Istanbul – from Bursa to Beyoglu

Bursa and the Iskender Kebab

On the way from Ephesus back to Istanbul we stopped at Bursa which is famous for the Iskender kebab. We found a small street restaurant and order three Iskender kebabs, not knowing what to expect. After a little while we were served with one of the most unattractive dishes I have seen. Picture a large pile of sliced kebab meat on a plate with glistening pools of butter. Hidden underneath is pide bread which soaks up the tomato flavoured sauce and butter.  The only redemption was the few slices of pickles and tomatoes.

Iskandar KebabsIskandar KebabSukey, Sonya and Travis enjoying their Iskandar Kebabs

From Bursda we crossed the Sea of Marmara by car ferry and crossed from Asian to European Turkey. Instead of staying at old Istanbul to the south of the Golden Horn we thought it would be a nice change staying on the northern side in the Beyoglu district. After a nightmare time trying navigating the narrow one-way streets and looking for parking, we decided to not touch the car till our departure.

During the walk to our hotel, we started to realise we were staying at the hip part of town, boutique stores and street art everywhere.  Our hostel was also a pleasant surprise, a small loft room with private bathroom and main window overlooking the street.

Galata Tower, Istiklal Avenue and Taksim Square

That evening we decided to wander the streets, first visiting Galata Tower. Originally built as a light house, Galata Tower offers amazing views of the Golden Horn and Beyoglu.

Galata Tower at nightGalata Tower at nightView of Old Istanbul from Galata Tower
Sukey, Sonya and Galata TowerSukey, Sonya and Galata TowerView of Galata Tower from Bosphorus Bridge

From Galata Tower we followed the tram tracks along Istiklal Avenue an elegant pedestrian street to Taksim Square taking photos of the Monument of Republic. We ended our night with dinner at one of the restaurants.

Dolmabahçe Palace

In the morning we decided to visit Dolmabahce Palace one of the main administrative centres of the Ottoman Empire. Walking towards the Gate of the Sultan which marked the entrance to the palace there was a lone Turkish Guard guarding the entrance. I guess similar to the Queen’s Guards in Buckingham Palace. The Turkish Guard also did not move which made for some good photographs. Inside the palace grounds were neatly trimmed gardens and extravagant fountains. Inside the palace was what I would describe as an ‘old person’s home’, many styles clashing together with the view of more is better. There was also one of the world’s largest chandeliers in one room, though those went out of style years ago.

View of the BosphorusTravis and Sonya at the BosphorusLooking across the Bosphorus
Dolmabahçe Clock TowerSultan's GateSukey at Sultan's Gate
Travis with a Turkish GuardSonya entering Selamlik GardensSelamlik Garden
Treasury GateTreasury GateChanging the Guard

From Dolmabahce Palace we walked over the Golden Horn Bridge with the aim the try a famous fish sandwich. We found a number of restaurants under the Golden Horn Bridge who severed nothing move then a fillet of fish in a bun with salad, it was delicious. At the Old Istanbul side was a large open area with many small stands selling snacks, the first think we tried was a glass of red water with floating pieces, it turned out picked vegetables in brine (turşu). From salty we tried sweet, deep fried balls of pastry in syrup (kemalpaşa tatlısı).

Republic MonumentFish SandwichFloating restaurants selling fish sandwiches
Street vendor selling picklesDeep fried balls of pastry in syrupFloating restaurants selling fish sandwiches at night
Fishermen from the Bosphorus BridgeFishermen with mosques in backgroundFishermen with mosque in background
Fishermen with Galata TowerSunset over Galata districtSunset over Old Istanbul

We made one last stop at the Grand Bazaar stocking up on Turkish Delight and souvenirs.

OlivesPicked vegetables in brineDried mushrooms and other fungi
Dried fruit and nutsTurkish DelightSpices
SpicesTravis wearing a Fez with the shopkeeperSonya eating Halka tatli

Bosporus Cruise

For our last day in Istanbul there was no better thing to do then a cruise up the Bosporus River. After a rushed boarding, narrowly missing the departure we took our seats on the ferry.  The ferry passed a number of key sights including Galata Tower, Dolmabahce Palace, Ortakoy Mosque, Bosphorus Bridge, Beylerbeyi Palace, Küçüksu Palace and Anadolu Kavağı were we made a stop. Anadolu Kavağı located on the Asian side of Turkey is the location of Yoros Castle which on a hill overlooking the Black Sea. We climbed up to Yoros Castle, but unfortunately it was closed for restoration.

For lunch we had mezze at one of the restaurants on the shore before heading back down the Bosporus crossing from the Asian to European Turkey for the last time. One last walk across the Golden Horn Bridge heading towards the car ended our Istanbul holiday.

Dolmabahce MosqueDolmabahce Palace Treasury GateDolmabahce Palace
Ciragan Palace with Bosphorus Bridge in backgroundCiragan PalaceGalata University with Turkish flag
Ortakoy Mosque (Grand Imperial Mosque)Kuleli Military High SchoolFatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge
Rumelihisari (Rumelian Castle)Kanlica Ferry TerminalTravis with the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge in background
Yenikoy waterfront housesYenikoy waterfront housesLooking north over Havantepe Park
Waterfront housesWaterfront housesYoros Castle
Sukey with the Black Sea in the backgroundForbidden Zone signSonya and Travis with the Black Sea in the background
Sukey and Sonya in front of Yoros CastleYoros Castle from the BosphorusYenikoy waterfront houses
Ships at Saniyer portFatih Sultan Mehmet BridgeKucuksu Palace