I never would have imagined when I got up this morning how much I would end up cramming into this day! It’s the last day of the month and financial year in Australia so I had the morning set aside to work.
Unfortunately there were some plane delays and I had not realised quite how far the airport was from the centre of Istanbul, so I had arrived at the hotel (which is beautiful!) at almost midnight and hadn’t even been able to check out the neighbourhood the night before – my chances of seeing much of the city were pretty low.
I got up at 6am, went down to the buffet breakfast and started working away over a some Turkish tea and a plate of eggs, cold cuts of meats and various pastries. After a couple of hours I went upstairs to my room to do a zoom call, but the cleaners were making up the room, so I went to try and find somewhere in the lobby area to do the call. I found what looked like a seating area for guests, sat down and started the call.
A little while later the hotel manager, came over to me to see if I was ok. It seems I was not actually sitting in a guest area, but when we started chatting I found out that he actually lived in Australia for a few years managing a restaurant. The restaurant was in the same town that I built my first house, Berwick! We spoke for a while and he explained that he also runs a tour company and would be happy to show me around the city when I have finished my work. So at around 12, I closed my laptop and took Fettah up on his offer.
We walked from the hotel to the gardens of the Topkapi Palace where Fettah explained some of the history of the enormous and incredibly majestic building.
A proper walk through of the palace would require a full day, so instead we admired the exterior and first garden before continuing on our tour. Next we walked to the Hagia Sophia, a stunning place of worship that was built in the 4th century and has been an Orthodox Basilica and a mosque. Fettah again shared some of the history and most famous stories of the area, before we went inside for a look around.
Next we walked past the Blue Mosque, named so because of the blue tiles that adorn the walls of its interior and on to Sultanahmet Square, the former Hippodrome where chariot races were run in ancient times. At the far end of the square there is an incredible Obelisk that was gifted to the city by the Egyptians and dates back to BC times. There is also a serpent column and a walled Obelisk in the same area.
We walked around the corner and arrived at the famous Grand Bazaar – Oh my goodness, If I had unlimited money and luggage space I could have stayed here for the rest of the day – there are over 4500 shops selling Turkish jewellery, pottery, leather goods and so much Turkish delight!
Next, I boarded the tourist ferry for a 1.5hr trip up and down the Bosphorus straight so that Fettah could get back to work. The view of the city from the water was stunning, there are castles and palaces and mosques galore!
Later in the evening I met with Fettah again and we walked to a nearby rooftop bar that had the most spectacular 360 degree views across the entire city. We sat with a glass of wine as the sunset faded and the city lit up! It was just stunning.