Published: April 24th 2011April 24th 2011
Arrived in Istanbul to be confronted with the wost peak hour traffic! Worse than the Monash.....so it took some time to get to the hotel. Worth the wait - very posh - 5 star hotel - which scanned us & our baggage for weapons - overlooking the Bospherous (well Nobby & Chris got that view...we just had an overgrown garden and a barking dog.) Decided we could handle going out for dinner (as opposed to taking the easy option of eating in the hotel) so after much consultation with the concierge we got into a dinky little taxi. After 20 mins we were on the waterfront and we knew for sure we were going to eat seafood by the raw fish in the window. We were not really dressed up for this occasion when we saw the white tablecloths & shiny silver service. Still like true Aussies we soldiered on.
No English on the menu and they must have got impatient with us because all of a sudden we were presented with 8 dishes to try. We chose a couple & thought we were having their banquet deal but really we didn't know what was coming next. When the waiter tapped us on the shoulder to follow him,we wondered if we were being thrown out - as we really didn't fit their customer ideal. But we were taken to the front door to view and pick the fish we were to eat! He was the biggest seabass we've ever seen. Turned out he was the tasiest one. This seafood restaurant was impressive. The stuffy waiter finally began to relax with us and suggested we try the local drink Raki - this was very strong ouzo and went to our head. We were joking & laughing & getting odd looks from the very well dressed clientele - but they weren't having as much fun as us. Jealousy......
Surprisingly we all woke with clear heads ready to tackle Istanbul. Our guide Ines is a good looking young Turk who speaks excellent English. There are only another 5 on the tour - all Aussies - so on a bus for 44 people..... We all get 4 seats each!
We visited Istanbul last time in summer & it was much more comfortable at this time of year, We went to the Hippodrome, Blue Mosque and the Topaki Palace. As we are such a small group - Ines is able to tell us in great detail about each location. In the Palace we saw the largest diamond ever found - spoonmakers diamond - size of a desert spoon - very impressive. The Willys went to the Grand Bazarr while the Nobs were very adventurous and took off on their own to see the Basiica Cistern - which they had been told was great. It did not disappoint. The Willys went & ate in a local cafe - chicken soup & chicken dessert made from chicken breast, Fantastic. No bartering in the Bazarr - too crowded & to overwhelming. After all that we were knackered (to quote Chris). It had been a mighty day & the Conrad Hotel was a welcome sight. After an hours rest - we all met up at the 14th floor bar and enjoyed the view of Asia to the left & Europe on the right. Dinner & bed!