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Thursday, 11 August 2011

Istanbul, The Capital of Culture.......And Kebabs (The Last Day)

View of my small but comfortable room

Day 5, and it's the last day in Istanbul before heading back home to Singapore. I would definitely miss this place as i fell in love with this city since the first day i arrived. The sights, sounds, the smell of fresh baklavas, and of course the Kebabs! The highlight of my trip was definitely the Bosporus boat tour. From there i had seen the sights i could never get when traveling on land and the beauty of Istanbul itself.

Since it was the last day, i had an early breakfast, then went to back to my room to pack my stuffs as my check out timing is 1pm. It was supposed to be 12pm but i requested for late check out and the reception gave me an extra hour, so i don't mind at all! After packing my stuffs, left the hotel and went straight to Taksim Square. Took the underground tram from Kabatas to Taksim Station and reached within few minutes.

Taksim Square
Heavy traffic in Taksim Square
Taksim Metro Station
Taksim Square is a major shopping, tourist and leisure district famed for its restaurants, shops and hotels. Many tourists have flocked to this district for some photography, eating and whatsoever. I noticed that this is pretty much the modern part of Istanbul and with the loud honking of the cars, buses and motorcycles, this was definitely one of the busiest city in Turkey! Traffic jam was as always been a factor there, as when i was walking along the streets, i can see the disgruntled look on the drivers faces as they are stuck in a jam. Well, what else is new in this side of the world! Thank God i have not chosen to drive on this trip!...Hehe.

The buildings are pretty much modern and a blend with the old. Al fresco dining, fast food eateries, local food joints and shopping galleries filled the sidewalks of Taksim. When i took a look at my map, i noticed that Galatasaray's Sami Ali Yen Stadium was just a few Metro stations away from Taksim. So went ahead with the journey form Taksim Metro to Sisli Metro Station.

Underground Taksim Metro
Same subway system back home
Sisli Metro Station

Ali Sami Yen Stadium, home for Galatasaray Football Club
Galatasaray Spor Kulübü, (Galatasaray Sports Club) is a Turkish sports club based in Istanbul, most notable for its football section, also known as Galatasaray S.K.. It also fields teams in Athletics, Basketball, Wheelchair basketball, Volleyball, Water polo, Swimming, Rowing, Sailing, Judo, Bridge, Equestrian and Superleague Formula Motorsports. Galatasaray Sports Club is one of the most important members of Galatasaray Community as Galatasaray University and Galatasaray High School.
Usually seen on the sports channel in either Champions League or Europa League, here i have first hand look at the stadium in all of it's glory! Too bad can't go into stadium as it was closed for maintenance works. Grabbed a few photos and saw a small building just across the stadium parking lot, it was the club shop. Went in and browsed every item there is available. Finally came to a conclusion and bought me a Home kit of Galatasaray for 70 Liras. It's much cheaper here than back home. It would cost me about 90-120 bucks! After wandering around, saw the time was 11.30am. Quickly took the Metro back to Taksim station and transferred to the Underground tram back to Kabatas and took the tram back to Sultanahmet. The underground tram from Taksim to Kabatas was efficient and modern. Clean and spacious too. Here are some pics of the tram!

The tram itself, modern, clean and efficient
The tram platform

Total costs a mere 32 liras for this set meal
I headed back to Sultanahmet and was hungry. Luckily, restaurants are readily available along DevonYolu road, which is in Sultanahmet. With so many options available, i opted for the one with many types of dishes to choose from. It's like back home at a Nasi Padang stall, choosing your dishes at the counter and pay as you go. The chicken dish was so tempting thay i had to choose it! Also chose a mixed vegetables dish and a dessert. The dessert was the traditional Turkish pastry called the Baklava. Baklava is a rich, sweet pastry made of layers of filo pastry filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey. It is characteristic of the cuisines of the former Ottoman Empire and much of central and southwest Asia. The total meal costs me about 32 Liras and ate to my hearts content. Thia was a damn good meal that i have eaten in Istanbul. Bought some souvenirs for some of my peeps back home and went back to hotel to check out. Gonna miss this country and this city! Up next will be my trip report on Emirates, the service and the food on board!...See ya!

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Istanbul, The Capital of Culture.......And Kebabs (Day 4)

It is day 4 and my final rounds of exploring Istanbul. This time i head out to the Dolmabache Palace. It is located between Kabatas and Besiktas, which is on left shore in entrance by seaway from Marmara Sea to Boğaziç. It is located on the European side of the Bosporus, served as the main administrative center of the Ottoman Empire from 1856 to 1922. I took the tram from Sultanahmet to the stop in Kabatas and walked along the coastline for 10 minutes to reach the palace. The Dolmabache palace is open o the public
on weekdays from 9:00 to 15:00, except Mondays and Thursdays.

