Our final full day in Istanbul. Woke up, tried to see if we could watch the sunrise from our rooftop – it was cloudy. We had breakfast before walking back over to Arasta Bazaar to revisit Jennifer’s Hamam to purchase a towel for a friend.
We then went to Topkapi Palace Museum – 60TL – $14.82CAD. Topkapi Palace use to served as the main residence and administrative headquarters of the Ottoman Sultans. Topkapi means Cannon Gate. Over the years, Topkapi was left behind by the Ottoman sultans and moved to Dolmabahçe Palace as the sultans of that period liked being on the Bosphorus side. The Harem is apparently a not to miss but we didn’t purchase the additional ticket to see it. My favourite part of this palace was the Third Courtyard – The Audience Chamber. The different types of marble pattern and colours made this place super special and hands down my favourite. ALSO NOTE – there are many rooms where photography is NOT ALLOWED. I believe Dolmabahçe Palace is also a place with many rooms where photography is not allowed.
Amanda had heard of a particular leather goods store that she wanted to take a look at for a potential leather jacket purchase. We arrived at the mall to find out that the store no longer existed. From that location, we decided to walk 30 minutes to our next destination – Balat / Fener Neighbourhood. Didn’t realize that the walk would be on an incline. It was still fun and interesting to walk to this destination. Balat was traditionally the Jewish part of Istanbul on the western bank of the Golden Horn. The Fener neighbourhood beside was traditionally of Greek inhabitants.
We had lunch at Cooklife Balat which is inspired by Kinfolk and has their own magazine – Cooklife. I ordered the Acai bowl and a Pimento Ginger beer (40TL). The cafe is super cute and relaxed feel. The Balat & Fener neighbourhood is full of history and falls under the UNESCO heritage sites. The homes are still quite colourful and distressed looking with the slanted streets of cobblestone adding so much character. Nowadays, you can find a resurgence of young people opening cafes in this area.
After taking a bunch of photos and just wandering the streets, we took the bus back towards the Grand Bazaar with a slight detour courtesy of the bus we took. We ended up across the bridge to Karakoy but then hopped on the tram with the last bit of money we had on our Istanbulkart’s.
We ended up back at the Grand Bazaar to get our last minute souvenirs. Amanda got a leather jacket from Tyfoon at Best, a scarf and finally we grabbed some loose tea (Natural apple, pomegranate and ottoman teas) before walking home. The store owners constantly are trying to convince you to come into their store. They always ask “where are you from”. Today was slightly different in terms of where we were from. I got American – Hawaiian and even Cherokee.
We did a quick look through at the grocery store to pick up a few snacks and then stopped by a restaurant on the way back to our hotel for dinner. We had only 40TL left so we ordered our dinner based on the price and left with no more lira. We ate kofte (meatballs), chicken doner & pilav.
We spent the rest of the night relaxing and slowly packing.
Our airport van transfer came to pick us up at 230AM – 6 euros. If we were to order a taxi, it would cost relatively the same amount in Lira. Our flight was at 655AM and we had tons of time to check in.
Our flight was pretty smooth to Kyiv, Ukraine. 1 hour time difference. 3 hours stopover then a 10 hour flight back to Toronto. It was a little rough but not too bad.
Our whole trip however, the timing was absolutely perfect as there was no rainfall during our trip (which we prepared for). The weather was pretty good all around and even got up to 16C in Pamukkale. The day we left was the only day it rained. When we landed in Toronto, we had heard from our new friend Danee that it had snowed in Istanbul.
Amanda and myself realized that we spent at most 15 minutes apart each day – when we were in the washroom (but proximity wise, we were always in the distance of hotspot). We created our own “spaces” by being beside each other but doing our own thing whether it was on our own phones and chatting with others. We didn’t murder each other. I guess we have compatible personalities and can consider each other good friends.
I have to say that 9-10 days was definitely not long enough to take in all that Turkey has to offer so I guess I will be back one day. The land of beautiful people with amazing symmetrical facial structures and the land of amazing food.
We woke up early to go to Sunset Views Lookout point to watch the hot air balloons from the ground (there is another lookout point) since we were in the air the previous day. It was such a rush and only 13 minute walk to get to this lookout point from our hotel. It was -4°C and we didn’t bring gloves with us. It was well worth getting up to watch the sunrise and seeing the hazy hues of blue and pink come up again. Such a different yet exciting feeling to see the hot air balloons rise as the sun rises. Would highly suggest bringing gloves and hand/feet warmers if you are going around this time of year.
