Outside of Hong Kong, Istanbul was one of the largest cities I have visited. Hong Kong was a long time ago and the circumstances quite different. We were with family who lived there and knew their way around, where to eat, shop and which sights to see and when.
In Istanbul we were on our own armed with months of researched knowledge and a copy of the Lonely Planet. Even so it was an experience beyond any expectation we could have conjured. Words are not enough, there is no sense that could possible describe it and trying to paint a picture is beyond my capabilities.
For our last few days in Turkey, we needed our accommodation to be central yet be authentic Turkish hospitality, and suit our backpacking purse. We found the perfect hotel in Sultanamet, the old quarters of Istanbul, The Apricot Hotel.
Step out the front door and you’re minutes from a range of restaurants all serving delicious meals. Despite being so central it was quiet and a welcome retreat from the busyness and noise of Istanbul. Once inside we were well cared for by a friendly staff who spoke good English.
A good pair of walking shoes is an essential as most of the streets in Old Istanbul are the original cobblestones, hard on the feet and ankles. We had to keep reminding ourselves that this was at once a modern city yet comfortable with the ancient architecture and customs of centuries past.
Where east meets west more literally than any other place and the city is divided geographically by the Bosphorus. Two parts of the same city where the everyone is welcome to walk the streets – paved and cobbled – to experience the ways of old Constantinople and modern Istanbul, simultaneously.
It is an amazing city where surprises wait around each corner, where a stroll down a high walled cobbled street opens onto a modern town square hosting pop up markets urgent with today’s haggling banter in order to meet sales targets.
Since Gallipoli, the Turks and ANZACS stand side by side and the friendship forged since the First World War is extended to countrymen from Australia and New Zealand whom the Turks are quick to identify by their accents. As New Zealanders, who live in Australia, visiting Turkey, we were welcomed ever place we visited. The hospitality was a singular experience in all of our travels.
Posted as part of the A – Z Challenge, April 2015.