The coastline along Kabatas
The map of the Dolmabahce Palace ground

Entrance to the Dolmabahce Palace
The entrance into the palace grounds
The water fountain and small pond
Before entering the palace, i had to go to security screening and was told that no photos are allowed once i start the tour inside of the palace. So no photos of the palace interiors. Met with a Malaysian couple at the gates and asked me am i from Malaysia!?...I said i was from Singapore and they formally introduced themselves to me and said they were on honeymoon. We chatted for a while before going on separate tour guides as they hired a private tour instead of the group. Once entered the palace, i sat down and waited along with 8 other tourists for our tour guide to begin the tour. The interior of the palace has western influences in Turkish architecture, and ornament shape, called "Turkish Rococo", the baroque style pavilion, where was built by remaining under Western influence, began to show itself on summer palaces and dispensers. There is a crystal chandelier on the main hall. This Bohemian chandelier was given to Ottoman Sultan as a present from Queen Victoria. The staircase on the main hall is also made from crystal. 
The most important part of the palace is the room where Atatürk, founder of Turkish Republic. had spent his last days in this room and died here. Sounds very eerie right!?..Visiting a palace where the founder of Turkey died!..The interior is well restored and it has been there since it was built and we can't touch any of these items and furnitures as i believe they would be afraid that we cause damage!

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder and first president of the Republic of Turkey, spent the last days of his medical treatment in the palace as his health deteriorated. Atatürk died at 9:05 a.m. on November 10, 1938, in a bedroom that is now part of the museum. The room itself was left untouched since. There is also 'The Secreteriat's Rooms'. It is also referred to as the 'Tile Room'. There hangs the largest painting in the palace collection, a depiction of the Surre Procession by Stefano Ussi, hangs on the left wall of this hall. Surre was used to refer to the caravans which travelled from Istanbul to Mecca during the religious month of Recep. It bears the monetary aid which was used to support maintenance and decoration of the Kaaba, also providing financial assistance to the local population of Hejaz.

Entrance into the palace
View from the foyer
The back door after the tour
The gate to Heaven, hehe.
After the tour had some final photo shots of the palace, i went across the street to visit the Besiktas Football Club's home stadium, Fiyapı İnönü Stadium. This club had beaten Manchester United (Yeah, that bloody team!) in the Champions League 2009. I went to the club shop and it was closed. so i went through security and headed into the museum instead. The museum showcases the past and present trophies that the club has won. Pretty impressive for a small club in Europe but big in Turkey. Managed to sneak into the gallery stand and took some photos of the field and the stadium seating gallery!

The Besiktas FC Fan Shop
Finally, i went back to Eminonu tram station and bought a Bosporus Tour ticket for cheap. This tour brings you along the Bospurus Sea and the bridge that links the European side of Turkey to the Asian side of Turkey.  The Bospuros is the world's narrowest strait used for international navigation, it connects the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara. It is connected by the Dardanelles to the Aegean Sea, and thereby to the Mediterranean Sea. A cheap way to explore the Bosporus is offered by the public ferries that traverse the Bosporus from Eminönü, on the historic peninsula of Istanbul to Anadolu Kavağı near the Black Sea, zigzagging between the Rumelian and Anatolian sides of the city. The ferries dock at the Boğaz Iskelesi. The prices may vary according to the type of the ride, and some feature loud popular music for the duration of the trip.
Bosporus boats docking at the terminal
One of the operators ferry for the Bosporus tour
The first to board
View of the Kabatas and Besiktas area
Under the Bosporus bridge
A castle along the Bosporus Sea. Definitely not He-Man's crib
Titanic-esque ship
Yildiz Park & Palace, in Ortakoy
View of the Dolmabahce Palace
If you take the traditional ferry's Bosphorus tour all the way to the end, you will have to wait three hours at the northern terminus of Anadolu Kavağı for the ferry's departure for the return to Istanbul. But you can get off the boat in Sarıyer, have lunch, then ride south along the shore. If you take the TurYol or other small boat, you'll be back at the Galata Bridge in less than an hour. The most impressive sights are along the southern shores of the Bosphorus, nearest to the city: Topkapı Palace, the mid-Bosporus Maiden's Tower, the Selimiye Barracks (where Florence Nightingale worked), Dolmabahçe Palace, Çirağan Palace, Yıldız Park & Palace, the chic art-boutique-and-cafe scene in the village of Ortaköy, the pretty Ottoman baroque Mecidiye Mosque, and the Bosphorus Bridge. So if you are planning to go on the boat tour, just take note on which one's the real deal and also beware of touts!.....After the boat tour, spent the rest of the evening back in Sultanahmet having my dinner and proceeded back into my hotel. Last part of my Istanbul journey in the next post!....See ya!..