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Middle East » Turkey » Marmara » Istanbul
November 14th 2015
Published: November 21st 2015
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We arrived in Istanbul about 4 hours and 15 minutes after departing Gallipoli. By the time we arrived in Istanbul the hire car place was closed so we decided to drive to our hotel in Beyoğlu and find some parking nearby.

I had read that the streets in Beyoğlu were narrow and a bit like a rabbit warren, but I hadn’t expected them to be that bad! The narrow streets (often just wide enough to fit a car down) are one way, though there isn’t really much signage indicating which direction is the correct one! To add to the excitement a few of the streets have spikes at the end of them to puncture tyres of cars which have gone the wrong way. We had a few tentative moments when we drove over spikes not entirely sure whether our tyres would survive. We also experienced the joys of driving along Istiklal Caddesi, a mostly pedestrian only shopping strip similar to Bourke Street Mall, without killing anyone.

Eventually we found a (free) park on the side of a slightly wider street not too far from our hotel. We parked the car, grabbed our bags and set off to check in. I had chosen a hotel near Galata Tower thinking it would be a good area; the thing I hadn’t connected is that Galata tower is near the top of a large hill, meaning that our hotel was also near the top of a hill and therefore we had to lug our bags up the hill…

We eventually made it to our hotel alive, checked in and headed out in search of dinner. We ended up on Istiklal Caddesi and joined the masses of pedestrians (more enjoyable than trying to drive along it!). We chose a small side street off Istiklal Caddesi which looked promising; after wandering along it for a little while I noticed a sign a little further up with ‘Thai’ written on it. As we got closer I realised it was the Thai restaurant I had discovered on the internet and picked out for us to go to one night. As soon as I realised that there was no way we’d consider anything else so we walked in and grabbed a table.

The Thai restaurant was full of mostly expats / tourists looking for their fix of something other than kebaps. We ordered two main dishes each, a serve of chicken and vegetable borek (spring rolls) and two bowls of rice (10TL each! Rice is not cheap in Turkey). Our food was nice, but if you had it in Melbourne and paid that much you’d be pretty disappointed. However, given how deprived of Asian food we had been we were pretty happy with it and polished it off quickly.

Day One – Beyoğlu, Spice Bazaar, Grand Bazaar and Süleymaniye Mosque

The following morning we both woke up fairly early; neither of us had slept well as our hotel room was far too hot. We got dressed and found our way back to our car (which was still there and parking ticket free – yay!) and set off towards the hire car place via a petrol station.

The total distance from where we had parked our car to the hire car place via a petrol station was probably about 5km…but it took us about an hour to navigate the one way streets, crazy Istanbul intersections and traffic. The most exciting part of the trip was when we turned into the pedestrian only (we think) Taksim Square. Scott decided we were committed so we proceeded to drive through Taksim Square, to an exit which was blocked, did a u-turn and eventually ended up about 5m away from the hire car shopfront! By the time we made it there we were both pretty glad to be rid of the car, we double checked we hadn’t left anything inside it, handed back the keys and then walked back towards our hotel.

Once back at our hotel we had breakfast and then spoke to them about our hot room. We discovered that the room was centrally heated; Scott caught a glimpse of the thermostat which said it was set at 32 degrees! Reception said that if we came back at 12pm they would see if they could move us to a room with windows to the street rather than to the internal (enclosed) courtyard.

After breakfast we went for a walk around the streets of Beyoğlu to kill time until we could see whether another hotel room was available. Beyoğlu is in the European part of Istanbul, on the eastern side of the Golden Horn. Beyoğlu (historically also called Galata and Pera) became built up as a suburb of Byzantium (Istanbul) as early as the 5th century; however went into decline following world war one. In recent years it has become quite a trendy area; a lot of the beautiful old mansions have been or are being restored. Wandering through the streets it seemed quite similar to Collingwood / Fitzroy; lots of cafes, shops with upcoming designers, heaps of restaurants and nice old buildings.

