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Discover Istanbul Part 2

Turkey is well known for their hand woven carpets, their leather products, nuts and dried fruit, marble tiles and ceramics.

We had the fortunate opportunity to see how these carpets were made, from scratch! It can take weeks or even up to months for multiple ladies to make one carpet. I was absolutely blown away by their skill and precise hand work to form these intricate patterns on the carpets.  I am no carpet expert but I could see and feel the quality and softness of these hand woven gems from a mile away!

After our carpet shopping experience we got whisked away to a shop that boasts one of Turkey’s major exports – their leather. Crafted with the best workmanship, quality and stitching you know buying a leather jacket in Turkey will last you a lifetime!  We were very impressed with their styles, fashion forward cuts and stud detail on some designs.. We had our own private fashion show, what an incredible experience!

After our shopping we were craving some Turkish coffee, hubby was adamant he wanted to make it himself!

Another historical stop was at the Dolmabahce Palace built in 19th century.  This is by far one of the most glamorous palaces in the world.  “Dolmabahçe Palace was built by Sultan Abdulmecid (1839-1861) who was the thirty first Ottoman Sultan. The palace, whose construction commenced on June 13th, 1843, was brought into use on June 7th, 1856, upon completion of surrounding walls. The palace mainly consists of three parts, named as the Imperial Mabeyn (State Apartments), Muayede Salon (Ceremonial Hall) and the Imperial Harem. The Imperial Mabeyn was allocated for administrative affairs of the state, Imperial Harem was allocated for private lives of the sultan and his family and the Muayede Salon, placed between these two sections, was allocated for exchanging of bayram greetings of sultan with dignitary statesmen and for some important state ceremonies. The main building is three storey including the basement on the side which is parallel to sea and it is four storey at the land side involving the Harem quarters with the musandıra (garret) storeys.” – http://www.millisaraylar.gov.tr/portalmain-en/Palaces.aspx?SarayId=16

 

Images from Internet source Images from Internet source 
Images from Internet source 

Onto our favourite part of the day, lunch. Turkey is full of street cafe’s offering various foods for every palate.  We decided to try some street food – the famous “Baked Potato”.  Spoilt with an array of fillings these soft baked potatoes are drenched in butter and cheese before you start choosing your filling.  The portions are very generous and very well priced for what you get!

  

Our next excursion took us on a relaxing cruise on the Bosphorus. This was such a nice way of seeing many more historical landmarks while sipping on an ice cold drink.  It was kind of weird seeing Asia on the one side and Europe on the other, that will definitely be a travel moment I will cherish!  If seafood is your thing the river side restaurants on the Bosphorus has the best seafood restaurants in town!

  

The next day we strolled through the streets of Istanbul leading us to the famous Galata Tower.  This tower is one of the highest and oldest towers in Istanbul standing at 63 meters high and offering beautiful panoramic views.  The Galata tower was built in the 14th century by the Genoese colony as part of the defense wall surrounding their district at Galata. They called the tower “Tower of Christ”.  The Genoese traded with the Byzantines and the tower was used for the surveillance of the Harbor in the Golden Horn.

The first flying Turk was Hezarfen Ahmet Celebi, during the Ottoman empire of the 17th century. He studied air flows and copied bird wings then jumped from the Galata Tower!  He flew over the Bosphorus and landed on the Asian side, he traveled for about 6 kilometers.

A few last stops before we had to head back to the hotel.

 Chocolate anyone!?Enjoying some Kestae/Roasted Chestnuts I had Kunefe after EVERY meal! Delicious!

 

Travelling back home on Turkish Airlines we were welcomed in their award winning lounge.  Their lounge is accessible to all their business class, Miles & Smiles elite and Elite Plus members (business or economy), Star alliance members (who can bring a guest in!) and Turkish Airlines Corporate Club members.  The first thing that caught our eye was all the entertainment that was on offer inside this gigantic lounge spreading across two floors, not to mention all the extra bells and whistles.  By bells whistles I mean – sleeping rooms, unfortunately there are few regulations in using these rooms so please find out before you head off looking for a room! Each section of the lounge offered its only special feel – there were multiple dining areas, a TV room with nine large televisions and headphones to listen in and loads of spaces to just relax.  There is wifi and showers in the lounge as well as cubicles with locks to store any luggage. Unfortunately the kitchen closed at 12 midnight so I can’t tell you about the food.

   

         

Myself and hubby ventured to find some entertainment and behold they had a golf simulator! I decided to occupy one of the lie-flat massage chairs while he was swinging a few clubs. They also had video games, scalextric, a kids play area and a cinema.  The whole family was happy!

 

We had such an adventurous time in this beautiful city..

Thanks Istanbul xxx

 

 

 

Discover Istanbul

A family holiday to Istanbul on the prestigious Turkish Airlines is just what the doctor ordered.  As we pack our bags we are not sure what to expect from this unique city.  I could only start imagining colourful, vibrant markets and street cafe’s with Turkish water pipes and delicious kebabs.

