As we drew back the curtains we were dismayed to discover a dull and gloomy start to the day with rain beating against the window panes. Sadly, it wasn’t any better by the time we had finished our breakfast so with our umbrellas unfurled for the first time since setting foot on Turkish soil, we hurried along through the crowds to the nearest tram stop at Aksaray.
There must have been some disruption on the line as we had to wait awhile for a tram to appear and when it finally put in an appearance, it was overcrowded so we sensibly waited a further couple of minutes for the following service which was only half full and we were able to find seats for the lengthy journey along to Besiktas.
The main reason for our journey to this district was to visit the Dolmabahce Palace overlooking the Bosphorus. As we approached the entrance gates we passed numerous coaches and tour groups gathering to take tours of this magnificent building. Photography is not permitted inside the palace so I have only been able to include exterior shots in its extensive grounds which hopefully go some way into creating an impression of its position and beauty.
After leaving the palace, we followed a path along the waterfront of Besiktas passing the modern Naval Museum and the nearby bustling ferry terminal from where both scheduled ferries and tour boats were operating.
We were forced inland as the waterside path came to an abrupt end and shortly afterwards came across a burial chamber which was free to enter with visitors just needing to remove their footwear before stepping indoors. The rain showers suddenly returned so we took refuge in a McCafe which was conveniently positioned just across the road. I think it must have been the cheapest McDonalds we had ever been in, as our order of a tea and a coffee came to a total of only 2 TL (26p).
We had timed our stop well as the rain had all but ceased as we ventured back outdoors and continued along to Yildiz Park which seemed an oasis of calm away from the crowded city streets. The park was about a 20 minute walk from the palace but if time allows, is definitely worth the effort as we enjoyed our stroll up and down its steep cobblestone paths overlooking a woodland stream.
A wedding shoot was taking place but apart from that few people were about, most probably because of the inclement weather.
Our plan had been to take a bus back to the centre of Besiktas but after walking almost half the way back before reaching a bus stop, we decided not to bother and continue on foot. Whilst researching our trip to Istanbul we’d read that a gondola ride was included in the city travel card and as it wasn’t too far away, we decided to investigate and found our way there easily using trusty Google Maps.
It was a steep, uphill climb to the gondola station in the Democratic Park at Macca but an enjoyable way as the neighbourhood surrounding it had a prosperous feel with some attractive shops and cafes along its tree lined avenues.
The gondola operates at ten minute intervals and is comprised of just two cars holding a maximum of six passengers each. It’s not a very long ride but it is a very scenic one as it crosses the park and terminates just a few minutes walk from Taksim Square. After stopping off for tea and cakes in a cafe near the square we hopped on the metro back to our hotel for a little rest.
Although we love visiting cultural highlights and other places of interest whilst on our travels, no city break can be complete without a shopping trip, so we spent our final afternoon in Historia, a large shopping mall in Aksaray Square, just a 15 minute walk from the hotel. It was the first time we’d returned to this square since our arrival into Istanbul, as it was the nearest stop to our hotel on the airport shuttle bus. This modern shopping mall contained a mix of both Turkish and international retailers and we enjoyed a couple of hours browsing the shops and taking a look at what was on offer.
On the way back to the hotel we stopped at one of the many stalls selling corn on the cob and treated ourselves to a freshly char grilled corn each (4 TL) 52p and found a bench in the square to sit down whilst we ate our reasonably healthy street food purchases.
Back at the hotel we popped down to the spa for our final relaxing sauna of the holiday. We were pleasantly surprised to again have the entire suite to ourselves despite arriving much later than on other days. We followed the sauna with glasses of chilled beer and then wandered the streets in the local neighbourhood for a suitable place for dinner. Our final choice was equally good and my bowl of homemade chicken soup followed by gently spiced lamb kebabs and salad was just right on a cool evening in the city. It was the first time that we had been offered rugs to keep our legs warm, a little surprising perhaps in autumnal Istanbul, but cosy nonetheless.
After leaving the restaurant, we really didn’t need to eat any more but we decided to finish our last evening in Istanbul in style with tea and cakes near the Blue Mosque. Back at the hotel we gathered our belongings together for our flight home to Manchester the following afternoon.
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