The only city on earth that straddles two continents, with one half perched proudly on the far Eastern tip of Europe, separated by the Bosphorus Sea the remainder of Istanbul and indeed Turkey is in Asia.
Getting from Selcuk to Istanbul was a lot harder than it should have been. From the off I realised we couldn’t get to Izmir in time and would not get to Istanbul that day. A text along the lines of “I’m in Selcuk and need to get to our hotel in Istanbul, directions and times please” was sent to Gemma back in the UK. What followed was a text containing the info we needed and I have to say, her prices were off a little and the time of the train slightly wrong, but otherwise they were spot on and we were extremely grateful. So, following a text message we made our way to Istanbul.
It meant a taxi ride, bus journey to Izmir and then a train to the coastal town of Bandirma before a 2hr crossing on a Catamaran into Istanbul. The problem is that nothing ties in in terms of time. So we either had a rush on our hands or a lengthy wait. Either way, 14 hours after we had set off we were in Istanbul. The final leg of the journey was a 100m walk to the subway station and then to get off two stops later in Serkeci. From there we found our hotel. Thankfully.
The best part of Istanbul is on the European side and the location where it is all going down is called Sultanahmet. It is an area full of Bazaars, spice markets and jaw droppingly gorgeous Mosques and Basilicas’. It reminded me a lot of Aladdin, with carpet and smoking shops everywhere, the smell of exotic spices and incense fills the air creating a mystical atmosphere.
Obviously when the Old City was built there were no cars, and being practical people all the places worth a visit were built extremely close to one another so that people didn’t have to travel far and could simply stroll between mosques.
Entrance to the Mosques including the stunning Sultanahmet in the photo above is free. Kids can walk in no problems once their shoes are removed but the usual rules regarding knees and shoulders apply to women, covers are provided free of charge. Men can walk in so long as their shorts aren’t too short. Mine are just at my knees and I had no problems.
Unfortunately we only really had the evening in Istanbul and so didn’t do much other than visit the main sites and explore the area of Sultanahmet. I realised that it’s the best area to stay in and literally everything is in walking distance.
The following day we went back to the old city and grabbed breakfast before taking the shuttle bus from our hotel the airport. There are two airports in Istanbul and most people fly into and out of Ataturk Airport on the European side. We are flying out of Sabiha Gokcen Airport which is about 45km out of Sulthanamet. The only bonus was that we got to cross the suspension bridge that bridges the continents of Europe and Asia.
I am sat in the airport as I write this waiting for our flight out to the Emirates, and am genuinely sorry to be leaving Turkey. Istanbul wasn’t the hard nosed place I’d imagined it would be, one of the few capitol cities that actually isn’t full of hardcore individuals all plying their trade and trying to part you from your money.
Actually the only problem we had in Turkey was an American guy. I have been to America many many times and love the place. But take an American out of America and hat you get is a patronising bell end who thinks that he is the only person on the planet ever to travel and the fact he holds a US passport entitles to him to some elite status. I guess it goes hand in hand with the mentality of just invading countries for thrills and then after destroying the place and getting chinned just walking out without a care. Perhaps. Anyway we were queuing and he just stood directly in front of us, I told him there was a queue and he didn’t even have the decency to acknowledge me. So I stood in front of him and he said “excuse me” I told him we were queuing and he said it didn’t look like we were. I told him it was obvious we were and he said in the most patronising manner ever “listen here, I don’t have the time for you” I told him that he is the reason why Americans are looked upon so dimly and he needed to learn some manners. He genuinely threw his toys out of the pram and left the queue. What the idiot doesn’t realise is that America was founded by early travellers and populated by travellers. The two biggest selling guide book companies on the planet were started by British people and one of the biggest aircraft makers in the world is European. What an absolute knob end the guy was. I can confirm that when you’re in America the people are friendly and amazing. Though I remember having a conversation with a female bus driver in Los Angeles en route to Anaheim and she genuinely believed that England was full of Castles and Lakes and we all lived in little thatched houses.
Anyway, I hope to come back to Turkey soon. I would love to fly back into Dalaman and Hire a car and drive up the Aegean Coast, Turkey has so much to offer and we saw only a snippet of the beautiful and spectacular country.
And since Turkey seems to flit between being European and Asian I can say it is my favourite European country by far and I came to that decision within 5 days. It is genuinely that good.
Thanks for everyone that is following us so far, now the trips takes a more conventional turn as we head out to the Emirates for a stopover of one night before the heading out to Kathmandu in Nepal on Wednesday. From Nepal begins the epic journey across the border into India, through India and eventually ending up in Sri Lanka. We have a week planned after Sri Lanka in Dubai which will be time to relax after what I expect to be an amazing journey albeit, very tiring.