A Cultural Week in Istanbul 7th – 14th April 2012.
This must be the most effective way of seeing Istanbul in a week. A dream for history buffs, the programme facilitated appreciation of many mosques with their historical tiles and mosaics, amazing palaces and harems, a basilica and a fairly recently abandoned aqueduct that had been in operation from the 5th Century (the design may be useful in south east England right now!). We also opted to visit a cultural centre to wonder at the dervishes in their solemn, stately, spiritual whirling.
The hotel was excellent, providing good service and food, and situated conveniently near local trams, the ferry harbour and several gardens and historical sites. Perhaps the most memorable was the spice market, 10 minutes away, prompting delicious purchases of nuts, coffee, olives and apple tea. The local people all across the city were friendly and relaxed and the traders invited us to participate in a humorous but never oppressive way.
We had several ferry trips along the Bosphorus, providing unique views of minarets and domes. There was a memorable visit to Bayuk Ada, the largest of the Princes’ Islands, where we walked around the perimeter, fascinated by the beautiful holiday homes and – in the more remote areas – abundant wildflowers. Another memorable ferry trip took us to the Asian shore, with views of the Black Sea.
The city was in the midst of a flower festival so that borders, even in urban areas, were a blaze of flowers. For the gardeners amongst us, walking in Gulhane Park revitalised and delighted us: storks nesting in acres of plane trees, and banks of tulips and pansies of every possible colour.