Old Nov 10, 10, 2:24 pm
Flying Buccaneer
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: TPA
Programs: DL Plat, AA Plat 2MM, HH Diamond, WoH Explorist, SPG Gold
Posts: 2,199
Monday, November 8 and Tuesday, November 9: Istanbul

Monday, November 8

Monday’s activities were very interesting to me, but probably not so fascinating from a trip report perspective. That’s why it didn’t get its own entry. I was scheduled to meet with a contact at İstanbul Kültür Üniversitesi around 11:00 a.m. I had set the alarm for 7:30 a.m., but I awoke an hour before that. After a visit to the Kahve Dünyası near the hotel, I got ready for my journey across Istanbul.

Before I left the hotel, I paid a visit to Cem Manglay, the W’s concierge extraordinaire. Cem had been so helpful on our previous visit to the W that my TripAdvisor review of the hotel said something to the effect that he should train other concierges to do their jobs. When I introduced myself this time, he commented how my facial hair had changed since my last visit. Wow! On Monday I asked him to call Turkish Airlines to confirm my car for the airport at 0700 on Wednesday. After a brief conversation, I set out for my trip to the university.

Getting from the W to the university required a 15-minute walk to the Kabataş tram stop, taking the tram the full length of its route to Zeytinburnu, then switching to the Metro for four stops to Yenibosna, and finally another 15-minute walk to the university. The trip took over 90 minutes, but it only cost YTL3.50!

If you have ever taken the Metro or the main highway to/from the airport, you have passed the university. This week, it is commemorating the anniversary of the death of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic.

I had a wonderful visit at the university. My contact there is actually the father of a former colleague of mine. His hospitality, and the hospitality of everyone I met while I was there, was nothing short of incredible. We discussed ideas for my course there in May and talked to faculty members who will be providing lectures.

Around 2:00 p.m., it was time for me to head back to the hotel. When I finally made it back a little before 4:00 p.m., I had time for a short nap before getting ready to meet my contact for dinner. He had chosen a restaurant in Nişantaşı, which was about a 20-minute walk up the hill behind the hotel. He suggested that we meet in front of the City’s Mall and go to dinner from there.

I had no idea that such an area existed so close to the hotel. If you were dropped in this area and had no idea where you were, you might think you were on Rodeo Drive. It’s full of upscale shops, upscale restaurants, and beautiful people enjoying them. I guess the traffic is the best clue that you are in Istanbul.

We walked to Café Zanzibar for dinner, and we both had the Beef Paillard. The thinly sliced beef was wonderfully flavored and served on a bed of some of the best rice I have ever eaten. It looked to be cooked in beef stock and it had a spicy but sweet flavor. Carrots, zucchini, and Brussels sprouts were served on the side. We enjoyed a coffee afterward, and then he told me he wanted to take me to a special place for dessert.

One look in the window told me all I needed to know about how special this place was.

I think that Saray Muhallebicisi has every type of dessert that has ever existed in Turkey. Of course we had the baklava, but he especially wanted me to try the Tavuk gögsü, a chicken breast pudding that has been around since the days of the Ottoman Empire.

I was on a sugar high after that, and I needed the 20-minute walk back to the hotel. We walked together and said our goodbyes at the hotel before he caught a taxi home. When I got back to my room, I collapsed into a deep sleep!

Tuesday, November 9

My last full day in Istanbul was devoted to sightseeing and taking it easy. I could have slept late, but the jet-lag would not let me. I was up by 6:00 a.m. After taking some time to respond to emails from work, I headed to Caffe Nero for a latte, and I watched people getting coffee on their way to work. Back at the hotel, relaxed a little before getting ready for my day.

The weather was beautiful as I walked down Dolmabahçe Caddesi to catch the tram at Kabataş.

I took the tram to Eminonu and walked around the area in front Yeni Camii and the Egyptian (Spice) Bazaar for awhile. Of course, I had to take the obligatory pictures.

Places like the Spice Bazaar intimidated me during my first trip to Turkey. After that, I learned just to have fun with the hawkers, talk to them, and then finish by telling them that I am allergic to carpets. They usually don’t have a response to that.

