I had a quick chat with Raheed who happens to understand the local language and knows just the right places to get our Istanbul tour started.
He said – “get ready to tour Istanbul just like a local, you will be taking the metro like locals, we will eat at a local restaurant when we get to the Bazaar, we will make friends”.
I was already excited!
Meanwhile, It was the Eid holidays and the city was busy with locals and tourists from all over the world.
My early impressions of Istanbul from the windows of our ride to the hotel was that the place looks exactly as I imagined it.
The city of Istanbul is opulent, with much medieval structure – like buildings and any number of designer stores littering the vast sidewalks.
Curvaceous buildings jut out of the horizon in the pleasing way that both a looking architecture does.
My room at the hotel overlooks the Bosphorus; a natural strait connecting the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara dividing the Asian side and the European side of Turkey.
We were on the European side.
The weather was almost summer-like and we set out. Our first stop was the home stadium to one of the biggest teams in Europe; Beşiktaş which was just a 6 minutes walk away from the hotel.
Vodafone Park, an iconic 41,000 seater stadium sitting on a hill is an elegant structure you can’t miss when you are in town.
Unfortunately, we didn’t tour one of the most intimidating stadiums for away fans in Europe – instead, we walked to the nearby Dolmabahçe Palace which was once an administrative centre under the Ottoman Empire during the 19th century.
Built under the reign of Sultan Addulmecit (1839 -1861)
The Dolmabahçe Palace is till date the largest palace in Turkey with an area of 45,000 meters square.
However, we were not allowed to take pictures once we were inside one of the most impressive Palaces in the world – that has 285 rooms, 44 halls, 68 toilets and 6 Turkish baths and 14 tons of gold used to decorate ceilings in gold leaves.
A crystal chandelier hanging in one of the halls was sent by Queen Victoria of England as a gift to the palace and is the largest chandelier in the world with 750 bulbs and weighs 4.5 tons. Impressive, yeah? I was in awe too.
Next, we headed to Sultanahmet Square using the tram after Raheed’s advice to avoid traffic. The tram was free during the holiday.
It took us about 15minutes to get to our destination; the famous Sultanahmet Square which has in close proximity between each other, some of Istanbul’s most visited and famous tourist attractions.
The Hagia Sophia Mosque, the Blue Mosque and the Topkapi Palace, all in one vicinity – a tourist’s dream come true…
Continue the chronicles to part 3 here