We had gotten lost so many times on the island of Crete that we decided to wake up and leave extra early for the airport, “just in case”. Our superior traveling skills got us there on time and although we were sad to leave our oasis behind at the cottage of Eleonas, we were decidedly ready for the next leg of the trip and another adventure.
Landing in Turkey with little to slow us down we rushed through customs to get our visas. This goes relatively fast and as soon as we’re through we hit up the currency exchange booth and grab 200TRY. Our plan is to head to the tram station that will take us to a stop near our lodging. The terminal winds about leading us underground. Like the subways of NYC we align ourselves with the outbound car that separates us from Sultanahmet (Old Town) and Ataturk Airport.
From the airport its about an hour to our destination with one transfer to make. The last leg of the ride is standing room only, and we are packed in shoulder to shoulder, me with my heavy backpack on and Jaclyn with her suitcase by her side. Just when I sense Jaclyn can take no more we hit the 16th stop, our destination.
Stepping off the bus we’re hit with sensory overload. The Muezzin begins calling out just as the heavens open in a heavy downpour and the fog rolls in from the sea blanketing the city. Thankfully we can see lights from the various minarets but in a city like this it’s not easy to navigate by the unfamiliar structures in this monsoon.
A later view of the Blue Mosque
Our Pension is just southeast of the Agia Sophia. So with our heads held high against the rain we confidently work our way to the monument where we run into the Hippodrome… which is actually northwest of the Agia Sophia! In our discombobulated state we thought the Blue Mosque was the Agia Sophia.
Now backtracking, the right way, we decide to ask for a little assistance to which a local obliges to show us the way. “Just here” he says, taking us around a colorful complex lined with swanky cafes emitting their scent of sweet pastries and coffee. Just what the soul needs to recover on a day like this.
Completely soaked to the core we hit our destination, The Side Pension & Hotel. Pronounced “sii-deh”, a family owned operation that stands up to its reputation as a warm establishment with the sophistication of a Byzantine guest house and rates for the global traveler that still has bills to pay back home! We promptly strip down and unload our packs as they were not impervious to the storm we just encountered. Our room starts to look like a laundry mat.
At this point we are wet, tired and hungry. Our plan is to spend the evening over dinner and drinks. After changing into some dry clothes, we narrow down our choices of cafes and restaurants from Rick Steve’s guide on Istanbul to Cankurtaran Sosyal Tesisleri. A local gem with a view to the Sea of Marmara. They serve a variety of seafood dishes, kebabs, and most importantly, kunafeh (a pastry of shredded wheat with cheese, honey, and pistachios. I’m mildly addicted!)
After the perfect introductory dinner we wander the streets for a while but decided to call it a day so we could get up early and get straight to our long list of sights in the city. The next morning the clouds had parted and we started with the complimentary breakfast on the rooftop with these views.
And to my Left.
Sleep Here- http://www.sidehotel.com/english/index.asp
Eat Here- http://www.cankurtarantesisleri.com/
Next time on Yallah, bye…
Catch our tour of Istanbul as we explore the various monuments of Old Town.