We made it back to our hotel to have breakfast before walking over to Galerie Ikman to get some last minute shots. Said our final goodbyes to Suleyman and hopped on a shuttle van (6 euros each) to head back to Kayseri airport to head back to Istanbul. Made a super cute little baby friend on the plane ride. We took Turkish Airlines back to Istanbul – smooth and fast flight.
When we finally arrived, we walked over to the Metro and purchased our Istanbulkart – It is 6TL and can purchased from one particular machine then there is another machine where you can fill up your credits. Remember to leave the card in the slot as you place money into the machine to update the credits. Tap and go. We took the M1 line all the way to the second last stop before going above ground and walked over to take the tram the rest of the way.
We booked Rumours Inn for the rest of the week in Istanbul. Super cute hipster looking hotel with breakfast. Our room was 301 and there are no elevators here but spiral stairs. The room itself is cute and we have a balcony that is actually indoors. There also is a rooftop terrace that has some amazing views looking out to the water. Our landmark to know we needed to turn onto the main street to get to this hotel was a Chinese restaurant with red lanterns.
We got into the hotel and immediately changed as the temperature in Cappadocia were ranging from -4°C to 5°C but in Istanbul, we arrived to 9°C weather. A light sweater was enough. Our first stop for the day in Istanbul was the Grand Bazaar (13 minute walk from our hotel). It is a very large establishment with many stalls full of everything and anything. As you walk through, all the store owners are calling out to you to visit their store. They saw myself and Amanda and kept asking us to come into their stores or calling out “Ni Hao! We actually had a few of these salesman ask us if we were Americans which was much closer than them assuming we were from China but of course the question – but where are you really from comes up.
We found the famous Salt Bae’s restaurant in the Grand Bazaar. At the Bazaar, I purchased a few bracelets – 5 for 20TL. Amanda purchased a scarf and we both picked up some Turkish delight from Ramazan Canbaz in the Grand Bazaar. I grabbed some pistachio and pomegranate as well as double pistachio Turkish delight – 59TL.
We continued through the Grand Bazaar for a bit as it closed at 6PM. We walked the main street and both Amanda and myself noticed a pastry store that we both recognized. It was Cigdem Patisserie and they are known for their baklava. We ordered a piece of baklava (we thought it said 70TL but It was 1TL) and a strawberry tart (14TL). I have to say the baklava was hands down so much better than the tart. It was chewy, crispy, crunchy and perfect balance of sweetness and ingredients.
We also had a hamam spa (Turkish Spa) on our minds and decided to walk back down the street a bit to Cemberlitas Hamami. This building was established in 1584. During my planning stages, I was recommended Aya Sofya Hamam but Cemberlitas is a little less touristy and less frills but also one that more locals go to. We paid 38 euros – 220TL for the bubble scrub package and it was well worth it. It is separated by male and female. We got a package at the beginning with a mesh bag that included black underwear and a scrub towel/glove. When we got into the change room, we first went to the lockers that looked like the safety deposit boxes at banks where 2 keys are needed to store our valuables. We then got that key and were told to go upstairs and use the locker and change room up there to change into the black underwear and put on the towel they gave us.
Remember to grab slippers as well. We then went back to the main floor with the first lockers and were led into another room with double doors and finally the chamber where there was a giant slab of marble and baths around. We were told to lay out for a good 10 minutes or so before they would come around and work on you. The ladies that work on you come in bra and panties as well and they seriously rub you down in all crevices. They have a huge basin where they use this linen cloth bag to create bubbles and throw that on you. They take that glove that you were given to work on you and basically scrub away all the dead skin. The lady working on me was humming the whole time and it was very calming. When she was rubbing down my arms, all you could see were those large layers of skin coming off similar to when you get sunburnt and start peeling. Yikes. The lady scrubs down your front half then tells you to flip over and then sit up. After they scrub you down, they take you to the sink area and wash your hair and wash you down. Last step, they tell you to lie down on the marble slab and just relax and you can stay however long you want. When you’re ready to leave, rinse off with cooler water. We felt like fresh babies.