As we make ourselves comfortable in our seats we are greeted by our on-board chef, the menu looks delicious! Turkish airlines is the only airline that offers a candle light dinner – in air!  So we make ourselves comfortable for the night’s sleep in the fully reclinable seats.  As the morning sun rays beams through the windows we couldn’t help but wake up with an exciting heart, we are almost in Istanbul, we got served a beautiful hot breakfast with some delicious coffee before we descent into Istanbul.

      

Upon arrival at our hotel we quickly unpacked our bags, had a shower (I had a bath – I am from Cape Town hahaha) and slipped into comfy clothes before we ventured out to explore Istanbul.  Our first stop had to involve food so our kind tour giude, Mehmet, took us to his favourite spot. ” No need to look at the menu or order anything”, Mehmet says with a smile on his face – they will bring you a bit everything to taste.  We didn’t even sit for a minute when the food started filling up our table!  We had a proper feast in proper Turkish style and if I should say so myself it was the best Turkish kebabs I have ever tasted.

       

After our delightful lunch we took a short cable car ride up the Pierre Loti hill and enjoyed some home brewed Turkish coffee with a stunning view of Istanbul.

      

We also visited Minaturk which is a place that exhibits the “mini treasures” found in Turkey, there are about 105 models done in 1/25th scale.  Half of them are from Istanbul and the rest from Anatolia and the Ottoman territories outside of Turkey.  This is a great way to see all the attractions in and around Turkey if you don’t have enough time to physically go visited all these historical sights!

On the seond day we started our adventures off in the city center sqaure of Turkey called Beyazit Square.  This was  previously known as Freedom square and is home to many shops, the Istanbul University, State Library and Beyazit mosque. It is close to the Grand baazar. From here you can take a tram to famous Sultanahmet district.  It is one of the most beautiful squares of Istanbul’s history. From here we walked to the Spice Bazaar en got to explore and discover all the rich textures, flavours, sights and sounds the traditional Turkey has to offer.  We tasted true traditional Turkish sweets, tea’s, oils, spices, nuts, dried fruits, textiles.. the list goes on and on and on!

      

After our market shopping we walked though the small historical streets paved with cobble stones, it was warm en buzzing with people, there is so much culture and so many traditional shops around every corner.  We often replenished our energy with some super freshly squeezed juices available everywhere. Our last stop for the day was Topkapi palace, this palace served as the main residence in the 15th century and administrative headquarters of the Ottoman sultans. It is now a large museum and forms part of the historic areas of Istanbul.  Topkapi means Cannon Gate, this name was given in the 19th century.  Only  a a few of the rooms are open to public to view, there is also a museum collection which also includes Ottoman clothing, weapons, armor, miniatures, religious relics, and the Topkapi manuscript.  The views from Topkapi palace is really amazing as you can see the Bosphorus strait which separates Europe from Asia

      

Be sure to visit the Konyali Lokantasi restaurant when you are at Topkapi Palace, the food and views are incredible!

 

Just some tips when visiting Istanbul:

 

  • Make sure you have Turkish money on you when you arrive at the airport for the luggage trollies! They cost 1 Lira each, luckily we did find a money exchange kiosk within the arrival terminal for this.
  • Don’t take any pictures of the cabin crew on Turkish airlines – it’s against their airline policy and you can get into big trouble for this!
  • If you are pregnant and traveling on Turkish airlines make sure your letter from the Doctor states clearly that you are healthy and fit to fly, how many weeks you are and that your letter is stamped according to the Turkish airlines rules and regulations (They differ from other airlines). I was sadly almost rejected to board my flight back home due to the fact that I didn’t have the correct stamp.
  • It’s best to have a translator app on your phone as we found that many people (including restaurant staff couldn’t speak English)
  • If you buy stuff from the markets double check your parcels and boxes before they seal it.  We got a few extra unwanted, paid for, surprises when we opened our box at home.
  • Always bargain at he markets!

Did you know:

Istanbul is the only city in the world that straddles two continents: Asia and Europe.

Istanbul is built on seven hills to match the seven hills of Rome.

Under the Ottoman Empire, the city was renowned for having more than 1,400 public toilets

While not the capital, Istanbul is Turkey’s  largest city with more than 13 million people – 99 per cent of which are Muslim.

Snow is common in the city!

Istanbul is home to the most mosque in Turkey. It has 3,113 mosques, including the historical Sultanahmet Mosque and the Süleymaniye Mosque.

Sultanahmet or the Old City is where most of the famous historical sights of Istanbul are located.

The Grand Bazaar in operation since 1461, is one of the oldest and largest covered markets in the world with 60 streets and 5,000 shops. It attracts between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily.

Istanbul is famous for its historic seafood restaurants. The Kumkapı neighbourhood along the Sea of Marmara alone houses some 50 fish restaurants, and many of the city’s restaurants line the shores of the Bosphorus.

Istanbul is the world’s top destination in the 2014 Traveller’s’ Choice Destinations awards, voted for by millions of holiday makers, ahead of Paris, New York, Rome and London

On my next blog I will share some more shopping tips, handmade carpets, leather jackets, more food and our expereince on Turkish Airlines returning home!

Stay tuned..

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