24 hours in Istanbul – speed tourism with a selfie stick

Evening skies and minarets

We only had 24 hours in Istanbul. On the way back from Japan, calling in at the airline’s hub we took the opportunity to go Turkish. Everyone knows that selfie sticks are where it’s at in 2015 for those speed tourism snaps so we had ours at the ready to record the day. We had booked a lovely Air bnb in a central location in the Sultanahmet area above a shop where our host made beautiful lamps out of gourds. A view of the majestic dome of the blue mosque was afforded from our room, and a whistle stop plan was hatched to visit both the Asian and the European sides of this ancient city on the shores of the Bosphorous in a day.

City of colours

The day started with breakfast at the Naz Wooden House, one of Istanbul’s few remaining wooden buildings which represent early domestic architecture. The house is an elegant example of Old Istanbul and you can breakfast on the balcony overlooking the two sides of the Bosphorous and its busy shipping lane activities for only 5 Euro. Fresh potato Dauphinoise was served straight from the oven by a little lady working there,  together with crumbly white salty Turkish cheese – delicious! The selfie stick (acquired from Claire’s Accessories, Harajuku Street, Tokyo) was employed on the balcony of the aforementioned river side wooden house looking from the European side to the Asian side of this cultural melting pot of a city.

Feeling fruit forward

 

Next stop, the famous blue mosque, still an active place of worship. It is so called because its dome is covered in stunning blue tiles and its impressive minarets spiralled up into the bluest sky as we bounced through into the courtyard first thing and ticked it quickly off our list.

The Grand Bazaar is a another major tourist attraction within the walled city of Istanbul. It is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, with 61 indoor streets and over 3,000 shops. For market lovers such as myself it is a place to feel very much at home in and would normally be somewhere to spend many hours mooching around. On the whistle stop selfie tour however, it was a more of a scan the main streets activity, with a bit of light shopping and a cup of Turkish tea with a friendly local antiques dealer.

 

Bazaar illuminations

We paid a visit to a local carpet shop and were subjected to the customary unrolling display of lots of magnificent Turkish carpets which we very much approved of, but were not in any position to purchase today (these kind of negotiations can take a very long time and be rather costly) Next we went on to the Topkapi Palace, the primary residence of the ancient Sultans of the Ottoman Empire. It has four main courtyards and a treasury which apparently boasts jewels which make our exhibition of the crown jewels in the Tower of London look a bit pathetic. The Treasury was off limits for the 24 hour selfie stick tour though, as this involved lots of queueing, thus eating up too much valuable tourist time.

Uptown accommodation

We visited the Harem where the women were obliged to stay in a grand sort of slavery to service the Sultan’s needs and between them, they did have hundreds of children for him. Everywhere on the walls were the very gorgeous ornate Iznic tiles which are typical of Turkey. They have bright botanic style repeat patterns which are quite delicious. These tiles, along with ornate gold ceilings which were in evidence everywhere, also make an ideal background for the selfie stick tour. The Sultans of the Ottoman Empire were apparently a rather hedonistic lot. One of them drowned in his own fountain after drinking too much champagne – but what a way to go!

Selfie stick portrait

We then walked across the bridge from the European to the Asian side of the river and had a scrumptious fresh fish wrap from the waterside market which has featured on Ainsley Harriet’s Street Food Programme. Without slacking, we continued up the steep winding streets built long before  the invention of the car, noting juice stalls piled high with bright skinned grapefruits, oranges and pomegranates. We had a coffee in the very funky Holy Coffee café (which also served Holy water for the especially thirsty) and browsed the eclectic antique shops in the Cukurcuma district.

Flying tonight?

We then got the ferry back across the Bosphorus and braved a few wandering local Turkish hands on the very packed tram back up to the city centre. There followed a final shop in the very cool Arasta bazaar near to where we were staying. There was an amazing variety of Turkish ceramics there, which are to die for, and I really, really wanted to buy them all.  The lovely tiles, the Raku horses, the fantastic plates and bowls. I knew I didn’t have anywhere to put them when I got home and that I didn’t need any more stuff, however mouth watering the selection. Now if I’d had a gigantic palace to put it all in, that would have been different.. I did manage to buy some beautiful Turkish cotton dressing gowns and towels though, which just about fit into the case after sitting on it for a while.

 

A plate penchant

Evening was now drawing in. A local restaurant served a meal of delicious prawns and garlic sizzling in a hot dish complete with bongo playing entertainment, and smiley waiters who called us ‘honey’ a lot.
The transcontinental capital  city of Istanbul is the biggest in Turkey and one of the most populous in the world. It used be called Constantinople – a fact forever recorded in the song sung by Bing Crosby which featured in the 1953 film ‘Putting on the Ritz.’ It is a very beautiful old capital with a rich cultural and religious history, and one I have wanted to visit for many years. I am very glad I finally got to go there, it was an amazing day.

Downtown graffiti

 

What about afterwards?