Istanbul for a weekend – riding the Bosporus

IMG_0209[1]The weekend started off by getting on the plane in Munich to Istanbul. The weather here in Munich was miserably and we hoped for 3 days of sun and a multicultural city on the edge between Europe and Asia. Arriving in Istanbul late because of a delayed flight from Munich caused us a lot of trouble already on the first day. We only got to the hotel at around 2am. Next time I’m not going to save the money for the taxi and wait 20 min for the local bus. At our hotel –the AsPalace Hotel – the guy at the reception was a bit nervous and offered us straight away a drink – at 2am in the morning. That made me wonder. It didn’t take long to figure out what happened. They had given away our room to someone else, when we didn’t show up during the evening. They made a bet and lost. We finally came, although we lost the game in the end. They told us there were a technical problem with the room though. A half-assed lie. We got sent to another hotel just down the road. It was more of a run-down.

The second day started out with a bit drizzle in the morning, it got warmer during the day though. We explored the main attraction around Saltanahmet, including the Blue Mosque, the “Antik Ayasofya” Mosque, which is a bit hidden, but worth hunting for it, and the huge Aya Sofya. The Blue Mosque is just impressive. Although the mosque is packed with tourists, it seems to be still used by the practicing Muslim. We skipped the Aya Sofya, because heaps of people queued up to get in. It was Saturday and the city was crowded with people. The park around the Palace gave us a good escape from the bustling city center. If you think the Netherlands are famous for tulips, you haven’t been to Istanbul. The park is like a sea of tulips.
On Sunday we decided to escape a bit from the crowed and took one of the numerous boats over to Üsküdar on the Asian site of Istanbul. It was a very calm atmosphere over there. Literally the complete opposite from Saltanahmet with its countless attractions. Travel books say most visitors never even leave Saltanahmet while they are in Istanbul. On one hand that’s understandable, on the other hand, it’s worth going to the other parts, as they differ a lot. In Üsküdar, we visited the Fethipaşa Korusu Park, which sits on top of a small hill and hosts cafes and restaurants with a nice view over the Bosphorus. Hopping on the next boat over the big river again brought us to Besiktas. As I only knew that name for a football club, it also has something more to offer. We walked to the Ortaköy Mosque just to see it undergoing a renovation and therefore fully scaffold. We walked the way back , went to Taskim Sq and walked all the way down Galata. Again heaps of people as this is the main shopping street and even worst today as they had a local classic: Fenerbahca vs Galatasaray.The next day we jumped on a boat again. Man it’s cheap. Just 1 Euro per person wherever you want to go. This time we went to the Western Districts that are heavily influenced by Christian and Jews. This part is not as heavily visited as the other ones.