After wandering around taking photos for a couple of hours we returned to our hotel where, fortunately, there was another room available. The new room was more expensive, but the hotel gave us the upgrade at no cost. We moved our luggage, opened all the windows and then headed back out to explore the Bazaar area.

After walking past all the fishermen on Galata Bridge we found our way to the Spice Bazaar. The building which houses the Spice Bazaar is new in Istanbul terms; it was constructed around 1664 as an extension to the New Mosque. As the name implies the bazaar largely sells spices, however other products such as dried fruits and nuts, lokum (Turkish delight), jewellery and tacky souvenirs. The bazaar seems to have become incredibly touristy; I think if you were intending on buying spices you’d want to do your research prior to purchasing so that you didn’t end up with some terrible quality spice which had been mixed with who knows what else to increase the weight. Nevertheless it was quite attractive and buzzing with people so worth the visit.

After the Spice Bazaar we made our way through the back streets towards the Grand Bazaar. Scott described these streets as the Reject Shop as they were “lined with shops selling cheap junk you don’t need or want”. They were busy though so we were able to do plenty of people watching. We weren’t really looking at our map but we somehow managed to navigate the windy streets and end up at the gate we wanted to enter the bazaar through.

The Grand Bazaar is one of the worlds’ largest covered markets. Construction of the bazaar commenced in about 1455, since then the bazaar has been gradually expanded and now houses about 3000 shops. The bazaar is roughly divided into areas which each sell different items, e.g. leather, gold, cheap clothing but the lines are more blurred these days. We wandered around for an hour or so taking photos and avoiding buying a carpet. Along one of the wider streets we noticed that someone had put up signs with random facts about the bazaar such as the number of people it employs (26,000 people) and that advertising wasn’t permitted until more recently.

After the bazaar we decided to get lunch at one of the many restaurants nearby. We chose to sit outdoors, which would have been a whole lot more enjoyable if not for the annoying men walking around selling ‘perfume’, socks etc. who kept harassing us.

After lunch we decided to go for a walk. We walked past the gates of Istanbul University which looked really nice; it would have been nice to go in and have a look but you needed an Istanbul University student ID card to get in. The university gardens looked lovely from what we could see through the fence. Eventually we ended up at Süleymaniye Mosque so we decided to head in and check it out.

Süleymaniye Mosque is apparently the largest and grandest mosque in Istanbul. The mosque was built for the Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent; construction commenced in 1550 and was completed around 1558. We had perfectly timed our arrival for the call of prayer, meaning that the mosque would be closed to tourists for a little while whilst everyone went and prayed.

While waiting for the mosque to reopen to tourists we had a look around the exterior courtyard, the gardens (which have a great view over the Golden Horn and Beyoğlu) and the cemetery which includes the tombs of Süleyman, his wife and his daughter. In the cemetery I came across a friendly cat which somehow ended up curled up on my lap having a nap.

Once prayers were finished we headed inside. The mosque is incredibly ornate and really beautiful inside. After admiring the architecture and engineering for a while we headed back through the busy Istanbul streets, past the New Mosque, over Galata Bridge and up the horrible steep hill to our hotel.

That night for dinner we headed towards Istiklal Caddesi again. We chose another random small street off it where we found a restaurant which was reasonably busy. We grabbed a table on the balcony upstairs, ordered some mezze and a main to share and ate whilst watching the people on the street below and the other couple on the balcony who were getting drunk on Raki.

Day Two – Beyoğlu and Taksim Square

On our second morning we had a bit of a slower start. After a late breakfast we set off to explore Beyoğlu a bit more. The streets around Beyoğlu are a complete jumble; we decided to just set off in a random direction as it didn’t really matter if we got lost as we could use google maps to find our way back. Beyoğlu quickly becomes less touristy (and more run down) as you get away from the busy few tourist streets. A lot of the buildings are colourful, the architecture is pretty and the cobblestone streets are cute. Somehow we managed to navigate back to Galata Tower; we had definitely taken the scenic (and hilly) route to get there given it was only 300m from our hotel.

