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Turkey, September 2019

10th November 2019
Written by: Rob Slusar

We woke up incredibly early to make our trip to Istanbul. After a quick breakfast, we boarded our Turkish Airlines flight and took to the skies for the next leg of our journey. A couple of hours later we touched down in Turkey.

Istanbul

After what was a great flight with Turkish Airlines we touched down at the new Istanbul Airport, which has only been open a few months. I knew the airport would be big, but it wouldn’t be a lie to say it took around half-hour from wheels touching the ground to getting our gate to disembark.

We hadn’t been to Istanbul before so it was all new to us. We had arranged with our hotel a transfer so that we could get to the city and find our bearings.

We had booked a small boutique hotel on one of the streets of Taksim Square. We assumed it would be busy, but we hadn’t taken into account that the street we were next to was one of the busiest in Istanbul.

Istanbul as a city straddles the two continents of Europe and Asia and as such has a wide and varied history. the main population of the metropolitan area of the city is around 15 million people. By comparison, the total of greater London is around 8 million people.

Many religions are represented in the city. Our hotel, for example, was placed between a large mosque and a church.

With us being us we threw ourselves into the city and the culture. We visited the Blue Mosque, the Grand Bazaar as well as some other museums and art exhibitions as well as enjoying some of the wonderful eateries there are in the city.

I didn’t take that many pictures, but here are some of the ones I did grab.

Branching off of Taksim Square, Istiklal Avenue is one of the busiest streets in Istanbul. It is lined with streets and restaurants and is so long that it has a tram which runs the full length of it. People will jump on and off of the tram and at busy times (which is all of the time) people will be hanging from it.

This is a quick pano from our room. We went for a penthouse suite which I must say was quite lovely. You can see the differences in culture in this city. In the background, you can see some of the financial district skyscrapers. Either side of our hotel, a mosque and a church.

The Hagia Triada Greek Orthodox Church dates back to the 1870s and took around 4 years to build. It is considered to be the largest Greek Orthodox shrine in Istanbul and although it only has a small number of parishioners, it is still a central part of the community.

The towers of the Blue Mosque. As it was under refurbishment works I didn’t take many pictures. It is, however, a very impressive building.

We only spent 2 full days in the city before we moved on to Kuşadası but we filled it with as much stuff as we could. Whilst we tried to see a lot of cultural items, we did go very simple and went to a couple of museums including the Madame Tussauds near Taksim Square.

Istanbul was as crazy as I expected it to be, possibly even more so. I’m not sure I would make a plan to go back there anytime soon, however if we need to stop over again we would no doubt head back to the city.

Recommendations

Just as I did with Budapest, here are a few notable recommendations from our time in Istanbul.

Triada Hotel – Not the most high-end hotel in the city, but this quirky little hotel was a great location close to Taksim Square. Whilst some of the decor is a bit tired and the walls a bit thin, the penthouse we went with was relatively cheap for a central hotel and the staff were magnificent.

Museum of Illusions – This fun little museum is dedicated to the world of optical illusions. With a number of sets to show you the various illusions, it goes to explain how your brain works with such things as perspective and why 2 straight lines may seem quite wavey. The Vortex Tunnel was one of my favourites.

Address bab-I ali cafe bar – If you like traditional Turkish food, this wonderful little restaurant is located off one of the side streets and is well recommended on Tripadvisor. We sat down and had a great evening with some great food and some fun chats with the staff. If you want great food near Taksim Square give this place a look.

Kusadasi

We took our third flight and headed an hour south to our regular anniversary holiday destination of Kuşadası.

I have covered it a lot in many other previous reports, but we decided after 6 days of being really busy the final 8 would be a real chill out period where we would eat, drink and be merry.

I did wander around with the camera at times to pick up a couple of things I liked the look of so here they are.

The Hand of Peace sculpture near the waterfront of Kuşadası.

Umbrella Street.

Umbrella Street is a street off of the main bazaar area and has had coloured umbrellas lined with lights strung across the street.

We didn’t have the best experience in our hotel this time around, which is a first for our visits to Kuşadası. Last time we stayed at the Hilton but decided to try the Marina Suites by Sentido Hotels. Whilst the hotel was nice, it had some strange rules about drinks and the constant dance music didn’t lend itself to being a relaxing location. Just as well we know the town well and spent most of the time out.

We have tried many places in the town, so here are a few places we would always recommend.

Recommendations

Tranche Steakhouse – Based on the Kuşadası Marina complex, this wonderful steak house serves a fantastic range of food and every bit of meat is cooked to perfection. If you are a meat lover then this is the place for you. Given the exchange rate, you can have a good steak dinner for two for something close to £40.

Captains House – Another regular stop of ours is Captains Cabin. Across the road from the seafront, it is a small cafe restaurant with some wonderful staff. A great stop for a chilled out drink or lunch.

Şirince

One day we decided to take a day trip away from Kuşadası. Having not been there for a few years we headed out to the Şirince.

Şirince is a small village in the mountains close to Selçuk and is home to around 600 inhabitants. It was first settled when people moved out of Ephesus in the 15th century and has gone on to become a producer of many delightful fruit wines (which of course we sampled).

Şirince acquired world-wide fame when tourists flocked to the village in December 2012 to witness the Mayan Apocalypse. It was considered to be one of only 2 safe places in the world. Of course, the apocalypse didn’t happen so we will never know whether that holds true.

Here are some photos of the old streets around the village.

Market streets with homes in the background.

The town is on the mountain so there are lots of inclines. On the left is one of the many wine retailers in the area.

Ancient streets.

Stepped housing.

Residential streets.

The market.

Final Thoughts

I apologise again for another long and rambly travel blog.

This trip is probably going to be our last one away this year, potentially our last for a while given we want to get some decorating done.

Turkey is a country which is very close to our hearts. We have some good friends there and have enjoyed many a good time there which goes some way to explain why we always seem to spend our anniversary there.

If you have never been and would like to go, I would certainly suggest checking out Kuşadası. It is a beach resort which is close to Greece (you can, in fact, get a ferry to it). It is popular with westerners and is not as in your face as somewhere like Istanbul. You can find some great little hotels in the main town close to all the action, or alternatively, there are some great all-inclusive beach hotels on the outskirts which you can access via a dolmus.

I hope you enjoyed my travels, and I hope you are enjoying the newer format of my blogs with all the recommendations. Drop me a comment and let me know. As always, thanks for looking.

 

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