Day 15: Istanbul

Continue reading: →Day 16: Bosporus

Old city
Old houses in İstanbul
The second try to visit the famous Topkapı Palace (from now on written as Topkapi, but note that it's an "i" without the dot. For the proper pronunciation, see the chapter on →Turkish language). When we tried it two weeks ago, the queue at the ticket counter was so long, that we probably would have needed to stay for a night or so to get a ticket. This time it's much better. Of course there are many tourists in and around the palace area, but at least there's no queue. The entrance fee for the palace area is quite hefty: € 10 for the palace itself, € 10 for the Harem and another € 10 for the treasury. Which means that one has to pay € 30 for the whole package. This is already as expensive as for instance →Petra in Jordan. In 1995, seven years ago, the price for the full monty was € 5 only. Hyperinflation in Istanbul.

However, there's still a student's discount. All I have is a German student card and an international ISIC card, which is already not valid any longer. But the woman at the ticket counter is quite friendly and accepts the card. And so we only have to pay one third of the regular price. Topkapı Sarayı, as the palace is called in Turkish, can be called a city inside the city . The area is around 70 hectares, which is almost twice as big as the Holy See in Rome. Since the 15th century, the palace was enlarged step by step. For centuries, it was used as the Sultan's residence, who ruled the vast Ottoman empire from Istanbul. Before that, the empire's political centre could be found in Adrianopel (present-day Edirne) near the Bulgarian border.

Bosporus
Rich interior inside the Topkapı Palace in İstanbul
Similar to the Forbidden City in →Beijing, Topkapı consists of various parts with limited access. There are four big courtyards. The first courtyard could be accessed by almost everyone, the fourth (inner) courtyard was exclusively used by the Sultan himself. One thing is for sure: The sultans knew how to live. This doesn't necessarily refer to the fact that there's a Harem inside, but to the great view of the town and the Bosporus as well as the perfect arrangement of impressive buildings inside the palace. Additionally, some gardens make it a real pleasure to stroll around.

Nowadays, the entire palace is accessible to the public. At least it is supposed to be like that. There's a huge board near the entrance, letting the visitor know which parts of the palace are under construction. And due to the dimension of Topkapi, the list will always be quite long.

There's still plenty to see. According to the descriptions, there are some 100,000 pieces in the exhibition, including traditional clothes, porcelain, accessory and things depicting everyday life hundreds of years ago. A special exhibition is dedicated to the Islam and shows some Islamic reliquaries. Among them, the Prophet's bow, sword and coat are on display. Actually, this is the only chance for non-Moslems to see some holy Islamic artefacts. An Imam, sitting in a glass box reciting the Koran, creates the appropriate atmosphere. Needless to say that people are asked to be quiet. Except for one Turk standing in the corner shouting at his mobile phone and another Turk scolding his wife in front of all the visitors from all over the planet.

Medusa
Medusa head under a column inside
an ancient Roman underground water reservoir
The treasury shows many items mostly consisting of gold and diamonds. After a while, the visitor's eyes are starting to be strained because of all the sparkling and glittering. One of the highlights of the treasury is the so-called Spoon-Diamond, one of the typical 86-carat diamonds everyone has at home. Legend says, that the fisherman who had found the diamond, sold it for three spoons only (therefore the name). Unfortunately, the spoons are not on display.

To provide just a short overview of all the things to see inside Topkapı palace would go beyond the scope of this website. My personal favourite inside the palace are the gorgeous pavilions in the fourth courtyard. The small but very cosy Baghdad- Pavilion or the so-called Revan kiosk are splendid - I've never seen something similar before (see picture on the right). I've been searching the internet for quite a while to find a more or less appropriate non-commercial website on Topkapi - I couldn't find any, which is why I can't provide a link for further reading.

After a couple of hours inside the palace we are getting hungry. This is the one and only reason for leaving the palace. And - what an outrage - we leave all the Turkish restaurants and head to a place called "Hatay Xinglong", obviously a Chinese restaurant. Our Japanese guidebook recommends the place, and after some days with Turkish food only we want to have a change of air. The restaurant is not far from the palace (address: Ibni Kemal Cad. No 9). And I can only recommend it. Authentic Chinese cuisine for little money, almost like in China...

There's another attraction not far from Topkapi palace - Yerebatan Sarnıcı, literally "sunken palace", is a huge underground cistern built by the Romans. The structure consisted of 336 eight metres high corinthian columns. 90 of the columns collapsed during the last 2000 years or so, but it's not less impressive because of that. It's quite dark inside, and the ground is covered by shallow and clear water. Visitors can walk through the reservoir on catwalks. The darkness, the water and the parallel porticos create a very special atmosphere. Two of the columns rest on large medusa heads - the one head is aslant, the other one upside down (see picture on the left). Why? There seems to be no convincing theory about it. Further to the west, a large remaining of the ancient aqueduct feeding the reservoir can be seen.

