Turkey’s largest city – Istanbul lies on the bustling Bosphorus – the river that flows from the Black Sea of the Asian continent to the European waters of the Mediterranean. The city combines the architectural elegance and sophistication of any of the greatest European capitals with the vibrancy and energy of the East.
A short walk from the Western, European shore of the river – where the eye-opening sight of busy car ferries that land from the Eastern side each minute during morning rush hour – lies the popular tourist area of Aya Sophia Square. Here you’ll find the ancient and awe-inspiring forth century domes of the Hagia Sophia – the former Orthodox Christian Cathedral and centre of Christianity in the East until it was converted into a grand mosque when the country became Muslim in 1453.
This wonder sits opposite the no less imposing Sultan Ahmed Mosque – or Blue Mosque as it is known. These two sites – surrounded by the graceful squares and French inspired boulevards and tramways – are the reason why 7.2 million foreign tourists decided to visit Istanbul in 2010.
And one of the best incentives is the availability of good clean and reasonably prices hostels right in the cultural heart of Istanbul.
Places to eat in Istanbul have a friendly service and waiting staff that almost always speak a good standard of English are efficient and easy to order from. Not only that but the dishes on offer appeal to everyone. Classic Turkish stews such as Tencere Kebabi (pot kebabs) as well as the amazing range of minced kofte, lean shish and delicious swarma cater for the carnivorous visitor. The incredible array of regional breads and grilled vegetable dishes leave non-meat eaters more than satisfied.
Turkish food is served in portions so generous that groups of locals will often sensibly choose a few dishes between them which they share – and delicious food is still left over.
Despite most Turkish people being born into Islam – the attitude to the religion is relaxed and alcohol is freely available in hotels, restaurants and bars. If you choose to drink alcohol, wash your meal down with a nice bottle of Turkey’s most popular beer, Efes – and enjoy a seriously sweet baklava pastry for desert, rounded off by a muddy Turkish coffee or sweet sharp tea