It was a really last minute planned trip.
Tuesday: Knew that my leave was approved. Booked tickets. I took staff tickets, so had to be on wait list.
Wednesday: Still on wait list. Got a map. Identified major attractions.
Thursday: Still on wait list. Booked hotel.
Friday: Before lunch - Still on wait list. After lunch - Confirmed. After work - Went to KLIA and flew off!
I did have some guts planning everything even before the tickets were confirmed, didn’t I?
Anyway, we arrived in Istanbul at 6:15am after about 10.5 hours flight. The long flight had its advantage - we got the time to read the articles collected from the internet about the city, learn how to get around and plan what to do each day. Must also thank that nice Turkish guy whom we met in the flight, he gave some really good tips about places to visit and how the public transportation system works.
Taking the Turkish guy’s advice, we took the metro from the airport to Zeytinburnu station, when we then switched to the tram to go to the city centre. Every ride required a token costing TRL 1.75 (RM 3.50) each. Since it took 2 rides (1 metro ride and 1 tram ride) to reach our hotel, 2 tokens were needed. Very cheap, considering a taxi ride from the airport to the hotel would easily cost TRL 30 (RM 60).
We left our bags with the concierge as it wasn’t check-in time yet. The nice lady at the front desk offered us their buffet breakfast, which we happily accepted. After the meal, we headed to our first point of interest - Topkapi Palace - a major historical site just a short walk from our hotel.
Beautiful garden along the way.
An uphill stretch towards the palace.
Saw these two furry guards. Turkish cats are super fat!
Entrance to Topkapi Palace. TRL 20 (RM 40) to enter the palace, another TRL 15 (RM 30) to enter the Harem (forbidden section reserved for females during the Sultanate era).
Many school kids around as it was a Saturday.
Before I go further, let’s talk a bit about Topkapi Palace. It was where Turkish Sultans lived during the Ottoman empire. The palace was a huge complex covering several different buildings, including a special section for females (Sultan’s wives, mothers, daughters, concubines etc.) called Harem. The palace was also where several key Islamic relics were kept, which include Prophet Muhammad’s sword, his daughter’s Fatimah’s cloak, Hajar Aswad’s cover from early years and several others.
Inside the palace complex. Look at its map. Huge place!
There are many interesting things to see at the palace. However photos aren’t allowed at the exhibition areas, so I can’t share much with you. Anyway, trust me, this place is definitely a must visit. If you go to Istanbul, make Topkapi Palace priority number one.
Done with the main palace. Heading to the Harem.
Entering the Harem. Just look at that beautiful architecture.
The artistic calligraphies...
The intricate mosaic walls...
The beautiful domes...
The tinted windows with colorful ceiling...
The pretty patios to hang out at...
Definitely the place for queens, queens-to-be and queen wannabes!
One last look inside the Topkapi Palace complex before leaving.
And one last look outside. It was really a sight to behold!
Went to have lunch at a nice little restaurant near the hotel.
Top: Meatballs with side dishes. Bottom: Manti, a traditional Turkish dish recommended by the waiter. Something like ravioli, but with sour sauce (perhaps yoghurt based). I enjoyed the manti, though it did taste a bit too sour at times.
Returned to the hotel. Checked-in. Freshened up. Rested for a bit. And out we went again!
To be continued...