One way to do … Istanbul

The Blue Mosque, IstanbulThis particular visit is to the vibrant city of Istanbul: a city which everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime. It is an enchanting blend of Eastern and Western culture, modern yet with a unique identity. Its rich past coexists alongside its youthful exuberance.

It is a city of contrasts and culture and, to repeat the opening line, a city which everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime.

Our visit in October 2012 was while on board the P&O cruise ship Azura which berthed at the Istanbul Cruise Ship Terminal, just north of the Galata Bridge.

As with most modern vibrant and visitor intense cities, Istanbul has the usual Hop-on, Hop-off bus service and, as expected, the service was available from just outside the cruise terminal building.

Basilica Cistern, IstanbulAll well and good if time is short or there is a restriction in mobility. But to savour the full romance and flavour of Istanbul, the visitor really needs to tackle it on foot: and as I hope to show here, it is relatively easy.

To all intense and purpose, most visitors will stick to the European side of Istanbul and the Bosphorous. This European side is subdivided by ‘The Golden Horn’ waterway and is crossed by the Galata Bridge.

This is in itself a fascinating visit. With its multitude of fishermen on the upper level and a myriad of seafood restaurants on the lower level. Crossing the Galata Bridge also gives some great photographic opportunities to those who delight in capturing fond memories.

Galata, IstanbulOnce across the Galata Bridge I would suggest one of two options. Basically it is down to which route the visitor would prefer. There is here the one route which can be reversed. Once across the bridge take a left turn and then the first underpass on the right,  ascend on the opposite side of the road to the bridge. Continue left and follow the tram lines, a right turn followed some 200 yards later by a left. One interesting view before turning right is the Floating Seafood Restaurants. You are now well on your way to the main sites of Istanbul.

At the crest of the hill  between the Gulhane and Sultanahmet tram stops are a number of attractions including.

Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarayι)
Hagia Sophia Mosque (Ayasofya Camii – formerly a museum)
Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Camii)

Topkapi Palace, IstanbulI have deliberately left out Topkapi Palace which is also most convenient to this area. My wife and I have visited the Palace on a previous occasion but while on this visit we noticed that it had been closed to the general visitor and had been given over for the exclusive use of P&O excursions. For cruising visitors who really want to make a visit to the Topkapi Palace I would suggest serious thought be given to a ship’s excursion. Only a suggestion of course.

The area surrounding the attractions listed above is awash with cafes, refreshment stalls and some pretty good restaurants. My wife and I found one particularly interesting place sat comfortably between the Blue Mosque and the area known as  The Hippodrome.

Very difficult to capture both the size and interest of the Hippodrome but it is well worth spending some time to see the Egyptian Obelisk, Serpentine Column and the Statue of Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos.

The restaurant we chose, and had an excellent meal at, was the Turkistan Asevi, exceptionally good Turkish regional food, good service  and very friendly staff.

The Grand Bazaar, IstanbulSuitably refreshed we now headed for The Grand Bazaar. Once again following the tram lines till we reached the Cemberlitas tram stop. A right turn here and start descending past the Constantine Column and Cemberlitas Turkish Bath on your left.

The Grand bazaar is a mere 200 metres away on the right. Leave plenty of time for the Grand bazaar, it is a fascinating bustling labyinthine Ottoman shopping centre. Not to be missed.

Before heading back to your ship I would suggest no visit to Istanbul would be complete without a look at the Egyptian Spice Bazaar. Very easily found when exiting the Grand Bazaar, the Spice bazaar is very close to The Galata Bridge.

A blaze of colour, aromas and sweetness! A photographers dream!

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Richard Okill

Retired naval officer & businessman

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