Istanbul

I was impressed with the high speed train from Ankara to Istanbul. And our journey passed without mishap. But, the high speed train has to stop well short of Istanbul city centre - all to do with not being able to link the track all the way through. Result was that we had to heave our cases up far too many stairs and then sit for over an hour in our bus through heavy traffic, to get to the ferry terminal.

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The ferry took us into the terminal in Istanbul, only a short walk from our hotel

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Ottoman Legacy Hotel

I understand that the building is a converted office block. If you stay here you can see the odd layout with a sort of "central courtyard" which is not really a courtyard, but a way of packing more rooms in. The poor souls with a courtyard view just get to look into an adjoining courtyard room a few metres away. If you book here only do so if you get allocated an exterior facing room The rooms are of a decent 3 to 4 star standard. However on a 2 night stay our room was not serviced at all. We had to make our own bed

Breakfast is in a large top floor room, where, if you elbow your way in, you can get a sea facing table at the window with views of the ferry port beyond. Again a perfectly adequate breakfast of a 3 to 4 star standard The whole of the top floor appears to be soulless restaurants. We went up to take some photos and a very bored member of staff was extremely helpful in showing us the rooms, plus their different views

The glitzy part of the hotel is the reception area, all gold and bling, which appears to be the only part of the hotel trying for a higher standard The hotel is close to the ferry port and the Egyptian Bazaar, and there are some very good cafes in the area. It depends obviously on price, but I would not stay here again. It has let its standards slip too much, and really does not have a lot to commend it, in a city that has lots of very good hotels

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Around Istanbul

My notes from our 2013 visit.

Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey, though not its capital. With a population of 13.9 million, the city forms one of the largest urban agglomerations in Europe and is the second-largest city in the world by population within city limits. Istanbul is a transcontinental city, straddling the Bosphorus—one of the world's busiest waterways—in northwestern Turkey, between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea. Its commercial and historical centre lies in Europe, while a third of its population lives in Asia.

Istanbul's strategic position along the historic Silk Road, rail networks to Europe and the Middle East, and the only sea route between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean have helped foster an eclectic populace.

The population of the city has increased tenfold since the 1950s, as migrants from across Anatolia have flocked to the metropolis and city limits have expanded to accommodate them. Arts festivals were established at the end of the 20th century, while infrastructure improvements have produced a complex transportation network. Approximately 11.6 million foreign visitors arrived in Istanbul in 2012, two years after it was named a European Capital of Culture, making the city the world's fifth-most-popular tourist destination. The city's biggest draw remains its historic centre, partially listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but its cultural and entertainment hub can be found across the city's natural harbour, the Golden Horn, in the Beyoğlu district.

But in the last year, terrorist attacks in Istanbul, and security problems generally in Turkey have hit tourist numbers, and visitors are well down this year

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Coffeetopia

I really liked everything about this cafe. The selection of coffees both hot and cold was good, and, on the two occasions we were in the cafe, the coffees served were strong, fresh and of a good quality. Their selection of cakes (you can see them in the outside display case) is worth mentioning. In particular their Chocolate Cake is outstanding - only a fear of putting on too much weight stopped me from guzzling second helpings. And the Fresh Orange Juice really is freshly squeezed Orange Juice

The ambiance is good and the service friendly and patient. I will certainly be going here again next time I am in Istanbul

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Pudding Shop

The ironic thing here is that they do not actually serve many puddings. I have the impression that this place is living on its reputation and catchy name. The re-heated food is average and it is catering for a mass tourist market following out of date guide books. Not many puddings are offered these days. It is a very average sort of cafeteria, serving average food and with average level of service. I ate here as it was included in a tour - my advice to you, if you have a choice, is to eat somewhere else. This is mass tourism at its worst

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The Last Supper.

Jude had booked us into a good fish restaurant under the bridge (I don't know its name, but it was the last in a line of restaurants there). Run by Kurds apparently. We had already had a glass or two in Marijka's room, where she laid out her Silk Road purchases (I think somehow there was more buying than selling here). Jude was handed an envelope with the whip round in it, and made a speech. Everyone enjoyed the occasion. I think we were all both a bit sad to have reached the end of our Silk Road adventure, but, at the same time, glad to be returning home.

I believe that Jude has even volunteered to be tour leader for next year's trip. We all split up, with very few in fact going back to the UK.

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After that it was off to Istanbul Airport and a short flight back to Valencia.

The boys are back home now reminiscing over the Silk Road with a mug of vodka

 

Back to Overall Itinerary for Silk Road Trip 2016