In the evening, we spend the time talking to other travelers and staff from the hotel. The young guy from the hotel is a friendly and clever man - and open-minded. I thought. After a while he starts talking about Jews and he comes up with very strange and simply incredible theories. That the rich Jews wanted to get rid of the poor Jews and therefore initiated the Holocaust. And eversince, they are trying to take over America. "Don't get me wrong, one player of my favourite soccer team is a Jew as well, and I don't have anything against him" he says. But how can an intelligent man like him believe nonsense like that? This latent anti-Semitism, present in many European countries, is nothing new but always leaves a bad aftertaste. By the way, his opinion about the Kurds wasn't much better. After a while I don't really want to continue the conversation.

Continue reading: →Day 16: Bosporus

 

 

 

 

Lotus Hotel Istanbul

34086 Istanbul · Yavuz Sultan Selim Dist. Vakif Mektep St. No.1 , Fatih


Since: 2005
Location: Map
Number of floors:
Number of rooms: 20
Rates from: US$47
Rating: 9.8/10

More Information
Set in a prime location of Istanbul, Lotus Hotel Istanbul puts everything the city has to offer just outside your doorstep. Featuring a complete list of amenities, guests will find their stay at the property a comfortable one. Take advantage of the hotel's 24hr room service, family room, coffee shop, business center, concierge. Guestrooms are designed to provide an optimal level of comfort with welcoming decor and convenient amenities like air conditioning, television, desk, hair dryer, complimentary bottled water. The hotel offers various recreational opportunities. For reliable service and professional staff, Lotus Hotel Istanbul caters to your needs.

Retropera Hotel

34437 Istanbul · Sehit Muhtar Mah. Taksim Ave. Yogurtcu Faik Str. No. 2


Since: 2013
Location: Map
Number of floors: 5
Number of rooms: 16
Rates from: US$39
Rating: 9.8/10

More Information
Retropera Hotel is conveniently located in the popular Taksim area. The hotel offers a wide range of amenities and perks to ensure you have a great time. Service-minded staff will welcome and guide you at the Retropera Hotel. Shower, satellite/cable TV, ironing facilities, internet access – wireless (complimentary), desk can be found in each guestroom. The hotel offers various recreational opportunities. Retropera Hotel is an excellent choice from which to explore Istanbul or to simply relax and rejuvenate.

Divan Istanbul Asia Hotel

34899 Istanbul · E5 Karayolu Uzeri 209 Usta Kaynarca Pendik


Since: 2009
Location: Map
Number of floors: 25
Number of rooms: 231
Rates from: US$130
Rating: 9.7/10

More Information
Divan Istanbul Asia Hotel is perfectly located for both business and leisure guests in Istanbul. The hotel offers guests a range of services and amenities designed to provide comfort and convenience. All the necessary facilities, including room service, airport transfer, disabled facilities, 24hr room service, car park, are at hand. Non smoking rooms, inhouse movies, seating area, internet access – wireless (complimentary), hair dryer can be found in each guestroom. Enjoy the hotel's recreational facilities, including massage, steamroom, sauna, indoor pool, fitness center, before retiring to your room for a well-deserved rest. No matter what your reasons are for visiting Istanbul, Divan Istanbul Asia Hotel will make you feel instantly at home.

Deris Bosphorus Lodge Residence

Istanbul · Inebolu Street No.5/A Kabatas


Since: 2011
Location: Map
Number of floors: 4
Number of rooms: 7
Rates from: US$180
Rating: 9.7/10

More Information
Located in Kabatas, Deris Bosphorus Lodge Residence is a perfect starting point from which to explore Istanbul. The hotel offers a wide range of amenities and perks to ensure you have a great time. Concierge, safety deposit boxes, elevator, Wi-Fi in public areas are there for guest's enjoyment. Designed for comfort, guestrooms offer air conditioning, internet access – LAN, washing machine, satellite/cable TV, hair dryer to ensure a restful night. Entertain the hotel's recreational facilities, including garden. Friendly staff, great facilities and close proximity to all that Istanbul has to offer are three great reasons you should stay at Deris Bosphorus Lodge Residence.

