***view of the Blue Mosque out of our hotel room window***looking at all the goodies in the Spice Market***waiting for our gozleme for lunch with the traditional ladies making them in the corner***Mark and Mustafa the carpet seller in a carpet shop***
Getting to Istanbul from Marmaris isn't exactly the easiest of journies. If you fly then it is over 100kms to Dalaman Airport, then an hours flight to Istanbul then the underground train into the city and then somehow to your hotel. Going by bus is around 14hours with stops and includes a ferry crossing over the Sea of Marmara, then there is the usual getting to and from the bus stations. So when Yacht Marine, the other large marina here in Marmaris organises its annual bus trip to the Istanbul Boat Show there is a flurry of interest and holidays are planned. As well as it being exceptional value, there is of course the priceless advantage of being collected and delivered marina to hotel.
Day 1 was a somewhat early start, up before dawn and luckily we had a break in the rain while awaiting our 6am departure north. The 2 coaches took it easy and we had a few breaks enroute, then a very flat crossing of the Sea of Marmara, onwards to Istanbul. The traffic as we approached was very heavy but it is a huge city and eventually, after a free Istanbul by Night tour we arrived in the Sultanahmet area around 9pm and headed for out hotel. Several hotels were used by the group, many stayed at the http://www.sidehotel.com/ and were very happy with it.
We stayed at http://www.oceans7.com.tr/ a 9 room hotel in a very quiet cute cobbled side street, 2 minutes walk from the Blue Mosque, and yes that really was the view out of our window from Room 203. It cost €40 double (low season special rate) including a buffet turkish breakfast with omelette, our room had a double and 2 single beds, radiator heating, air conditioning and a small but very clean and functionable bathroom. The staff were great, it was very warm and comfortable and we would recommend it.
Day 2 dawned very cold but clear and sunny and after a very good Turkish buffet breakfast with omelette we had time for a visit to the Blue Mosque to admire this amazing masterpiece with millions of blue tiles and 260 stained glass windows, before joining the group for our transfer to the Boat Show. The Exhibition was good but really didn't have many goodies to buy, just bits and pieces to look at, so in a way it was excellent as we weren't tempted to part with any money!!! After a few hours we were collected and taken down to the Bosphorus River and enjoyed a late afternoon cruise, sitting back and taking in the sights from the water of this historical city spanning both Asia and Europe. By the end of the boat trip the skies had opened and a soggy night followed but that didn't stop us having dinner at the nearby Oceans 7 Restaurant which served excellent food in very cosy surroundings (upstairs best).
Day 3, another stunner of a morning but oh so cold. After another very good breakfast we hit the streets to "do" Istanbul in a day. We had the whole day free so started with a walk through the grounds of the Aya Sofya, into the adjoining park and next into Topkapi Palace. Although only around 550 years old the palace is an interesting place to spend some time and has a very colourful history. We wandered through the maze of the harem, trying to imagine how life must have been for over 1000 concubines housed there, all desparately trying to to become the Sultans favorite. The private quarters and the courts were very interesting, but the Treasury displaying the spoonmakers 86 carat diamond takes alot of beating! Originally found in a rubbish dump and bought by a spoonmaker for 3 spoons, what a bargain.
After the palace we headed for the Basilica Cistern (everything is so close you just walk from one amazing attraction to the next in a minute or two), built in AD532 designed to hold 80,000 cubic metres of water, what an engineering feat - but who put the two Medusas heads upside down underneath the columns, and why?
Time for gozleme and chai for lunch then off exploring through a maze of little streets and into the Grand Bazaar. Not as impressive as I remember it to be 20 years ago, but I guess I have seen so many amazing sights since then and it was still great to have a look around out of tourist season. Still time for more sightseeing so we walked down to the waterfront and along to the Egyptian Spice Market taking in the sights and smells and nibbling on all the samples, I wonder just how many flavours of Turkish Delight there really are? (I am doing my best to try them all!!) Time to call it a day with an uphill walk back to the hotel, a very unmemorable dinner opposite the Blue Mosque and a walk around Sultanahmet at night.
Day 4 raining again, we were just so lucky with our two days. We left on the coach at 10am, and made it back to Marmaris at 12.45am. It was a very long day, there was a delay waiting for the ferry and then a slow trip around the Bursa area where the countryside was snow covered, we even had a few snowflakes falling when we stopped for lunch, but all in all we had a great time away and saw as much as we could in a short time. Our thanks go to Marmaris Yacht Marine for organising and subsidising such an excellent event.