Say Hi To The Kids!!!
Traveling around Istanbul and visiting all of the historic sites is such an interesting and amazing experience. But one lighthearted factor that I found at almost all of the sites, and was one that was very enjoyable, was all of the school children visiting the sites on field trips. Practically any noted tourist spot you go in the city, it's a good bet you will run into a large group of the kids being led around by their apparently stressed out teachers. :) But while the kids can be of course, kids, a little loud and all over the place, they are just so friendly and happy. Everytime I had my video camera running, or was getting ready to snap a photograph, they would start waving at me and saying "Hello, hello!". Wearing their little uniforms with the Atatürk symbol on them, and full of cheer and excitedness, they were so funny and very cute. One of my favorite little experiences while in Istanbul!
I only have 1 day in Istanbul?
Been told many times that Istanbul cannot be fully appreciated in 1 or 2 days. Took me a week to absorb the city and another visit to fully enjoy it.
But if for some reason, you only have a day to spare or maybe you only have a stop-over in Istanbul from morning til early evening, here’s what you can do, considering that most museums are open from 9:00AM til late afternoon.
So head to Sultanahmet by metro/tram combination (at YTL2.60), about half an hour to 45 minutes. Get down at Sultanahmet tram station and you’re there at the historical district of Istanbul.
Walk to the Blue Mosque, no one misses this, this will only consume 15 to 30 minutes of your time including the Hippodrome and the Obelisk. Free entry.
Fronting it is the Hagia Sophia, check the queue, if it’s not long then get in, spend another 45 minutes to an hour. Entry fee at YTL15.
On the other side of the road is the Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarnici), it’s an underground sunken basilica, and used to be a water reservoir for the city of Istanbul. Entry is YTL10.
You may have finished those 3 before mid-day, walk down the road and you’ll find the Topkapi Palace, the place is huge so you may just have to checkout the palace museum for say, 1 hour. Entry is YTL10. If you still have time, checkout the Harem, additional entry fee at YTL10.
If your flight is in the evening, you have 2 choices to burn the rest of the afternoon – 1) head on to the Galata Bridge cross it onto the Galata Tower, or, 2) take one of those ferries at Eminonu ferry terminal that crosses the Bosphorous to the Asian side (Kadikoy). You don’t have to spend much time here, take the ferry back again to Eminonu ferry port.
From Eminonu tram station, head back to the airport with the same tram/metro combination and you’ll be there in no time at all to catch your flight in the evening.
Quite tough, but do-able! You can always add or deduct anything from the above itinerary, depends on the length of time you have and the time of your arrival and departure.
I'd always thought of backgammon as a bit of an old man's game, and indeed it is...but just like nargilke has found favour with the younger set, backgammon, or tavla as it is called in Turkey, is played by just about everyone. Many cafes have sets for you to play with, either for free or for a small charge, the sound of pieces being slapped down vehemently accompanied by bums in the air as players scour the floor for runaway dice. It is surprisingly addictive, and it is easy to master the art of throwing the dice and smashing the tiles down in such a flamboyant way as to make sure heads turn, although beating a local takes a little more practice. Anyone will be happy to explain the rules and show you the starting position used by the Turks (different to games of backgammon I've played elsewhere), but don't expect them to leave you to play by yourself. "What did you move that for? You should have moved that piece there, and that one there!" "No, five and six means you should move this piece!" It was amazing how many games I managed to win by not physically making a move of my own choosing! It can get a it irritating after a while, with so many people all telling you how to play, so if you want to earn a bit of respect on the tavla scene, try to find a patient friend to explain the secrets somewhere quieter before your public debut...
Harem in Topkapi Palace
You must buy the ticket inside and you must visit the harem in organized groups, normally included in the ticket fee. But In some local holliday days (as in the 3 days after the Ramadam) the harem is closed and you only can visit it if you pay a private authorized guide to go in a group. In such way, the guide will cost you 7.5 additional Euros and a lot of people doesn't visit it.
Believe me, you have to visit the harem (even if you must pay the private guide) so it's a MUST SEE. It is the best part of all the Topkapi complex. I went the last monday and is wonderful.
Pierre Loti cafe (Eyup)
Open 08.30-24.00 h. Tel: 0 212 581 26 96.
In Eyup, following the 'Golden Horn' to the end, in the top of a hill, by the Eyup Cemetery. The taxis know it.
The coffee house is named after the famous French writer Pierre Loti, who regarded Turkey as his adopted homeland, came frequently to this coffee house which in his day was known as Rabia Kadin Coffee House, and it is said that he wrote his novel Aziyade here. In the 19th century the coffee house was visited not only by Pierre Loti but by almost all the foreign travellers who came to Istanbul.
Nice views of Istambul fron a quiet terrace. Try the 'apple tea'.