We started walking back towards Topkapi, looking for a taxi. Lucky thing it wasn’t raining, since we couldn’t find a single one that was free. Unlucky or not looking enough?
The Grand Bazaar had closed so we wandered on, in the general direction of the bridges leading towards Galata. We found some small alleys with shops, and we kept following the general direction in which people were moving. Suddenly we found ourselves in the Spice Bazaar.
We kept on walking, right over the bridge, and after a few wrong turns we found ourselves next to Galata Tower. I was obviously famished by this time, and I was finally allowed to get a sandwich from one of the stalls just off the square. After finishing it off, we found a free taxi and headed towards the hotel. This guy, couldn’t speak a word of English, but he was quick at weaving between the other crazies out that night.
Not having eaten a proper dinner, I was still a little hungry, so we popped by a nearby café for a cup of tea and some snacks. What a lovely way to finish the day.
The next morning, we lazily packed and headed for Dolmabahçe Palace. And queued, since we didn’t get there early enough. We only stood in line for an hour. Note to self: see if you can get on a pre-booked tour next time.
At cultural venues I pride myself in trying to follow local customs and rules. At Dolmabahçe Palace there are a couple of very simple and clear rules: don’t touch anything and no photography inside the building. That’s why there aren’t any pictures of beautiful ceilings or magnificent chandeliers in this post. And that’s what made us quite infuriated when people just couldn’t keep quiet while the guide was speaking and just couldn’t keep their mobiles in their pockets while he had his back turned. This is the amount of respect people have for other cultures and customs.
The palace was beautiful, and our guide was great. Obviously having ten tours a day for almost twenty years, you might even have some great stories that are more legend than historical fact. A true to his word, he saved the best for last. Entering the great hall, I was amazed. I’ve seen palaces and ancient ruins, but this was something completely different. Absolutely fabulous.
We were getting a bit pressed for time, so we didn’t get in the queue for the harem, we’ll just have to take that next time. Instead, we headed for some lunch. Lovely finding a restaurant with an absolutely Turkish menu, and not a single person speaking English. What a gem! And the food was great. After eating, we made it back just in time to catch the airport bus, and our lovely holiday was over.
We even had a couple of minutes extra to spare, for one last batch of baklavas. You would think that it would be easy to find, we’re right in the middle of Turkey, in large international airport with dozens of small restaurants and coffee shops . No, the only place serving Turkish dishes was right at the opposite end of the terminal compared to where our gate was. What one does for a baklava…..
Summing up: great weekend, lovely city, the weather could have been better. And when will we be back? Hard to say since our sailing season and the warmer weather somehow coincide. Since Istanbul is only about three hours and all the airport-time away, it competes on equal terms with great places like Rome, which is due for a revisit.
Till next time, Istanbul!