From Galata Tower we headed down the hill towards Namli and Karaköy Güllüoğlu which were both recommendations of the owner of our hotel in Selçuk. Namli is a deli which also does a roaring trade in mezze; you point at the items you want, they put it on a plate, weigh it, you pay by weight then get a basket of bread to go with it. Karaköy Güllüoğlu which is one shop further down the street is famous for making the best baklava in Istanbul. A lot of other baklava shops have adopted the ‘Güllüoğlu’ part of the name but there is only one Karaköy Güllüoğlu (as the signage around their shop constantly reminds you). We were both still really full from breakfast so rather than eat right then we decided to walk some more before heading back there later on.

We set off along the water thinking the views would be lovely, but surprisingly the area along the waterfront was actually quite run down and the big fences along the water completely obscured the view. Such a shame as it could be a really lovely area if they cleaned it up a little.

When we reached the Kabataş ferry terminal we decided it was time to head towards Taksim Square (which meant another climb up a long steep hill). Taksim Square is most famous as the location of political protests, most recently in 2013-2014. It is a pretty unremarkable open space filled with people transferring between the different transport options. After taking a few photos (not that its particularly photo worthy) we headed along Istiklal Caddesi back towards our hotel.

After a short break we headed back to Namli for lunch; we ended up with a large plate full of delicious mezze to share. My favourite was the dolmate, and Scott’s was something stuffed with beef. It was all delicious though and we ended up quite full.

After Namli we went to get our baklava fix at Karaköy Güllüoğlu. We eventually found a table, ordered our portion of pistachio baklava and a tea and sat down to enjoy. The baklava was delicious; we watched a video of them making it later which showed them pouring liberal amounts of melted butter over the layers of filo pastry…I’m sure the quantity of butter was part of the reason it was so delicious.

After polishing off our baklava we were both incredibly full. We decided to head home to recover from our food comas; we definitely didn’t appreciate the huge hill after a big lunch!

Dinner that night was a very simple (and small!) falafel wrap each eaten at 9pm in our hotel room; after our huge lunch we weren’t very hungry at all!

Day Three - Topkapı Palace, the Blue Mosque, Aya Sofia and Basilica Cistern

On our third morning in Istanbul we had a reasonably early start as we had a big day planned. After breakfast we walked towards Topkapı Palace which is across the other side of the Golden Horn from Beyoğlu. After about half an hour we reached the palace gates, and headed inside towards the ticket window where we purchased a museum pass.

Topkapı Palace was one of the main royal residences of the Ottoman Sultans from the mid 15th century to 1856. Between 1856 and 1924 the palace was used as accommodation for high ranking officials. In 1924 the massive palace complex was turned into a museum; in addition to the buildings (restoratation ongoing) it also houses impressive collections of objects from the palace.

After purchasing our museum passes we headed to the Harem section of the palace. Apparently the Harem gets absolutely packed during peak season, but it was reasonably quiet when we visited which was nice. The Harem area of the palace was home to 300 concubines (at its peak) as well as black eunuchs, the sultans mum and various other attendants. The elaborate rooms have been beautifully restored and the signage was much better than we had seen at other sites throughout Turkey.

From the Harem we headed into the main palace grounds to explore some more; these buildings were still lovely but not quite as nice as those in the Harem area. Whilst looking for the way out we came across the Treasury.

The Treasury houses some of the particularly fancy gold, diamond, silver and precious stone encrusted tea ware, jeweller, medals, vases and ornaments from the palace. The highlight of the Treasury was the 86 carat Kaşıkçı diamond which was apparently discovered in a rubbish dump by a poor fisherman. A jeweller purchased the diamond from the fisherman who didn’t realise what it was for 3 spoons (hence its nickname ‘the Spoonmaker’s diamond’).

