ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

A Day in Istanbul

Updated on December 15, 2014

Vibrant nightlife in downtown Istanbul

We had a long layover in Istanbul ...

On our way back to Johannesburg after a boat cruise in Croatia we had a long layover in Istanbul. So we decided to do a day trip of the city. You’re allowed into Turkey with a South African passport so there was no need for a visa. The only initial hiccup was that the blue and white sign-posting in the airport was a bit confusing. As a result we got into the wrong queue so we were sent from pillar to post to explain to various Turkish officials why we were in Istanbul. Eventually we succeeded in clearing passport control.

Airport lobbies are no fun when you’re tired and Istanbul was no exception. And when you’re served by a nameless, rather featureless clerk, it can become a bit of a challenge. With his abrupt, slightly distracted manner it was difficult for two tired travellers to negotiate successfully for the best possible rate for a good day’s experience in Turkey’s capital. We eventually agreed on a tariff and, soon thereafter, our clerk produced a driver cum tour guide with a comfortable motor vehicle.

The traffic was very bad so unfortunately we spent a lot of wasted time in the car. Our guide did his best to be friendly, but all the time during the journey I kept getting this rather cosmic sense of the “great divide” between East and West. There was this huge disconnect between us and him. We talked back as best we could and sounded interested in the things he pointed out along the way. In this way we hoped to make the most of tour.

Eventually we made it to the Haghia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. These landmarks are stately and beautiful. We also saw the Egyptian-style obelisks just next to the Blue Mosque. Unfortunately we were too late for entry into the Blue Mosque, and the Haghia Sophia was closed on that day, but we were able to admire them from the outside and from within the courtyard. They were ornamental and lovely to behold. Thereafter we visited the Topkapi Palace close by. This is a veritable treasure trove of Turkish art and precious objects. We had to go through it quite hurriedly because there was a lot else we wanted to do still, and the afternoon was marching on.

Our next stop was at the Grand Bazaar. The Bazaar was daunting in terms of its sheer size. Hundreds of little shops are crammed into this covered market. There are roughly 60 streets of them! There were spice merchants, shops selling Turkish delight, jewellers, ceramic shops and many others. The market was also fairly crowded so – in typically neurotic tourist fashion – we were careful to guard our bags and make sure we had all our belongings with us at all times as we took in the sights and smells.

After these excursions we were both hungry and tired. It was early evening and our flight was only due to leave at about one the next morning. Our guide then drove us to a restaurant overlooking the Bosphorous Sea – an establishment by the name of Gala Pera. It was one of many that was situated in this prime location. I’m pretty sure the rental must be quite high there. We were overjoyed because of the beautiful view of moon rising over the Bosphorous. What a wonderful way to end a day in Istanbul, we thought. We could relax over supper and think about all the sights we had seen. And we were both quite starving.

The maitre d’ seemed nice enough: friendly, affable, glad to be of service … but a tad too much, maybe? Soon he brought out a tray of model food to show us what we could have and we made our choices. There were starters, and then mains, but the bill in the end was not what we expected. The maitre d’ had not been upfront about the price and we felt cheated by the whole experience. I think there are relationships between some of these restaurants and certain tour companies where the companies are encouraged to bring gullible, non-Turkish speaking guests to the restaurant where they are charged an arm and a leg before being allowed to leave. It is probably based on a system of kick-backs.

Our last stop was Taksim Square. We visited some of the sweet shops here to make a few last minute purchases. The range of delicacies available was absolutely daunting and there was an abundance of stock wherever you looked. We also walked around upon the Square itself, but because it was dark and the lighting was inadequate, we were not able to see much. At last, tired and ready for sleep, our Turkish companion dropped us off at the international section of the airport so that we could begin check-in procedures. Although it was a whirlwind tour of the capital city, it did whet my appetite. I hope to return one day – better rested with a few Turkish phrases memorized – to better explore the rich history that Istanbul has to offer.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • stereomike83 profile image


      4 years ago from UK

      Fascinating to read how much you managed in a single day. I love doing day trips and sampling just a taste of a place and going back again if we can at a later date

    • lyndapringle profile image

      Lynda Pringle 

      4 years ago from Austin, Texas

      Thanks for sharing your delightful trip to Istanbul with the rest of us. My husband and I have been wanting to visit but fear that it might be too dangerous now. How fortunate that you got to visit the Hagia Sophia that I had heard so much about. It looks so stunning on television. It must have been quite an experience visiting the Turkish bazaars. Also, seems like you had the chance to eat some exotic food. I am not surprised that there were merchants trying to overcharge you. That is the case in most countries who believe that tourists are rich fools ready to part with their money.

      I don't think you were there long enough as there is so much Turkish history to absorb. My husband and I will read a couple of books about the cities which we plan to visit before we do so in order to get a feel for the places but you had so little time for that. I hope you get the chance to return to Istanbul again and enjoy even more of the history!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)