Turkey İstanbul 2001.03.16 - 03.22

City of Paradise

Some may disagree with this title, but after 2 months in Africa, İstanbul truly feels like paradise. Most refreshing is the ability to walk around the city, even at night, without fear. Unlike the absolute desertion of Nairobi streets after dark, İstanbul remains lively into the night with shop owners selling, children playing, and diners relaxing. Every time we opened a map to find our position or looked confused, a kindly local showed us the way.

On top of the genuine hospitality of the people, the food is delicious and the city is clean. Even the water in the Bosphorus is clear and alive with ocean plants and fish.

Sometimes the most enjoyable places to eat are also the cheapest.
We highly recommend strolling down to Eminönü Harbor to buy a 750,000 TKS fried-mackerel sandwich right off the boat. Several boats tied to the embankment serve fried mackerel and a slice of tomato in a bread roll. Sprinkle on some salt and squeeze some lemon juice to complete this scrumptious meal for under a buck.
Another of our favorites is Halep Ocakbaşı at Su Terazisi Sokak 15. The restaurant is only a few minutes walk from the Blue Mosque and Hotel Türkmen. Everything we tried was delicious, and we returned almost every night. Main dishes range from 1,400,000 - 2,000,000 TKL. Their soup, salad, and deserts are excellent and inexpensive. Our dinner bill usually came to 5,000,000 TKL (about US$5) for the two of us including drinks and a generous tip. To the right is the chicken kebab dish for 1,400,000 TKL.

Internet Cafés are everywhere. The 3 we tried are similar in speed, installed software, and price. None were particularly superior.

Around town are dozens palaces and religious monuments to visit. In our short time, we only saw the Blue Mosque, Aya Sofya, and Topkapı Palace. The inquisitive could stay weeks and weeks in İstanbul and continue to find things to explore.

In Prague, we met a Turkish woman, Yeşim, on a city tour back in September 2000. Before reaching İstanbul, we emailed her for information on apartment rental options. The replies flowed with information on apartments (no vacancies, unfortunately), restaurant recommendations, a website to browse, and a useful English publication. Wow. We hoped to take Yeşim out to lunch or dinner in return for her generosity. We met for lunch. Quite unexpectedly, she reserved a table at a gorgeous restaurant on the Bosphorus and insisted that she pay. Thank you again! And when you visit us wherever we end up after this world tour, we're buying. We insist.

The Blue Mosque (also called the Sultan Ahmet Camii) is free admission, but only worshipers are admitted during prayer times. The exterior is more visually appealing than the interior. It was built between 1606-1616 by Sultan Ahmet I to rival Aya Sofya.

Aya Sofya, originally completed in 537 by Emperor Justinian of the Roman Empire, had its dome rebuilt several times due to earthquakes. Admission is the equivalent of US$5.50 in Turkish Lira.

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