From the Treasury we headed towards the Palace Kitchens. The narrative in the kitchens was really interesting; it described what they ate, palace customs and how food was prepared for the massive feasts which were attended by thousands of people.

After checking out the Palace Kitchens we made our way out of Topkapı Palace, towards the Blue Mosque. The Blue Mosque is actually called the Sultan Ahmed Mosque; its nickname comes from the blue tiles on its roof. Construction of the mosque began in 1609 and was completed in 1616. Surprisingly, given the number of tourists who flock there, it is still used as an active mosque.

We did a quick time check to make sure we wouldn’t be entering just on call to prayer time before joining the line of tourists lining up for their modesty check before heading in. People who didn’t pass the modesty check (girls in skinny jeans deemed too skinny, leggings or skirts or without headscarves or men in shorts) were handed sack dressed or headscarves to cover themselves with.

The Blue Mosque wasn’t quite as striking as Süleymaniye Mosque, but was still worth visiting. We spent about 10 minutes inside admiring the beautiful architecture before venturing out into the courtyard to take some photos.

From the Blue Mosque we headed across to Aya Sofia (or Hagia Sofia depending on who you speak to / which website you look at). Aya Sofia has a very long and interesting past. Construction of the impressive building, which was originally a Greek Orthodox church, commenced in 532 and was completed only 5 years later in 537. When the Latin Empire was formed in 1204 after the fall of Istanbul (Constantinople at the time) in the Fourth Crusade, it became a Roman Catholic Church. In 1261 it was converted back to a Greek Orthodox church. It remained as a Greek Orthodox church until 1453 when Constantinople was taken by the Ottoman Empire and it was converted into a Mosque. In 1935 Atatürk, having founded the secular Turkish Republic a number of years earlier, turned the building into a museum.

Probably the most striking thing about Aya Sofia is the fact that it is so old and in such fantastic condition (no doubt due to the various past and ongoing restorations). It is amazing that they managed to construct such an incredible and huge building in the 500’s and in only 5 years and 10 months...though I suspect quite a few people would have died during the construction phase (no WorkSafe back then!).

We spent about an hour inside, though some of that included cuddle time with a grumpy looking cat who took a liking to my lap. During our time inside Aya Sofia we climbed up what seemed like 1000 ramps to the upper section of the building which had a decent view over the lower areas though it was quite obstructed by the massive scaffold which has been constructed to facilitate the most recent restoration.

Following Aya Sofia we headed over the Basilica Cistern which was only about 50m away. The Basilica Cistern is not included on the museum pass, which seems silly given it is one of the main sites in Istanbul. After purchasing our tickets we headed inside with the masses to have a look.

The Basilica Cistern, constructed in 532, is the largest of the ancient underground cisterns in Istanbul. It is a massive structure; it was designed to hold 80,000 cubic metres of water which serviced Topkapı Palace and the surrounding buildings. Apparently 7000 slaves were involved in its construction.

It’s quite an odd but very interesting site to visit, and it was one of our highlights of Istanbul. The columns which support the roof of the cistern were sourced from various different temples and buildings around the empire; it seems they used whatever they could find). A couple of the columns sit on top of rocks with Medusa heads carved into them – one is on its side and one is upside down. Apparently there are some theories that they were placed in this manner to negate the evil gaze of Medusa, however I think (and apparently some historians agree) that they were positioned this way as they suited the length and base of the columns they needed to support.

After about 45 minutes inside the Basilica Cistern (a lot of that time trying to take a decent photo in the dark!) we ventured back out into the sunshine and headed off in search of lunch. We decided to head back towards Namli to get some more mezze as it had been so delicious the day before. Once we arrived we both ordered slightly smaller servings that the previous day (or that’s what we intended to do). Again the food was delicious, though Scott picked one mezze which he thought was meatballs but was actually some kind of offal that he wasn’t a big fan of. After lunch we popped into Karaköy Güllüoğlu to pick up some takeaway baklava before we headed back to our hotel to relax.

