On the event of the tourist exhibition ‘Lastminute’ in Antalya, TourPressClub made a trip to Turkey.
The trip was put together and sponsored by ARGEUS TRAVEL & EVENTS that specializes in organizing and providing quality travel services, as well as sporting events in Turkey.
In 11 days of travel, we visited Istanbul, Cappadocia and Antalya, having made six take-offs and landings. From Prague to Istanbul and back, as well as some flights within Turkey, we used the services of PEGASUS AIRLINES, which has direct flights from Turkey to many cities in Europe and the Russian Federation.
Economy class passengers are offered the opportunity to buy snacks and drinks on board. Payment for services – only by credit card! It is obligatory to wear a mask during the entire flight.
Also, during our press tour, we flew with TURKISH AIRLINES: from Cappadocia / Kayseri to Istanbul and from Istanbul to Antalya.
We would like to note that despite a number of restrictions, all flights were well organized: accurately, on time, comfortably and without delays.
So, our first stop was in Istanbul – the largest metropolis in Turkey, lying on the shores of the Bosphorus, which separates Europe and Asia.
Istanbul conquers with a combination of Byzantine, Ottoman and modern culture, gorgeous panoramas, and oriental city bazaars add colour to busy streets.
Istanbul is a unique meeting point of Western and Eastern cultures and an invaluable historical heritage of all mankind. The location of the city is so favourable that human settlements flourished here long before the advent of our era. Ancient Byzantium, pompous Constantinople and splendid Istanbul are all the names of one city.
In addition to the cultural and historical heritage sites of Istanbul, we have also discovered modern skyscrapers, art and shopping centers. There are many interesting places in the city and its environs where you can take a break from the bustle of the big city, admire the breath taking panorama of the Bosphorus.
ROOF OVER OUR HEADS
To get to know the city, a lot depends on where you live. In this regard, we were very lucky, as ARGEUS TRAVEL & EVENTS kindly booked us a luxury SULTANHAN HOTEL, within walking distance from Sultanahmet Square – the historical center of Istanbul.
The five-star hotel, in fact, is itself a kind of museum, since it invites its guests to plunge into the historical atmosphere and get an unforgettable experience of living in originally designed rooms, equipped with various antique furniture, authentic carpets and precious handcrafted textiles.
The lobby is a separate fairytale world, decorated with handicrafts made of rare wood, caftans, silk curtains with Ottoman patterns. The floor and surface of supporting columns are enriched with marble finishing and green granite.
The hotel has forty original rooms of various categories from Deluxe to Art Design, including rooms with private terraces and two Presidential Suites with traditional Turkish bathrooms. All rooms have high ceilings, room controlled central air conditioning, king or queen size beds, solid wood parquet floors, high quality textiles and cosmetics.
The rooms are decorated with high quality curtains and bedspreads, handcrafted solid wood furniture and handmade silk suzane, reflecting the 16th century. Free high-speed Wi-Fi is available throughout the hotel.
In addition, the hotel has the SPA center which offers various types of baths, including the Turkish “hammam”, as well as other services: scrubs, massage, foam baths, face masks and others. All procedures are performed by experienced professionals.
On the sixth floor there is a restaurant serving rich buffet breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as a variety of traditional Turkish and international cuisine.
From the restaurant’s terrace, with a 360-degree view, you can observe the main sights of the city: the Bosphorus, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, the Sea of Marmara and the Blue Mosque with its magnificent minarets.
At the time of our trip, due to the pandemic, breakfast was served by the restaurant staff of the guest’s choice from the buffet menu.
There are antiseptics throughout the hotel, hygiene and safety measures are strictly upheld. The hotel has Safe Tourism certification. Wearing masks outside the hotel room is mandatory.
It should be noted that the hotel staff, as well as all representatives of the tourism business in different cities that we encountered during the trip, including guides, drivers, airport personnel, airlines and others, were vaccinated against COVID-19.
To get to know Istanbul in a limited time, ARGEUS TRAVEL & EVENTS has prepared a special program for us. History of religions, architecture and art, gastronomy and shopping are just a few of the themes that make Istanbul such an attractive city.
A real open-air museum. The Hippodrome has been the center of Constantinople’s political and sporting life, as well as an arena of games and unrest for over five hundred years of Ottoman history.
During his visit in 1901, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany erected an intricate fountain as a gift to the Sultan and his subjects.
Other monuments that adorn the hippodrome include the 3,500-year-old Egyptian granite obelisk of Theodosius, erected in Constantinople by 390 AD.
You can also see the spiraling bronze base of a three-headed snake sculpture brought from Delphi in Greece.
In the southwestern part of the hippodrome, there is a stone column of Constantine Porfirogenet, dating back to the 10th century. Wi-Fi is free throughout the racetrack.
Opposite the hippodrome is the Sultan Ahmet III Mosque (Blue Mosque), which was our next stop. The blue tiles are mostly found in the inaccessible upper galleries.
It is important to know that when entering the mosque it is necessary to take off your shoes, and women are advised to cover their hair with a scarf or shawl.
