There are so many planes landing in Istanbul, resulting in not enough gates for them to pull up to. This is the hub between Europe and the Middle East. The workers roll metal stairs to the plane’s exits and down you step; just like in the old movies! A bus awaits to whisk you off to the terminal. Getting a cab to the hotel I was pleasantly surprised to see gardens and gardens of ornately designed floral sculptures; bright contrasting swirls of color in bright poppy reds, pure white, and glossy greens. They were the “Whirling Dervishes” of the landscape and I wondered about the work that went into maintaining them. I couldn’t take pictures that would be any good, through the cab’s window, but vowed I would take pictures of them before I left Istanbul! Istanbul is a contrast and mix of old world and modern, european and middle eastern. I was fascinated with the sights along the way!
Entering Old Town the cab drivers wait two seconds before they start blowing their horns for the traffic to move! We would later learn that when the traffic is excessive, cabbies refuse to pick up passengers in this area, because they are stuck and not able to move at all. As we got to the vicinity of our hotel we stopped on a narrow, crowded street that our hotel was not located on, and told this was our stop. I was doubtful, until a bellman, opened our cab door, quickly took our luggage and said, “follow me.” We walked down a cobbled street, turned left, where old men sat in an alcove smoking and talking, and scurried after our bellman to the Hotel Sultania; located at the corner of two intersecting lanes that were pedestrian only.
Here we are in walking distance to Hagia Sophia; a church and mosque museum, the Blue Mosque, and the Topkapi Palace: all in the Sultanahmet Area. The streets are a mixture of old world and new, with elegant restaurants, hotels and shopping, scattered among alcoves of old brick ovens manned by bakers providing a bubbly flatbread and shops of carpet/rug lined sitting areas, where the guests smoke hookahs. Men outside the restaurants and establishments,
encourage, intimidate, aggressively pursue you to try their wares. It is so alive! Oh, this is going to be fun!!
Entering the Hotel Sultania, we were warmly greeted at the concierge desk and and made aware of the popular attractions and local events that will be occurring during Ramadan.
We were told some places may be closed during the day, but at night the city comes to life, especially at Gülhane Park, where there will be partying after dark. We were shown the indoor/ outdoor breakfast room at one end of the lobby and a rooftop restaurant, one of the best in the city, not to be missed. Then taking another elevator, we were lead to our room. Oh my! I have been in several hotels in Europe, but this was one of the most opulent, depicting a room fit for one of the Sultan’s wives.
Our room was named after Olga Hatun, seventeen year old wife to Sultan Bayezid, also known as Thunderbolt. The room was huge with a terrace overlooking the old city and the Bosphorus Strait. HOWEVER, best of all was the extra large, marbled bathroom and a shower that would easily fit four people!
Unbelievable! After settling in we couldn’t wait to explore our new surroundings!
The New Hatay Restaurant is an outdoor restaurant right outside our hotel. The hosts, stand outside the restaurant, and pull everyone aside, who will listen, to encourage you to look at their menu and food. I was enthralled with the bread! Men brought the combination puffy/flat bread from a brick oven nearby that had a line of patrons waiting for the fresh, scorched bread. Then there was the food, so colorful, so exotic looking! And they served wine! Need I say more? We had to try this place first ! A good way to end our first day! Enjoy!