We arrived late into Istanbul due to flight delays so we missed our first dinner reservation in the city which I was really looking forward to. It was a place known for kebaps. Anyway, we got checked into the Bank Hotel; here is a short room tour.
The room was an executive suite and had a lot of old world charm. The only drawbacks were being on a lower floor and the shower did not drain properly which was very annoying. Other than that, the hotel provided some nice welcome gifts which was a nice touch.
Day 2 in Turkey, our first full day, and I finally got to see the city in the daylight! We booked a private tour of the city and our guide and driver met us in the hotel lobby on time. Along the way to the first stop, our guide taught us a lot about Turkey and Islam, and we got a better understanding of the region and what was going on in the world. As we walked to our first stop, I had to grab a simit. This is a round bagel sort of bread that can be found everywhere. I had one in Vancouver before leaving and wasn’t impressed. That one was shaped like a simit but had the texture of a cookie. The ones I had in Turkey were more chewy and the sesame seeds gave it that extra burst of flavor. I would have them often in Turkey for breakfast. They are delicious!
I woke up really excited on day 3 in Istanbul as we had no scheduled activities and would be able to just wander and explore the city; eat at authentic local places.
This would be my first of many throughout the trip (I was able to try Turkish Tea yesterday in the market). Turkish coffee is a little bitter, thick and has a lot of grit at the bottom of it. You drink it until the grit. Servers will usually ask you how much sugar you want to add to tea or coffee. It is also served quite often with lokum.
I did some research on places to eat lunch and made our way to Cagri Karadeniz for Turkish pizza and kebabps.
Day 4 (Hurrem Sultan Hammam Turkish Bath, Asian Side, Nomads Dinner, Swissotel Rooftop Bar)
Looking back at our pics, we packed a lot of things into Day 4 of Istanbul. This is a good itinerary if you only had one day in the city as it covers a wide range of cultural and culinary activities.
Turkish Bath – The day started with a Turkish Bath. I did a lot of research in to the various baths. I wanted a luxurious one with a couples treatment. They were very hard to find as most will separate men and women. Also, the therapist will be of the same sex as you in 99% of places. I finally settled on Hagia Sophia Hurrem Sultan Bathhouse and did the Ab-1 Hayat. The bathhouse was founded in 1556 and is located close to all the main attractions of Istanbul (Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque etc).
Bodrum is a city located in Southwest Turkey. The climate is Mediterranean though I believe it is on the Agean. The area has become a tourist destination for beaches, nightlife, and shopping. We flew from Istanbul to Bodrum on Turkish airways. Although the flight was only 1 hour, they still served a hot meal in business class (and I as I would later learn, they also serve hot meals in economy on one hour flights!).
In order to properly explore the area, I recommend renting a car from the airport. We used Enterprise and it was a relatively straightforward process.
Day 6 in Turkey, our second day in Bodrum, started with a day trip to the ancient city of Ephesus. This city was under ancient Greek control and was founded in the 10 Century BC! It was about a 2.75 hour drive from the hotel.
The coolest things to see here are the amphitheaters and The Library of Celsus.
This was a pretty large complex and there is a lot more to see. The only thing was it was HOT. Make sure you bring a hat and plenty of water. We did not finish the whole thing because of the heat, but I felt like we saw the main parts.
Day 7 – Bodrum Day 3 – Two places you need to check out for food in Bodrum
Coming off a shameful low in food consumption the previous day, I was determined to make a comeback today! First order of business, find a good local Pide shop. After some research I found Pideci Mumtaz. It was located in an automotive industrial area of the city.
As mentioned in a previous post, I have still not figured out how to order Turkish bread and pizza. The couple at the shop didn’t speak English so I had to use Google translate.
Our first experience with the Six Senses brand was in the Douro Valley in Portugal. We only spent one night, but loved it and wished we had stayed longer. Fast forward a few years later, and we were determined not to make the same mistake. So I booked 3 nights at the Six Senses Kaplankaya which is a 1 hour and 45 minute drive from Bodrum.
Check in – Upon arrival at the resort, you will encounter a security checkpoint. From here, it was very difficult to find the reception center. The signage was very poor and we spent quite a while circling the property.
On Day 11 in Turkey we left the Six Senses Kaplankaya and headed for Cappadocia. I am still amazed that on a one hour flight, a hot meal is served on Turkish Airlines (and a decent one too).
After arriving in Cappadocia, we picked up our rental car (I highly recommend a car for Cappadocia) and drove about 1 hour to the hotel (there are two airports serving Cappadocia; we flew into Kayseri and flew out of Nevsehir).
Day 12 – Balloon Ride (almost), and eating at Cappadocia’s only tasting menu restaurant
One of the most popular things to do in Cappadocia is to ride a hot air balloon early in the morning; so, on our 12th day in Turkey, I woke up at 4am and proceeded to the hotel lobby where the balloon company was to pick us up. At this point, I was still uncertain whether we would be able to take the ride or not. The Turkish Aviation authorities make that call in the morning just before the flights, based on weather conditions. On this particular day, it was raining. A shuttle took us about 5 minutes from the hotel to the balloon operator’s offices where they had some light breakfast for everyone.
Our last full day in Turkey started early again because I wanted to get some great shots of the hot air balloons over Cappadocia. As I headed over to the hotel terrace, I could already see them starting to inflate in the distance.
Today we would be moving to the Museum Hotel. As we had some time to kill before check in, we decided to go to the Kaymakli Underground city which was about 30 minutes by car from the hotel.
TIP: The underground city is basically a network of caves. Get there right when it opens. A lot of the spaces are small and tight, and if there are large groups there, its not the ideal situation, especially if you are claustrophobic!