That night for dinner we set out in search of another Thai restaurant; but as we couldn’t find it / it had closed down we ended up at a pizza restaurant. The pizza was delicious and we ate whilst eavesdropping (not that it was hard given the volume) on the conversation of the Australians at the table next to us who were discussing all their lifes dramas (“Do I buy a wedding present for my sister, she borrowed $7000 from me which she hasn’t paid back. My other sister has told me she doesn’t think she needs to pay me back the money she borrows from me as I’m too rich”).

Day Four – Bosphorus Cruise

The following morning we had a very slow start. We eventually ventured out at about 11:45 and headed straight to water to purchase tickets for a Bosphorus tour. On the advice of the owner of our hotel in Selçuk we purchased 12TL ticket to take the 90 minute Turyol tour. The boats leave every hour, which meant (by the time we purchased tickets) that we had about an hour to kill before our boat departed. We spent about half an hour people (and jellyfish) watching around the very busy Eminönü ferry terminal before boarding the ferry early so we could secure a good seat. We departed the ferry terminal right on time and headed across the river to pick up passengers on the Beyoğlu side of the Golden Horn, before heading under Galata Bridge towards the Bosphorus.

The ferry slowed in front of various sites during the 90 minute tour. The first site was the Dolmabahçe Palace which was the main administrative centre of the Ottomon Empire from 1856 to 1922, with the exception of a 22 year period when Yıldız Palace was used instead. Dolmabahçe Palace was built by the 31st Sultan who was a bit fed up by the ‘medieval style’ of Topkapı Palace and wanted something a little more contemporary and luxurious. The building was much more European looking and appeared (from the ferry at least) to be one large building rather than a series of separate buildings housed within a complex. I think I would have preferred the privacy and gardens of Topkapı Palace…

The next site was the Çırağan Palace which was constructed between 1863 and 1867 by Sultan Abdülâziz. Again this palace was much more European looking. In 1989 the ruined palace was purchased by a Japanese corporation who restored it and turned it into a very fancy hotel. It is now one of the most expensive hotels in the world; the cheapest room is currently selling for about 515AUD per night, but most rooms are between 800 – 1300 AUD…perhaps next time…

From the palace we sailed underneath the First Bosphorus Bridge which is the first of three bridges which crosses the Bosphorus, joining Asia to Europe. This 1,560m long suspension bridge was constructed between 1970 and 1973.

From the First Bridge we continued up the Bosphorus past the fancy Su Ada night club / restaurant towards the wooden Ottoman mansions in Arnavutköy and then onto Bebek before we reached Rumelihisarı. Rumelihisarı is a large fortress which was built by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II between 1451 and 1452 before his army conquered Constantinople (presumably so he could prepare). Rumelihisarı is constructed at the narrowest point of the Bosphorus; the location was chosen so that the Sultan could control sea traffic on the Bosphorus and prevent aid from the Black Sea reaching Constantinople. The fortress consists of three towers connected by walls. Apparently the Sultan wanted to cheer up the builders so he let them build the walls in the shape of the name of Muhammad which curiously shares the same Arabic spelling as his own name Mehmed (there are no written vowels in everyday Arabic, only in the Qur’an)...

From Rumelihisarı, we passed under the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge, also known as the Second Bosphorus Bridge. This suspension bridge, which at 1510m is slightly longer than the First Bosphorus Bridge, was constructed between 1986 and 1988. After passing under the bridge we turned around and headed back towards the Golden Horn, but this time along the Asian side of the Bosphorus.

On the Asian side we passed Anadoluhisarı, a fortress which was built between 1393 and 1394 by the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I as part of the preparations for the Second Ottoman Siege of Constantinople.

From Anadoluhisarı we continued heading back down the Bosphorus past the ‘tiny’ Küçüksu Palace. Küçüksu Palace which was completed in 1857, is indeed a lot smaller than some of the other palaces, but it’s still pretty grand. It was used as a holiday home by various Sultans during ‘country’ excursions and hunting trips.

