Checking off Istanbul from my Traveling Bucket List
Istanbul, Turkey, was one of my bucket list destinations. The striking scenery and difference in culture is what made me want to visit this city. When Princess Cruises offered a Black Sea cruise with an Istanbul overnight, I booked immediately. A group of ten of us from Cruise Critic made our own excursion for our two day adventures in Istanbul. Private guide Honifi, picked us up from the cruise pier in a Mercedes mini-van and we set out to explore.
First things first, we had to beat the crowds. We toured the over-the-top Dolmabahce Palace, the largest palace in Turkey. Dolmabahce Palace runs along the coast of the Bosphorus, the Sea of Marmara, and the Golden Horn. It was the headquarters for the Ottoman Empire from 1856 to 1922. The 31st Sultan built Dolmabahce as he wanted a more modern palace than the one at Topkapi. In today’s currency, the price tag would be 1.5 billion dollars, or one quarter of the tax revenues collected annually. The mega-palace consisted of 285 rooms, part appointed to the sultans family and the others to the public.
Although photography was not allowed inside, the beauty will linger with me forever. The most gorgeous bohemian and Baccarat glass chandeliers hung throughout the palace with gilded gold leaf ceilings behind them. The ceremonial hall was even more opulent than the palaces I saw in Russia last year. One of my favorites was a four ton chandelier that held 750 lamps. Ornamental alabaster, bearskin rugs, oil paintings, and huge Turkish carpets decorated the Palace. I was surprised to see a painting of Old Faithful, a gift from the United States, in the 202 oil painting collection.
We did a relaxing and informative Bosphorus cruise, which lasted around 90 minutes. Our cruise ship previously sailed through the Bosphorus on route to the Black Sea (for ports in Romania and Bulgaria), so it was the same things we had already seen.
Following the Bosphorus cruise, we toured the Grand Bazaar, arguably Istanbul’s most well-known destination. The Bazaar features 4,000 stalls of merchandise in a structure so large it has 23 entrance gates. This is the largest market in the entire world! We stepped into a stall for a sampling of Turkish delight, a variety of nuts, teas, and dried candies. Then we were given time to roam on our own. The Bazaar is a very overwhelming due to its size, but things were repetitive stall after stall. Items such as Turkish rugs, jewelry, spices, teas, and linens were the majority of it. I will add that the Bazaar is unbelievable; it would be easy to spend hours there.
We drove a short distance to the town of Pierre Lotti where we ate at a gorgeous seaside restaurant, the Pierre Lotti Cafe. I order the mixed lamb, beef, and rice platter, plus had complimentary apple tea. I really loved Pierre Lotti and hope to come back some day.
We loaded back up in the bus and Honifi dropped us at the Emerald Princess until tomorrow. Day two of exploring Istanbul was a BIG day as we had all the mosques and museums to cover. As for my first day in Turkey, I was pleasantly intrigued by the city and humbled by its friendly people. I never felt any danger and liked joining huge droves of people hustling around the city.
Fact: Istanbul is the most popular city in Turkey and also is the only city in the world to straddle two continents. Its 14 million people make up a small portion in Europe and the other 27 million live on the Asian side.