IS­TAN­BUL ON THE CHEAP

Once the mar­ket­place of the world, it can still be a bargain des­ti­na­tion, writes Rus­sell Maclennan-jones

Whangarei Report - - TRAVEL -

The cheap­est thing to do in Is­tan­bul is sim­ply to walk around, through quaint old streets fol­low­ing no ob­vi­ous pat­tern, and run the risk of get­ting lost. The city is full of bar­gains for the cu­ri­ous trav­eller.

Lo­cals are only too will­ing to help guide you, es­pe­cially if they have a car­pet shop they would like you to visit — and many lo­cals in the busy Sul­tanah­met area seem to have a car­pet shop, or be on the pay­roll.

Try the swankier area near Tak­sim Square across the Galata Bridge, us­ing one of the cheap ways to get around, the $2.70 fu­nic­u­lar (ca­ble car) up from Katabas, the end of the main tram­line through the city. Then you can walk down Istik­lal Av­enue with its posh shops and em­bassies and catch another treat, an el­derly fu­nic­u­lar known as the Tun­nel, which gets you back to Galata Bridge.

But if in­stead you walk down­hill through the nar­row cob­bled streets lined with shops that all seem to spe­cialise in the lo­cal ver­sion of Free­view and satel­lite dishes, you can climb the Galata Tower (long queues at busy times and a fee of about $12), a fas­ci­nat­ing re­minder that the Ge­noese were in res­i­dence for many years.

Af­ter all that walk­ing, a ferry ride across to the Asian side ($2.70 each way un­less you stay on the ferry for the re­turn trip) is a great way to re­lax with views up the Bospho­rous and across the Sea of Ma­mara, and mosques dot­ting the sky­line. The Blue Mosque, a cen­tral part of Mus­lim life in the city, is worth more than one visit and is free. It costs about $16 to en­ter the mu­seum at the nearby Ha­gia Sophia.

As you would ex­pect the queues are shorter first thing (it opens for vis­i­tors at 9am on most days). In the area around the mosque you will run into Baradan or one of his mates of­fer­ing to shine your shoes ($6, but hag­gle). Baradan has five chil­dren in Kur­dish Iran and spends three months there, then two months in Is­tan­bul, and has been shin­ing shoes in the city for 20 years.

The nearby Basil­ica Cis­tern is another bargain (about $6). The wa­ter stor­age sys­tem in Byzan­tine times, it’s vast and cav­ernous but cool and peace­ful on a hot day (un­til lots of tourists crowd in — as usual the morn­ing is your best bet).

Back at Tak­sim Square you could in­ves­ti­gate one of the Ortho­dox churches, the Ha­gia Tri­ada (Holy Trin­ity), for in­stance, with its Ro­coco tow­ers, and if you stay for a ser­vice you will be able to pon­der the sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween the chant­ing of the Ortho­dox and Mus­lim prayers.

Is­tan­bul takes time to cel­e­brate its past (the ar­chae­o­log­i­cal mu­seum is a bargain at $6) and the Palatium cafe is a spe­cial treat, it’s around the cor­ner from the Four Sea­sons ho­tel in Sul­tanah­met, a few min­utes’ walk from the Blue Mosque. The own­ers have ex­ca­vated ru­ins from Ro­man and Byzan­tine times and af­ter you have en­joyed a cof­fee or ap­ple tea you can climb down the stairs and find your­self in a domed space that would have been fa­mil­iar to peo­ple 1500 years ago. You can view the ru­ins even with­out buy­ing a cof­fee, but they are more than worth the price. And the piz­zas are worth try­ing as well.

Photo / Danny Hu, Getty Images

Is­tan­bul. with the Haghia Sofia in the fore­ground.

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