From Küçüksu Palace we continued on to very grand looking Kuleli Military High School which was founded in 1845 by Sultan Abdülmecid I. After the Second World Way, the school was moved back to Istanbul and the original Kuleli Military High School building converted into a historical home. The building is a lot more impressive than my high school was.

From Kuleli Military High School we sailed to Beylerbeyi Palace which is located just north of the First Bosphorus Bridge on the Asian side. Beylerbeyi Palace was built between 1861 and 1865 as a summer residence and venue for entertaining guests by Sultan Abdülaziz. Apparently it is a lot more modest than the Dolmabahçe or Küçüksu palaces, though it still looked pretty impressive.

From Beylerbeyi Palace we passed underneath the First Bosphorus Bridge again and continued past what must be some of the most expensive real estate in Istanbul in Kuzguincuik and Üsküdar. We made a brief stop in Üsküdar before continuing on towards Kız Kulesi.

Kız Kulesi, or the Maiden’s Tower, was originally built in 1110 on top of a small islet at the southern entrance to the Bosphorus. Over the years it has been reconstructed a number of times following famage from earthquakes and fires. It was likely built as a customs station for ships coming from the Black Sea, but nowadays there is a restaurant and a café at the top of the tower. It has also appeared in a few movies and TV shows, including two James Bond movies. From Kız Kulesi we headed back towards the Eminönü ferry terminal where we disembarked and headed back to our hotel.

That night we ended up at a Mexican Restaurant for dinner. The food was actually quite delicious and surprisingly authentic. We both ate far too much (again) so after dinner went back to our hotel to recover after our tough day.

Day Five – Military Museum, Taksim, Fatih and Süleymaniye Mosque (again!)

The following day we set off up Istiklal Caddesi, and through Taksim Square towards the Istanbul Military Museum. After about 45 minutes we arrived at the museum which covers one thousand years of Turkish military history.

Once we purchased our tickets and handed in our camera we entered the first exhibit which was more like a shrine to the life and times of Atatürk with the occasional mention of his military service. From there we headed into a hall which focused on the Turkish contribution to the Korean War through to a series of exhibits which explained the history of the Turkish people and the region.

From there we stepped into exhibits on the Byzantine Empire. The rooms outlining the Byzantine Empire military history, with exhibits of swords, shields, armour and the like. The transition from the Byzantine Empire to the Ottoman Empire was marked with the chain which was stretched across the Golden Horn to try to prevent the Siege of Constantinople by Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror in 1453. The fall of Constantinople was depicted with a model of a scene from the battle which was surprisingly impressive.

The relics from the Ottoman period included swords, shields, armour etc. but also elaborate guns. After moving through the earlier Ottoman Empire we reached the First World War period which included a room on the familiar Battle of Çanakkale (Gallipoli campaign). The Turks show far more pictures of soldiers who have been ‘martyred’ (killed in action) and blood smeared clothes / belongings which was a little different to what we’re used to… There was also a room about the Armenian issue (/ genocide depending on how your country classifies it) which was quite interesting. Note that Turkey does not dispute the deaths, just the motivation behind them.

From the First World War exhibits we passed the sleeping guard (I suspect he tells his wife he has works very hard but actually sleeps 90% of the day every day) we headed outside to check out the planes and tank in the gardens before heading back towards Taksim Square.

Before we reached Taksim Square we stopped for lunch at a busy looking restaurant. We ordered a serve of green beans cooked with tomato, some tavuk doner and some rice. The food was absolutely delicious and incredibly good value at 18TL with a drink each.

