What can I really say about Istanbul that has not already been said many times over? The fascinating history of empires, its past religious crossroads, the connecting point between Asia and Europe and the list goes on and on. Everything from a factual and historic perspective is well documented. In fact, I urge you to check out an article I wrote a few weeks ago on the architecture of this beautiful city. I share quite a few photos of some of the beautiful landmarks and hope you like them.
See, I told you everything that needs to be said from a generic perspective has been said already. However, there are two aspects of my visit I would like to share with you all. This is purely from a personal perspective and can truly say I was blown away them. The hospitality and the food of the Turks is like none other.
I still cant get over the fact that the people of Istanbul were genuinely pleasant. From the airport upon arrival to checking out from my hotel, it was pure joy to interact with such polite and friendly people. This might sound a bit patronising but you would understand if you are from London where everything is a tall order. When I can, I always make sure I chose a decent hotel as I believe this adds a lot of value to the entire experience. Having worked very hard through the year with no time off, a was looking forward to the perfect hotel where I could unwind at night and reach places easily during the day.
After careful search, I booked the Avicenna which turns out to be the perfect choice as this hotel has so much to offer. The location was next to none as it was no more than 6 minutes walk from at least four of the historic landmarks in Sultanahmet. Topkapi Palace, St. Sophia, Blue Mosque, Church Hagia Irini, Covered Bazaar, Hippodrome, Spice Bazaar, Basilica Cistern, Numerous Museums and Historical Monuments are all located in the historical peninsula and all of them are in a walking distance from Avicenna Hotel. During, I mean what else can one ask for eh? Avicenna hotel itself is a 19th century ottoman style wooden house perfectly tucked away from the busy tourist part of the old town. The staff members are some of the friendliest and most helpful you would ever meet anywhere. The conversations that ensued from our interaction truly made me feel at home. I truly couldn’t have chosen a better hotel.
The truth about my experiences with food is that I tend to stick to what I know. And of course this can be a massive hindrance to exploring new cuisines either at home or abroad. Even thought I eventually end up trying local cuisines when I travel, I always have to psych myself up before indulging. Its like a ritual that I don’t seem to get use to. However, Istanbul was different. I found myself trying everything from street food to restaurant made to order food. The choices were in plentiful supply and it was like I was in food-heaven. Walking along the borphorus on the golden horn side made me realize how important fish is to the city. As a lover of seafood myself, this was perfect as I watched a family of three carefully cleaned a fresh fish to make me a fish wrap for lunch.
The name Sultan Mehmet always comes to mind as far as restaurants are concerned. The Sultan Mehmet bar and restaurant was truly a food heaven as I had the opportunity to enjoy a different Turkish dish every night for the entire duration of my stay in Istanbul. The staff had a heart of service from Fatih the restaurant manager who made sure I was well looked after to Nazil and Emos two wonderful ladies who kneaded my bread. Two of the waiters Nico and Dimitro were a class act who made sure my table was never short of food or drink. Basically the entire staff at the restaurant were amazing.
Istanbul was a true joy to visit and will definitely be going back in 2016. Please share your experiences with us if you have been before!