After the Hamam, we decided to walk around a bit and ended up walking around the Sultanahmet Square area. We finished the night eating dinner at Tarihi Sultanahmet Köftecisi Selim Usta and ate koftecisi (meatballs) 22TL, lamb kebap 34TL and (piyaz) bean salad 7TL.
I discovered a great flight deal that had multiple countries in which you could pick to travel to for only $390CAD roundtrip.
I originally wanted to go to Kazakhstan but no one wanted to go with me. The only person who was interested and had time to go was my friend Amanda but she said “Why don’t we go to Turkey instead” and that was it. We booked for 10 days.
We booked this flight deal back in Oct/Nov 2018 and by mid-November, the itinerary was set and pretty much everything was booked and confirmed. To make the most of the short timing we had, we booked a few tours so we could cover 4 cities.
I made a very ambitious itinerary but I have to say that we did almost everything and then some. The only thing we missed was visiting Suleymaniye Mosque and we went quickly past the Hippodrome of Constantinople. Also, we were expecting the weather to rain the whole way through but it was perfect and only rained the day we left and then snowed the day after.
Before I get to my itinerary (at the bottom if you scroll) here are some helpful information and brief facts of Turkey.
As a Canadian, we required a Visa to enter Turkey. You can purchase your Turkey Visa online – $61.50USD – Official website for Visa
Communication / Data
If you don’t have to purchase a sim card right away, purchase outside of the airport as the price is steep. Remember to have your passport with you. We got in really late so Vodafone was the only place open and the cheapest price was 280TL ($70.50CAD) for 100 minutes calling, 100 SMS & 7GB Data. We purchased 1 sim card and hot spotted. We did get a free battery charger but it wasn’t compatible with my Google Pixel 3. BRING A BATTERY CHARGER IF YOU ARE USING YOUR PHONE FOR NAVIGATION.
The outlet is the regular European 2 circle prong.
$1CAD = 4TL (as of Feb 2019)
-The currency for Turkey is Turkish Lira – TL – ₺. Many places also accept Euro – € or credit card.
-For 10 days, I exchanged $300CAD worth of Lira ₺ in Toronto. I went to Roscoe Trading, as the rates are similar to the XE.com rates. I also pre-booked all my flights and hotels prior to the trip.
Book in Advanced
-Pre-book your Hot Air Balloon if you are planning on doing it in Cappadocia.
-Tours – The easiest way for us to add Ephesus and Pamukkale was to book a tour that would pick up and drop us off at our hotel in Istanbul (45 min flights to Izmir and back from Denizli)
It is not safe to drink the tap water in Turkey. Safe for cleaning purposes.
Unlike North America, you will need to purchase water or drinks as they will not be provided at meals. One tip is to visit a store or places such as the Grand Bazaar and store owners will offer you some tea or apple tea.
-If you are entering any metro system, malls, museums, and Bazaars etc – there are security checkpoints. You must go through a metal detector and also have your bags scanned. There are also armed police officers at many of these places.
-At Airports, you must pass through security and screening before you can even get into the airport then must do another check before you can get to the gates.
Cabs – ALWAYS ASK PRICE BEFORE YOU HOP IN.
Apps – Uber is technically ILLEGAL in Turkey however, you can still use it (there are few drivers) BUT Turkey/Istanbul does have their own version called BiTaksi where you can request a yellow or blue taxi and the prices are consistent.
Public Transit – The Istanbulkart is also a very reliable transportation with a card costing 6TL ($1.50CAD) – Bus, Metro, Tram and ferry. You can reload at multiple places besides the metro stations. When you take multiple trips at once, the fare is discounted. Unlike what Toronto has with the metro card, you can tap multiple times right after each other to use the card for multiple people if need be.
NOTE: The Metro (train system) hours are 6AM-Midnight.
If you are sure that you will visit more than 5 museums included in the pass, it makes sense to buy the Museum Pass Istanbul. For us, we booked other tours which included many of the attraction entry fees.
Try to learn a few words here and there. Knowing numbers helps in less touristy areas. For the most part, majority of people can speak English but there are cases where they don’t so try your best to learn.
