27 June 2012

A tourist in Istanbul

It's obviously presumptuous for a person who was only in the country for a few days, and only Istanbul at that (and in fact mainly in the tourist-oriented area of Sultanhamet), to comment on Turkey.   So these are strictly personal observations, obviously derived only from a limited tourist experience.

Outside the Palace
Obviously Hagia Sophia and the Topkaki Palace are world renowned tourist sites.    There were crowds at both of these.   Inside, the crowds aren't really an issue at Hagia Sophia, but they are at the Palace, where it was necessary on several occasions to queue for entry to particular sections.

On the other hand, the excellent Archeological Museums complex was almost deserted when I visited it, and there weren't too many people at the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts.

At Hagia Sophia and the palace, there were long queues for admission tickets at mid-morning which is when we, along with many others, tended to arrive.  However, my research had turned up that there is a "Museum Card", providing for admission to certain museums (including Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Chora, the Museum of Islamic Arts and the Archeological Museum).  Not only was the queue for the card much shorter, it provided us with an incentive both to get out to Chora (which we were glad to do) and  visit the Harem section of the Palace (which is otherwise an additional cost).    And we came out ahead financially, too.
An interesting restaurant -  the cooking takes place on the boat

More generally, I had been led to believe that there would be quite a lot of hassling of tourists.    Yes, it's true that as you  walk past restaurants in the tourist area, you'll be offered menus, but usually all it takes is a polite shake of the head, keeping your eyes down, and mostly you'll be left alone.    The same applies to street vendors.    We were slightly more assertively approached on a only small number of occasions, but perhaps only  once or twice did we feel "hassled".

So far as dressing in the street, at least in the city area, there are no real constraints.   Likewise, beer and alcohol generally seems to be readily available, at least in the areas frequented by tourists, both in restaurants and in shops (to take away).    I acknowledge, however, that this might not apply in other areas.
The trams are modern
The traffic in parts can be congested, and the public transport system doesn't seem to be great (although if you needed to get around you'd probably manage: see map - http://www.urbanrail.net/as/tr/istanbul/istanbul-map.htm).  Most tourists probably don't venture beyond the user-friendly and efficient tram through the heart of the Sultanhamet area.   There is a limited metro, but we didn't use it as it didn't go anywhere that we wanted to get to (there are interchanges to it at two points on the tram line).  There are buses as well as taxis everywhere, with taxi fares not being too bad (although I suspect that they would mount up if you were caught up in traffic congestion).
 We took the tram to the terminus at Kabatas, but weren't swept off our feet by the scenery there!   There is a funicular here to Taksim Square, but we didn't venture on this!

No comments:

Post a Comment