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Nautica cruise review - Istanbul

No other city in the world can lay claim to the fact that it located in two continents. Istanbul is Turkey’s largest city and a fascinating mix of East and West. With one arm in Europe and one arm in Asia, Istanbul is a unique melting pot of cultures, smells and sounds  that make you feel like stepping right into a fairy tale.

As the KLM Boeing 737 touches down at Istanbul’s modern Atatürk Airport, the rain pours down in a steady stream and temperatures are conspicuously low. Traffic to the city is almost at a standstill and the ride from the airport to our hotel takes us almost an hour. Despite this less than perfect introduction, I immediately get a feel for Istanbul: the vendors, the minarets, the ferries, the apparent chaos. Once settled at the overpriced and overrated InterContinental Hotel, we venture up to the 31st floor where we order a few outrageously priced drinks and gaze over this sprawling city that so majestically extends below us. The InterContinental Hotel is located at the end of the Istaklal Cadessi, Istanbul’s version of Fifth Avenue. After having admired the view, we venture out into the cold to get to know Istanbul from street level. The rain and ice cold wind drive us into the small alleys that surround the main shopping street and we soon stumble across a great little Turkish restaurant where we dine to our heart’s content. Wonderful!

The next morning the rain has disappeared and the sun rises majestically over the Bosporus as we meet good friends from Down Under. We have been invited to join the Kiwis and Aussies on a city tour by coach and our first stop is one of Istanbul’s most famous landmarks: the stunning Blue Mosque. Built in 1617, the Blue Mosque is named after the blue Iznik tiles that have been used so exquisitely in the interior. Right across from the six-minaret Blue Mosque is the most famous house of worship from early Christendom: the Hagia Sofia. Now a museum, the former mosque can be seen from most of the city and is a must-see on every visit to Istanbul.

Perhaps my favorite spot in Istanbul is the Grand Bazaar, one of the oldest shopping centers in the world. Covering an area of 31.000 sq m (333,000 sq ft), this massive covered city block holds an astounding 61 streets and over 3,000 shops. The atmosphere is distinctly Arabian, with a maze of small alleys holding everything from gold sellers to trendy cafés. Strolling through the Grand Bazaar is like encountering a kaleidoscope of colors, smells and impressions. Instead of shopping, we decide to step into one of the many coffee houses that can be found here and order a real Turkish Coffee. And after a scrumptuous lunch at Istanbul’s best kebab place, the time has come to board our coach and venture to the Port of Istanbul, where Nautica is patiently waiting for us.

Stunning Blue Mosque interiors

The Hagia Sofia, as seen from the Blue Mosque
At the Topkapi Museum

The ancient cysterns

Blue Mosque
At the Topkapi Museum

Leanne at the Topkapi Museum

Istanbul shopping street

Grand Bazar
Sunset over Istanbul

Grand Bazar

Anyone looking for a lamp?

Café at the Grand Bazar

 

Photos and text: © 2005-2006 Bart de Boer - www.ShipParade.com

First published on March  5, 2006

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