Hello – Merhaba! (Mare-ha-ba)
Goodbye – Hoşçakal (Hosh-cha-kal)
Goodbye – Güle güle! (guu-leh guu-leh)
How much does it cost? – Ne Kadar? (Nay Kad-ar)
Thank you – Teşekkür ederim (Te-Sh-qu-err ed-err-im)
Yes – Evet (Ev-et)
No – Hayir (Hi-ear)
Ç – sounds like ch as in “chipper”
0 – sıfır
1 – bir
2 – iki
3 – üç
4 – dört
5 – beş
6 – altı
7 – yedi
8 – sekiz
9 – dokuz
10 – on (11 – on bir)
20 – yirmi (21 – yirmi bir)
30 – otuz (31 – otuz bir)
40 – kırk (41 – kırk bir)
50 – elli (51- elli bir)
60 – altmış (61 – altmış bir)
70 – yetmiş (71 – yetmiş bir)
80 – seksen (81 – seksen bir)
90 – doksan (91 – doksan bir)
100 – yüz (200 – iki yüz)
I travelled through February, which is considered down season. The weather varies but the temperature ranged from 15°C to a low of -2°C depending on where you are in Turkey. We found that in Cappadocia, the weather ranged from -4°C to 6°C. In Istanbul, we had a low of 2°C to a high of 11°C. In Ephesus and Pamukkale, we had a low of 3°C to a high of 16°C. Each place, it started off cold in the morning but all warmed up during the day. This time of year calls for more rain and a little but of snow so be prepared!
If you like the service provided, 10TL is suffice. Remember if you are doing a tour, to tip the driver and guide. For the most part, you don’t need to tip.
-Almost everyone smokes. Unlike Canada, you will see some people smoking indoors at certain restaurants and cafe/bars.
-Cappadocia in particular smells like fumes (from all the tour vans, buses) and also smoke from wood fires and people smoking.
-The road rules are for the most part just a opinion and aren’t always followed so be careful! People J-walk all the time.
-There are loads of Mainland China tourists everywhere. I guess China is so close and cheap to fly so they are plenty. Or there are many European travellers. We only heard a handful of Americans around. Turkey went through some economical turmoil in recent years so they are rebuilding.
-The Turkish people in general, have such strong facial features. They are also a mix of ethnicities originating from the invasion of Ghengis Khan so many Turks are of Mongolian descent so they also have a unique look. Many have very symmetrical faces and strong facial features such as cheekbones and jawlines.
-Streets in Istanbul are mainly cobblestone especially not main Street. The streets in Sultanahmet are all narrow and not built for normal 2 lane driving. The streets are also slanted similar to San Francisco. It may seem like they are 1 way streets but they aren’t. There is no true order to the chaos but no one yells and they help each other out to get through. On the main streets, the trams run super close to the sidewalks but had little barrier/cones. I love when streets split into 3 and have the homes that also are shaped to it.
-Turkey is a country that is located in the crossroads of Europe and Asia – The Silk Road and because of that, it was sought after land.
-Turkey is known to produce potatoes and pumpkin seeds.
-Turkish food is deliciously scrumptious. They are most famous for their kebabs and seafood. But you can’t forget about their coffee or tea or desserts such as baklava.
-Did you know Turkish people are descendants of Ghengis Khan and are part Mongolian. Ghengis Khan’s sons invaded many places and one of the places was Turkey when it was known as Anatolia.
-Turkey has been invaded 3 times in less than 1000 years and had to rebuild over and over. They conquered East to West originally but then were conquered themselves. The Persian invaded and brought camels with them then left and one of the persons in higher power left the empire to the Romans after his death. And of course the Mongrels followed them and conquered them.
-The Persians claim that the land Turkey resides was their ancestral land such as Troy, Ephesus etc.
-In 1923 President Mustafa declared this land to be the Republic of Turkey.
-There was a population exchange that was proposed by the Greek that sent Turkish Muslims to Turkey and Orthodox Christians to Greece and Armenia – forced relocation.
-The turkish people are very patriotic respectful and are against disrespecting anything with the Turkey flag on it – thus you will never see a coin with the flag on the ground ever. President Mustafa once had a meeting/presentation with a general from Greece who before stepping on stage, wiped his feet on the Turkey flag. In retaliation, the soldiers of President Mustafa laid Greece, Italy, France flags on the floor for him to wipe his feet on before going on stage but Mustafa yelled at them to pick those flags off the ground to show respect.
-Carpets are very important in Turkish culture. Seen as religious symbols, they are used in mosques. Each person has a carpet and when they passed away, that carpet is donated to the mosque.
Now, onto the itinerary. This was my original itinerary with some places doubled in case we needed another day as an option.