Stories Hotel Kumbaraci

Istanbul · Kumbaraci Street No.66 Beyoglu 34435


Since: 2011
Location: Map
Number of floors: 5
Number of rooms: 24
Rates from: US$149
Rating: 9.7/10

More Information
Located in Beyoglu, Stories Hotel Kumbaraci is a perfect starting point from which to explore Istanbul. Offering a variety of facilities and services, the hotel provides all you need for a good night's sleep. Restaurant, bar/pub, laundry service/dry cleaning, Wi-Fi in public areas, babysitting are there for guest's enjoyment. Hair dryer, television LCD/plasma screen, daily newspaper, bathrobes, coffee/tea maker can be found in each guestroom. The hotel offers various recreational opportunities. No matter what your reasons are for visiting Istanbul, Stories Hotel Kumbaraci will make you feel instantly at home.

Pera City Suites

34430 Istanbul · Mesrutiyet Ave. Orhan Adli Apaydin St. No.17/A, Beyoglu


Since: 2011
Location: Map
Number of floors:
Number of rooms: 10
Rates from: US$120
Rating: 9.7/10

More Information
Pera City Suites is a popular choice amongst travelers in Istanbul, whether exploring or just passing through. The hotel has everything you need for a comfortable stay. Airport transfer, bar/pub, safety deposit boxes, coffee shop, room service are on the list of things guests can enjoy. Designed for comfort, guestrooms offer hair dryer, kitchenette, bathrobes, refrigerator, air conditioning to ensure a restful night. The hotel offers various recreational opportunities. Pera City Suites is an excellent choice from which to explore Istanbul or to simply relax and rejuvenate.

Tempo Hotel 4Levent

34415 Istanbul · Sanayi Dist. Sultan Selim Ave. No.139 , 4.Levent


Since:
Location: Map
Number of floors:
Number of rooms: 35
Rates from: US$107
Rating: 9.7/10

More Information
Tempo Hotel 4Levent is conveniently located in the popular Levent / Maslak area. The hotel offers a wide range of amenities and perks to ensure you have a great time. Service-minded staff will welcome and guide you at the Tempo Hotel 4Levent. The well-appointed guestrooms feature coffee/tea maker, air conditioning, hair dryer, shower, complimentary bottled water. The hotel offers various recreational opportunities. Tempo Hotel 4Levent is an excellent choice from which to explore Istanbul or to simply relax and rejuvenate.

Symbola Bosphorus Hotel

Istanbul · Portakal Yokusu Avenue No.17, Ortakoy, Besiktas


Since:
Location: Map
Number of floors:
Number of rooms: 15
Rates from: US$169
Rating: 9.7/10

More Information
Located in Ortakoy, Symbola Bosphorus Hotel is a perfect starting point from which to explore Istanbul. Offering a variety of facilities and services, the hotel provides all you need for a good night's sleep. Smoking area, car park, family room, concierge, 24hr room service are on the list of things guests can enjoy. The well-appointed guestrooms feature laptop safe box, complimentary bottled water, coffee/tea maker, shower, bathrobes. The hotel offers various recreational opportunities. No matter what your reasons are for visiting Istanbul, Symbola Bosphorus Hotel will make you feel instantly at home.

Star Hotel Istanbul

34400 Istanbul · Akbiyik Street 16 Sultanahmet- FATIH


Since:
Location: Map
Number of floors:
Number of rooms: 12
Rates from: US$53
Rating: 9.7/10

More Information
Located in Old City Sultanahmet, Star Hotel Istanbul is a perfect starting point from which to explore Istanbul. The hotel offers guests a range of services and amenities designed to provide comfort and convenience. Take advantage of the hotel's restaurant, bar/pub, 24hr room service, Wi-Fi in public areas, room service. Relax in your comfortable guestroom, featuring internet access – wireless (complimentary), non smoking rooms, television LCD/plasma screen, ironing facilities, satellite/cable TV. Access to the hotel's garden will further enhance your satisfying stay. Discover all Istanbul has to offer by making Star Hotel Istanbul your base.

Palanga Bosphorus Hotel

34347 Istanbul · Palanga street 24


Since:
Location: Map
Number of floors:
Number of rooms: 24
Rates from: US$169
Rating: 9.7/10

More Information
Located in Ortakoy, Palanga Bosphorus Hotel is a perfect starting point from which to explore Istanbul. The hotel offers guests a range of services and amenities designed to provide comfort and convenience. Smoking area, laundry service/dry cleaning, concierge, shuttle service, salon are there for guest's enjoyment. Guestrooms are designed to provide an optimal level of comfort with welcoming decor and convenient amenities like internet access – LAN (complimentary), internet access – wireless (complimentary), balcony/terrace, separate shower and tub, hair dryer. The hotel offers various recreational opportunities. Discover all Istanbul has to offer by making Palanga Bosphorus Hotel your base.

 

 

 

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