I just typed the words “Day Seven” into the title of this blog post. I only have eight full days in Istanbul on this trip. That means the day after tomorrow, I have to leave.
Or do I? Seriously, someone remind me why I supposedly have to go home.
I guess I should focus on what I’m happy about first. I had a GREAT day today–and I know I keep saying this–probably my best so far. The Beşiktaş neighborhood is my favorite of all the places I’ve been in Istanbul. It’s less crowded/touristy than Sultanahmet and quieter than Beyoğlu. It has this genuine charm and old-world romance that I’ve only seen in the likes of Budapest or Florence. I’m glad I took the time to stay here.
The morning of my stay at the Super Fancy Hotel, I went to the executive lounge for breakfast (have I told you I’m a Hilton Honors Gold member? NBD) but the attendant told me there was a “bigger” breakfast next door because it’s Sunday. Curious, I went to the neighboring restaurant. Yeah, “bigger” might describe it; but I would use words like “gluttonous” or “Mediterranean diabetes.” The buffet had about eight different stations, each with a different theme. There was traditional Turkish fare, cheeses and charcuterie, fruits, Middle Eastern dips and salads, cereals, fresh-baked breads and pastries, omelettes, fresh juices, and a HONEY STATION. Yes, you heard me correctly, a honey station. They got samples of various types of honey from around Anatolia and served it with a combination of bread, fruit, and nuts. There was even an entire honeycomb that you could break a piece off of. It was an experience, and being so overwhelmed I did not think to take photos until later, but I still probably wouldn’t have because there were a bunch of cool rich people around me and I would have looked like even more of a dumb tourist than I already do.
Anyway, thank you to Hilton for hooking me up (will they send me money for writing this? Is that how blog monetization works?) with the great room and breakfast. Now I am sweaty and carrying a backpack between hostels again.
After breakfast I went to Dolmabahçe Palace. This is where the sultans moved in the 19th century, and where Ataturk died. (If you don’t know who Ataturk is, please look him up. He’s basically the reason the modern state of Turkey exists today.) It’s absolutely stunning; way more beautiful than Topkapı, which is not an unpopular opinion.
The pictures above are of the palace grounds. Photos are not permitted inside the palace or the harem. At first I was disappointed to hear this, but I did appreciate not having to stop and wait for people to constantly take photos of their family members, or have others take photos of themselves to put on the ‘Gram. The palace hallways are roped off and are very narrow since you aren’t allowed to touch anything, so getting through it would be a nightmare if you were behind eight guys with their kajillion-dollar cameras trying to get just the right shadow on the prince’s turban. Also, sometimes it’s nice to just experience something instead of feeling constantly compelled to take photos.
Next I walked along the Bosporus to Ortaköy. This beautiful, charming area quickly won me over. I enjoyed the view of the quaint, Baroque-era Ortaköy mosque from the shoreline, then popped inside for a look.
Next I perused the Sunday street market, which has some souvenirs (bleh) but also some handmade artisanal items. Not a single person shouted, “Hello, lady! Come into my carpet shop!” at me, so I would highly recommend visitors come here instead of the bazaars in Sultanahmet!
I found this darling little shop that sold prints of old maps (!!!) of the Bosporus, vintage Istanbul travel ads, and popular Arabic calligraphy. Finally I found a little piece of this place to take home with me that isn’t tacky and/or actually made in Taiwan. The shop owner also sold old books and a fat kitty cat. He is my favorite person.
The sun came out (it’s been raining), and I found a cafe by the shore and just drank çay for about two hours, watching the tourists and locals stroll by with their families and pets. It might have been the most beautiful sight I’ve ever seen, period.
Tomorrow is the Food Tour of Epic Proportions. As for the day after…I’m just going to pretend it doesn’t exist.