Touring Istanbul With A Private Guide
Director of Sales, Elizabeth Story, shares the highlights of a recent trip to Turkey
Either as part of a longer vacation in Turkey, or as an additional city to visit when somewhere else, don’t ignore Istanbul. It’s a large city divided by the Bosphorus Sea. One side is part of Europe and the other is a part of Asia. It’s one of the things that makes it so interesting but there are many more.
My first night my private guide picked me up at my hotel and we were off to explore one of Istanbul’s most fashionable districts – Beyoglu. We started from Taksim Square and made our way to the first stop that night, a burger depot often frequented by trendy Istanbulites. Here I sampled the renowned Islak burger also known as ‘Istanbul-style wet burger’. They’re messy but mouth-watering!
We continued down Istiklal Street, a beating heart of this lively area and of course sampled more of the great food Turkey is known for. I had salad with eggplant, rolls filled with melted cheese and kebab wraps. It was a great introduction to the wonders of Istanbul — a good walk with great food. I slept well that night!
The next day I had a full day of sightseeing as planned by my Kensington Tours private guide. I visited Topkapi Palace with its incredible architecture and opulent décor. Then on to Hagia Sophia, one of Istanbul’s most renowned structures that dominates the Golden Horn’s skyline. Next was an exploration of the underground reservoirs built beneath the city to provide water. After a busy morning, I had a quick stop for lunch and then continued on to the Hippodrome for a glimpse at what used to be the hub of the local civic life centuries ago. Lastly, to the Chora church, one of the most splendid examples of Byzantine architecture in Istanbul.
Day three was another glorious sunny day. I met my guide in the hotel lobby and we were off to explore The Grand Bazaar, one of the oldest covered markets in the world. The colors, sounds and scents were all right up my alley. The beauty of having your own guide is that you can stay as long as you want and that’s what I did, wandering up and down the lanes dotted with countless shops.
Kensington Tours had arranged for me to eat that night in the home of a local family. This was one of the highlights of my trip. The family was charming and welcomed me into their home as if I were a long lost relative. This was possibly the most authentic culinary encounter of my trip. Miss Nur’s passion for cooking started in her early years and she pursued it through education and extensive work experience at some of Istanbul’s most renowned hotels. Miss Nur lives in a cozy apartment on the Anatolian side of Istanbul with a colorful garden that we sat in enjoying our dessert. I would highly recommend incorporating this experience for clients visiting Istanbul. Ask your Destination Expert for details.
Marbling and calligraphy was on my agenda for day four. Marbled paper was used extensively in the binding of books in Turkey. I was lucky enough to be introduced to the basic principles of the form of art. In other words I spent the morning playing with paint and loving every moment! After lunch I sat down to learn the art of calligraphy. Ottoman Turkish calligraphy is associated with beautiful, geometric Islamic art on the walls and ceilings of mosques found across the country. This is an age-old form of art and is so much harder than it looks! My tutor told me it took her five years of schooling to perfect her craft. Calligraphy is revered among Islamic arts since it was the primary means for the preservation of the Qur’an. Contemporary artists in the Islamic world continuously draw on the heritage of calligraphy and use it in their work.
The following day was my last in Istanbul and I had decided to cross the Bosphorus on a public ferry (with my guide). I then visited the local market of Kadikoy strolling down the endless narrow streets lined with vendors selling all kinds of Turkish delicacies. This is the perfect area to buy some Turkish delight – the sweet, jelly-type candy. Growing up in the United Kingdom, my Granny loved Turkish delight and as a child I often sampled Fry’s Turkish Delight which was a rose flavoured sweet covered in chocolate. I didn’t like it! Sampling real Turkish delight I realized that there are many, many different flavors and it’s actually delicious. I was afforded the opportunity to sample some of the best street food on the Asian side of this busy metropolis during this day. The challenge is choosing which of the delicious looking treats to try! This is another advantage of having a private guide. They hand-pick the best local fare for you to taste.
I only had five nights to spare and decided to just see Istanbul as well as I could. There is a lot more to Turkey. I would love some day to go back and explore Cappadocia and Bodrum and some of the Lycean Coast.
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