New Years in Istanbul...

Trip Start Aug 20, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Thursday, January 7, 2010

was a pretty laid back affair, even if I didn't get to bed until 6am! The lady (Gail) who I travelled to Cappadocia with advised me against coughing up 25 Euros for the hostel's dinner and belly dancer as it was her 3rd New Years there and very good advice it was too. I knew the food they served was ordinary at best and the dancer only lasted for some 10mins and spent most of her time in front of the guys asking for money to stuff in her glittery bra. I know because we sat outside the hostel while it was happening, had a few drinks and watched the passing parade while the Turkish restaurant touts either badgered the people wandering past or frantically tried to hang last minute decorations. When the dancing was over we were joined by a couple of other people from the hostel and we all went down the street to sit on Turkish cushions in a very chilled upstairs bar, drink beer and a bottle of the worst champagne I have ever tasted and smoke a sheesha (very large water pipe). Missed the usual kissing of strangers and the few fireworks't  becase the Danish girl, who bought the bad champagne said she was scared of fireworks and wouldn't go down to the street, so the the magic hour ticked past in a most uneventful way, with some regrets. Got into a stupid political argument with the American guy, which didn't make my night and staggered off home, suprised that it was so late. Had a last beer outside the hostel and watched quite a few Turkish guys stumbling up the street, noticably on their own.

I had a couple good shopping for winter clothes trips with Gail who knew nice places to eat and shop, a great combination. There is some good shopping to be had in Istanbul at very good prices, much better than the mid eastern countries I visited. I'm not referring to folk art/souveneirs here, it was quite noticeable when I arrived in Antakya that the clothes were from the 21st century, not the 1970's!

Visited the Topaki Palace which was so crowded I just hated it, but there was some very good views over Istanbul. Palaces always have great views, no surprise there I suppose. There was also a wonderful exhibition on at the the palace of Iranian art, dating back to the 1st century, textiles, silver work, jewellery and the most amazingly detailed hand, decorated books. It was just exquisite, would have been bitterly disappointed if it had not been for this exhibition. No photos allowed, unfortunately.

When the rain stopped one day I went for a  lovely sunny afternoon walk along the Bosphorus
below Sultanahmet, where I stayed, there are literally kilometers of pathway along the Boshorus. Sydney could do well to have a look and learn this lesson from the Turkish.

Visited the underground cisterns, built by the romans, what a weird space that is! Rows of columns standing in black, still water, lit up with red lighting, it reminded me of what Hades and the river Styx might be like. It was, however a nightmare to photograph, using a flash washed out all the atmosphere and it was nigh impossible to get a shot in focus or any depth of field without it or a tripod
The Blue mosque was BIG and quite impressive. I heard a guide telling people that the reason there were no cobwebs there was because there were ostrich eggs at the end of the wires that supported the huge circular framework of lights. "look up there you can see them...see!!" Well no, I couldn't and by the looks on the faces of his tour group neither could they!

The grand bazaar is the second biggest in the world, after the one in Cairo, I can believe it. The German guy I met in Plovdiv said that in its heyday it used to sell 30 tons of gold a day!! It is also much easier to get around and more majestic than the ones in Damascus and Aleppo which are narrow aisled labrynths full of pushy women in headscarves and black burkahs (is that how you spell that??) and a claustrophobic's nightmare. I found them to be quite unpleasant in places, the one in Istanbul was a dream in comparison.

There is heaps more to do in Istanbul, I feel like I only scratced the surface, you could easily spend a couple of weeks there. I will go back to Turkey one day, it has without a doubt been my favourite country so far on this trip.

So here are the Istanbul photos

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Richard on

Great pictures Liz, seems like you having the time of your life!

Liz on

Thanks Richard, from what I've heard about how good your pics are, I will definitely take that as a compliment!!

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