinsey, Sarina, Eric and I went back to the Grand Bazaar in order to do a little more souvenir shopping. We got what we were looking for and by that time it was Eric's time to go to the airport and catch his flight, so Kinsey, Sarina and I went back to the same tea shop we were at the first day and watched the amazing view go by as we relaxed and reflected on what we had seen these last couple of days, over a pot of awesome tea have you. 

Overall, Istanbul was amazing and was an experience I will never forget. I am definitely going to try and get back there at some point in my life and would love to be there for some time.

Niko Zivanovich
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My Review Of The Place I Stayed

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