Posted by: Gideon | October 9, 2010

Istanbul with Kids – The Covered Market, cruising the Bosphorus and the Topkapi Palace

We checked into the Villa Pasha Hotel in Sultanahmet – we had met the owner and his cousin while waiting for our night bus to Pazar in Merzifon. It was a very small hotel – about 7 rooms, but we had the family room which was by far the nicest room we had stayed in on our trip – a beautiful spa like bathroom, a great bed as well as a pull out couch for the kids, a huge flat screen TV on the wall and excellent air conditioning. We told the guy on duty that we were friends of the owner and it turned out that Ercan would be staying there that night as well so we would see him again.

Hilit felt we hadn’t done much shopping on the trip – the fact is, that outside of Istanbul we hadn’t really found much to buy – there had been no rug shops, no real souvenir shops and in Georgia there had been very little to buy as well. We made our way to the Covered Market. First stop was a ceramic store where we bought a beautiful blue ceramic plate. Actually the best and most reasonably priced ceramics we had seen were in Bursa right at the beginning of our trip, but we hadn’t bought anything and it was our tough luck. I’d been told by a good friend – when traveling, buy when you see something you love – you may never see it again!

A really famous rug store!

Next, we went looking for the rug store that we had visited when we’d been in Istanbul a few weeks before.  We had loved a Sumak kilim but hadn’t bought it – it had been too expensive and we had assumed we would be buying many souvenirs on our trip, but in fact we hadn’t bought much. Unfortunately we had lost the map showing the location of the store and we wandered around aimlessly. We were ready to leave when Daniel shouted that he recognised where we were and within two minutes we were at the store – they remembered us and the rug we had loved so much was soon on the floor in front of us and we sat down to tea and to reconsider. The price came down slightly and we agreed to buy! We felt good and they felt good – signs of a good purchase all round.

With our rug all parcelled up, we left the market. We walked through the Spice Bazaar and decided to take a Bosphorus cruise – these run every hour. We paid and went on the boat where we spent the next hour and a half marvelling at Istanbul from the water. The cruises are cheap and well worth doing. There are much longer all day cruises too, but this suited us just fine.

When we returned we went for Balik Ekmek – Fish Sandwiches – an Istanbul speciality. Boats moored to the shore are basically floating kitchens – it was windy and they bobbed up and down but amazingly the cooks kept their balance and  these sandwiches were being sold by the hundreds – people sit around, eating their hot fish sandwiches with pickles. The kids were wary at first but after an initial bite loved it. It’s fresh, cheap and healthy!

PS: These days I am planning great family trips to Turkey. Click here for more info.

Fish Sandwiches made here!

We took the tram back to the hotel and went for drinks on the terrace where we met Ercan – a great way to end the day.

The following morning we were up early – the hotel was renovating its breakfast room and so we had to go to a neighboring place , where they served a terrible breakfast. Despite the poor breakfast, we had enjoyed ourselves at Villa Pasha.

We had the morning free before having to leave for the airport and we could choose one site – not an easy thing to do in a city such as Istanbul. We decided to go to the Topkapi Palace.

Topkapi is probably the #1 tourist attraction in Istanbul – the home of the Ottoman sultans for hundreds of years it is an incredible place, but it’s huge and massively congested with tourists. It’s also expensive. We bought extra tickets to see the harem – where the sultan had kept his concubines and private family – these were wonderful but it was all very busy. By the time we were done at the Harem, we were running out of time and there were hundreds of people waiting in  line to see the famed jewel collection. We had to skip it. I remembered the kitchens as being awe-inspiring from my first visit years before and I anted to show the kids, but the kitchens were being renovated and were closed, which was a great pity. We did however see the costume collection, where we could see the clothes worn by the Sultans. The certainly must have eaten like kings –  judging by the size of their clothes.

Photographing the Harem, Topkapi Palace

Soon, it was time to say goodbye – we picked up our bags from the hotel, called a cab and went to the airport. I had fallen in love with Turkey once again, and the kids had too for the first time.

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