A Cultural Week in Istanbul – 19th – 26th March 2011
Istanbul is a vibrant city straddling not only the Bosporus and Golden Horn, but also different cultures, and has retained many of its historical buildings and artifacts. The Ramblers Worldwide Holidays programme ‘A Cultural Week in Istanbul’ beautifully captures these different facets and manages to include many varied experiences in a busy week using, as a base, a good centrally located hotel.
The leader, Burg, sensibly switched the programme around to suit the weather but without losing sight of the need for logical exposure to the treasures of Istanbul.
There was something of interest for everyone, be it the scenery of the Bosporus, Golden Horn and the adjacent hills, or the varied meal offerings (on which more later), or the beauty of the Islamic Art so well preserved in the Topkapi Palace, or visits to churches of many different religions including the beautiful Blue Mosque or the Hagia Sophia with both a Christian and Islamic history, or the small shops in the Spice (or Egyptian) Bazaar and the Grand Bazaar of 4000 shops. I, like most in the group, enjoyed everything.
The meals offered us were the best I have ever had on a Ramblers Worldwide Holidays programme – and this is my 13th programme! We were taken to different restaurants for both dinners and some lunches and so were sometimes exposed to cuisines of different regions. The Turks take great care in meal preparation as well as presentation and so each meal was a gourmet delight. There was only one dinner which fell below the high standard set, but even then it was better than the meals one is generally offered on a Ramblers Worldwide Holidays programme.
It was great to use the local transport, which helped bring us in contact with the local populace, all of whom, without exception were very friendly and helpful. Most spoke good English. We started with a ferry ride to the Buyuk Ada, the largest of the Princes Islands and we spoke at length with a young couple on a rare outing without their children.
Finally we took the ferry up the Bosporus, stopping at the small towns on both sides and finishing up at the base of a Castle, now a ruin, but originally built by the Genoese, overlooking the entrance to the Bosporus from the Black Sea. During this ride two of us, by chance, were interviewed by college students on the cultural identity of Great Britain.
There were other memorable visits made to various museums and the like, too numerous to list here.
It was a great programme, and I recommend it to all who have any curiosity.