Since this mosque is active, you should plan your visit there in advance. It closes 45 minutes before the call to prayer and 30 minutes after the end of the prayer. Also it is closed until 2:30 pm on Fridays. The entrance to the mosque is free. By the way, the call to prayer from the minarets of the Sultan Ahmet Mosque is quite an interesting phenomenon: the four best muezzins of Turkey take turns sitting at the microphone of the loudspeaker system, which powers more than 100 loudspeakers with a sound level exceeding 100+ decibels.
Then, we spent more than two hours in the Topkapi Saray complex (“The Palace of the Cannon Gate”), which for almost 400 years was the seat of the Ottoman sultans who lived here with hundreds of concubines, children and servants.
Noteworthy is the collection of ancient weapons, jewellery made of gold and precious stones, exhibited in the “Treasury”, many of which are wonderful works of applied art of the Middle Ages.
Hagia Sophia is right next door to Topkapi.
One of the majestic buildings of the city, was built in the 6th century during the Roman Empire, then after the arrival of the Ottomans, the cathedral was transformed into a mosque and fortified after the reign of Mehmed the Conqueror in 1453. Until recently, there was a museum here, and in 2020 it was again transformed into a mosque.
Admission is free for everyone – believers and not. According to the Istanbulites, the status of the building has not changed much for tourists who visit it.
Here you can admire the marble structure of this architectural wonder, as well as its original interiors, most of which are covered with beautiful mosaics of tiles of gold, silver and multi-colored stones.
Crowning one of the seven hills of Istanbul and towering over the Golden Horn, it is a natural landmark for the entire city. While not the largest of the Ottoman mosques, it is certainly one of the most beautiful. The construction of the mosque took place in 1550-57.
Inside, it amazes with its size and pleases with its simplicity. The architect Sinan built four buttresses into the walls of the building – the result is surprisingly “transparent”, that is, open and airy. The structure is very reminiscent of the “Hagia Sophia”, especially since the dome is almost as large as the one that crowns the Byzantine basilica.
It is not only one of the most popular markets in Istanbul, but also the world’s oldest indoor shopping center. It’s not just a shopping paradise, but a museum at the same time.
In 3,600 shops you can buy anything you want: carpets, textiles, gold and silver jewelry, antiques, glazed porcelain, handmade souvenirs, handicrafts and much more. It is believed that on the territory of the Bazaar there are the best currency exchange for Turkish lira.
There is a pleasant atmosphere for a cup of Turkish tea in cups called “bardak” or playing backgammon with the vendors. On some days, the number of visitors crosses the half-million mark.
It is the Spice Bazaar as the townspeople call it. This must-see place is recommended by the connoisseurs of Istanbul. The bazaar consists of two sections: covered and open. We really liked the open section filled with cones of various and colorful spices, fruits, vegetables, dried fruits, nuts. The fragrant smells hovering over the counters are just crazy!
Walking through the bazaar, we visited the ARIFOGLU spice shop – Turkey’s largest spice and sweets brand. In addition to spices, they supply organic products, honey, herbal cosmetics, sauces and pasta, natural chocolate, Turkish delight and other oriental sweets. Here we were greeted with true Turkish hospitality, treated with tangerine tea and Turkish delight.
This pedestrianized shopping street is a great place to shop and observe the locals. A historic tram runs here, cheerfully notifying passers-by with an original signal of its movement. Along the street and side streets, there are numerous restaurants, cafes, bars and eateries where you can enjoy local cuisine prepared right in front of your eyes.
TÜNEL. We took a ride on the ancient Istanbul funicular, the line of which is located on the northern bank of the Golden Horn. It has two stations connecting Karakoy and Beyoglu districts. The tunnel goes uphill from sea level, has a length of 573 meters and was opened on January 17, 1875. Tünel is the second oldest existing underground city rail line in the world after the London Underground (1863).
It is thus the oldest surviving underground urban railroad in continental Europe, as the oldest funicular line (1862) in Lyon was converted into an underground car tunnel.
The nine-story structure has been located on a hilltop in Beyoglu for hundreds of years and still offers the best panoramic views of the city. Until the mid-1960s, there was a fire observation tower. The upper floors now have a panoramic balcony offering stunning 360-degree views of Istanbul.
In recent years, the entire area has been put in order, the buildings have been restored and ennobled.
Now its narrow streets contain chic cafes, art galleries, design companies, fashion boutiques and restaurants.
This historical part of the city has become a very attractive place where foreign visitors come and rent apartments to enjoy the romantic atmosphere, flavors and pleasures of Beyoglu.
If you go across the Galata Bridge, which connects Eminenu and Karakoy, which is a popular fishing spot for the townspeople, we recommend trying an original, delicious sandwich with fish.
The best way to see Istanbul from the water is to take a boat cruise along the Bosphorus or along its shores. Locals believe that the most romantic place in Istanbul is the upper deck of the public ferry.
Beautiful wooden mansions on the shore, called “Yali”, are densely packed
along the coastline, many of which have been converted into boutique hotels. Among them, the mansion of Zeki Pasha, designed by the French architect Alexander Vallaury. It is considered to be one of the most magnificent mansions in the Bosphorus and one of the few stone buildings.
Most Istanbulites travel from Europe to Asia on one of a dozen ferries that connect the shores of the Bosphorus all day long.