After lunch we headed back along Istiklal Caddesi in search of some lokum (Turkish delight) to take home to our families. We chose one shop which seemed to be busy every time we walked past and then headed inside to choose which size box we wanted to fill. We were tossing up between two tins, but the sales assistant pointed to the smaller tin and told us it held 1.5kgs so we settled on that size tin and ordered one for each set of parents as well as one for us. THe tins were then filled with the flavours we picked out; I’m not sure where the sales assistant got the 1.5kgs figure from but by the time the tins were filled we had just over 7kgs of Turkish delight! After paying and having the tins vacuum sealed we headed back to the hotel to drop off the heavy load.

After dropping off the lifetime supply of Turkish delight we ventured down the hill (again) and across Galata Bridge towards Fatih. After walking through the park alongside the Golden Horn we crossed the road and headed into the back streets. These streets were not touristy at all; a lot of the houses were quite run down but very interesting to look at. We wandered around for a while taking photos before we ended up back at Süleymaniye Mosque.

We decided to head back in to the grounds around the mosque again, and I’m glad we did as the sky was much clearer than the first time we were there. The view from the grounds across the Golden Horn towards Beyoğlu was lovely. We then headed from Süleymaniye Mosque back through the streets surrounding the Grand Bazaar, across Galata Bridge and up the horrible hill towards our hotel.

As it was our final night in Istanbul (and of our holiday) we headed out for a pre-dinner drink. We chose a rooftop bar off Istiklal Caddesi which is quite famous for its spectacular views. We grabbed a seat outside, ordered some drinks and settled in under blankets (regularly handed out in restaurants and bars in Turkey, such a great idea) and admired the view.

After finishing our drinks we ventured to Yeni Lokanta which is a fairly upmarket restaurant which gets very good reviews. There were a few seats available at the bar, so we settled in and ordered a drink each before reading over the menu. We ordered a selection of three mezze to start and a main dish each; aubergine ‘manti’ for me and lamb shank for Scott. The food and drinks were absolutely delicious, by the time we’d finished we were both incredibly full so had to pass on dessert unfortunately. The service was amazing and the restaurant was definitely an excellent choice for our final night in Turkey.

Day 6 – Beyoğlu, Taksim…and then to the airport

After our final Turkish breakfast (aww), we packed up and then headed out for a walk. We headed down to Galata Bridge to take photos of the fishermen then along the water towards Karaköy Güllüoğlu. We picked up our final fix of delicious baklava (including a vacuum sealed take away pack) before heading back up the hill to our hotel.

After checking out of our hotel we set off towards Istiklal Caddesi to do some more last minute shopping. Istiklal Caddesi was very busy, and as we walked along we passed a protest (not sure what for) with a fairly large police presence, though all looked very calm.

We walked with the crowds towards Taksim Square checking out a few shops along the way. By the time we reached Taksin Square it was nearly lunch time so we decided to head back to the restaurant from the previous day. We ordered the same meal (Scott got a kibbeh too) and sat down to enjoy. Luckily the food was as wonderful as the previous day; an excellent way to finish our food tour of Turkey.

On the way back down Istiklal Caddesi we stopped at a few more shops and bought a set of Turkish tea glasses and saucers before heading back to our hotel to fit the last minute purchases into our bags, change our clothes and catch our ride to the airport.

Our prearranged airport transfer arrived right on time; we loaded our bags in and settled in for the ride to Atatürk airport. Our trip to the airport took us almost all the way up the Golden Horn, along the outside of the walls of Istanbul and along the Sea of Marmara.

Atatürk airport is not particularly exciting (but then again, which airport is), so after checking out the shops we found an empty area where we were able to settle in to read our books and eat some of the baklava we had purchased that morning.

Our flight to Qatar was uneventful, as was the final leg to Melbourne. Our bags made it home safely and after collecting them we hopped into a taxi and headed to our house. Our cats even gave us a nice welcome when we finally arrived home just before midnight!

We had a fantastic time in Turkey; I'm glad we had a month to explore the country as it is so diverse and there is so much history. Now to figure out where to go on our next trip...

Additional photos below
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22nd November 2015
Tavuk doner

Food, food, foods
I can nearly smell this and taste this. Wonderful

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