After my walk, I stopped for lunch at nearby Hamdi Restaurant. I took the elevator to the top floor and was led to a table with incredible views of Yeni Camii:

the Galata Bridge (and the Bosphorus Bridge):

and the Golden Horn and Galata Tower:

The food was pretty good, too. I started with Çoban salatası, Yoğurtlu patlıcan (fried eggplant in yogurt), and bread,

before moving to the Adana Kebap with pilav:

I ordered a lot of food, because I figured that would let me sit there and enjoy the view longer. Yeah, that's the reason!

After lunch, I wandered around the area behind Yeni Camii. I put the map away, so I had no idea where I was going. I figured that I was walking in the general direction of Aya Sofya and the Blue Mosque. As it turns out, I was a little off course, but I eventually found my way.

Having been to Aya Sofya twice, I resisted the temptation to return this time, but it is an incredible building. The church turned mosque turned is truly unique.

I did go inside the Blue Mosque, mainly because I am overwhelmed by its beauty every time I see the interior.

Of course, it’s quite impressive from the outside as well, though pictures just can’t capture its magnitude.

Next, I walked around the Hippodrome and admired the Egyptian Tower:

before walking to Sirkeci Station. In two prior trips to Istanbul, I had never visited the station, and I thought it would be worthwhile to do so. This station was the terminus of the legendary Orient Express, so there is a great deal of history here.

All this history made me hungry. After that enormous lunch, that does not seem possible, but when I passed Hafiz Mustafa Sekerlemeleri, I had to stop for a Sütlaç (rice pudding) and Çay.

I also wanted to get some lokum (Turkish delight) for gifts, and this was the best place to do it.

I had never liked Turkish delight until I got some at this shop in 2008. Now I love the stuff!

Loaded down with boxes of sweets, I caught the tram at Sirkeci and made the trip and walk back to the hotel. After relaxing for an hour or so, I took an inventory of my trip. What had I not done that I wanted to do, and could do on my last evening? Two things came up: go to a hammam and walk down Istiklal Caddesi.

For the hammam, I knew I did not want to go to one of the touristy ones. Having visited hammams in other parts of Turkey, I was always disappointed with how “assembly line” hammams in Istanbul were. I asked the other concierge for a recommendation, and he suggested the Galatasaray Hammam, so I made my way there. Somehow, I got lost and never found it. However, this is Istanbul, and I found another one while I was walking around. This was the Historic Firuz Ağa Hammam in an area a bit off Istiklal. The neighborhood had some nice shops and the hammam itself looked OK from the outside, so I decided to go in.

I asked for the “peel” as well as the soap massage. I went into the hot room to sweat for awhile, and then someone came to get me for an oil massage. Having had a few oil massages at hammams, I was concerned that I would end up being a punching bag and feel sore afterward. Things didn't start so well, because he led me up a staircase that didn't look very sturdy and moved farther away from the wall the farther you climbed. I managed to make it, though, and I was relieved that this guy knew what he was doing.

After the oil massage, he led me back downstairs and deposited me in the hot room again. A few minutes later he took me to another area for the soap massage. I never got my peeling/scrubbing, nor did he shampoo me. In addition, he left me to rinse myself instead of pouring wave after wave of water on me afterward as I have experienced at other hammams. At 60YTL, it was a bit less expensive than a visit to one of the larger hammams like Çemberlitaş. In addition, I think it was a better hammam experience than I have had at one of the larger hammams.

Feeling much more clean and relaxed, I walked back up the hill to Istiklal and found the river of people was still there.

I had a quick dinner of döner kebap served on rice with pickled on the side at a lokantasi, and took the fenicular from Taksim Square to Kabataş. Before walking back to the W, I paused to take a few pictures of the Bosphorus Bridge.

Back at the hotel, I did some packing, but I left the rest of it for the next morning. As was the case the night before, I was so sleepy that my eyes were crossing. I got into the W bed for a few hours of sleep before I had to head to the airport for the flight home.
Flying Buccaneer is offline