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CRUISE PLUS: PORT OF CALL
CRUISE PLUS: PORT OF CALL
PORT OF CALL
Words Sally Macmillan
later as Constantinople, is Europe’s
largest city by the number of people
living within the city limits (as opposed to the
sprawling suburbs of other large population
centres) and the sixth-largest city in the world.
Ships dock right in the heart of the action,
at the Yolcu Salonu passenger terminal in
Karakoy. This bustling, semi-industrial district
is close to the Galata Bridge, which spans the
Golden Horn and links the modern and old
parts of the city.
While the main historic attractions are in
the old city, Karakoy is rapidly developing
into a hot spot. The area is famous for its
hamsi (anchovy) street stalls and hardware
shops. Now it’s becoming a favourite spot as
cool hotels, stylish restaurants, bars, designer
shops and modern art galleries spring up
guide audio systems. We wander spellbound
through the palace’s atmospheric pavilions,
passageways and harem quarters. My favourite
spot is actually not the jewel-filled Treasury
museum but the domed kitchens, where 800
staff have prepared food for 8,000 inhabitants
of the palace for several centuries.
Hagia Sophia – also known as St Sophia
and Ayasofya – is a vast, impressive sixth-
century monument to both Islam and
Christianity. It is now a secular museum. Your
eyes are constantly drawn up to the exquisitely
decorated dome, and the upper galleries
house some beautiful mosaics. During our
visit, scaffolding obscures part of the dome;
restoration is a painstaking, continual process.
On the advice of a charming Turkish carpet
salesman in a nearby shop we visit the Basilica
Cistern and Blue Mosque early the next day to
beat the queues, before spending several hours
in the Grand Bazaar.
The strange, subterranean Basilica Cistern
has starred in several movies and TV shows.
Built in the sixth century using columns
salvaged from ruined temples, it once provided
the main water supply to the Great Palace. It’s
a cool spot on a hot day.
The Blue Mosque, adorned by six
distinctive minarets, is probably the most
photographed monument in Istanbul. But save
some camera battery power for the old and
modern wonders of the Grand Bazaar and the
wildly colourful Spice Bazaar.
From the cruise terminal, there are plenty of
metered taxis, a tram service or you can walk
across the bridge to reach the old city.
The cruise terminal is about 25 kilometres
from Ataturk international airport; if private
transfers to your ship aren’t included it’s easiest
to take a taxi – about 50 Turkish Lira ($25)
– and there are hundreds of street stalls, cafes
and restaurants where you can sample local
treats such as simit (sesame-seed encrusted
rolls), kumpir (stuffed baked potatoes) and
balık-ekmek (fish sandwiches).
The ancient city that famously sits astride the two continents
of Europe and Asia is on the Eastern Mediterranean itineraries
of all the major cruise lines. It’s not hard to see why.
This awesome covered
marketplace in the oldest
part of Istanbul has some
4,000 shops set on 65
streets. When shopping,
be prepared to bargain
long and hard. Diary
note: the bazaar is
closed on Sundays and
Built in 1462, this
impressive complex was
home to Ottoman sultans
and their wives and
concubines and is one of
the oldest, biggest palaces
in the world. Check out
the eye-popping display
of jewels, paintings,
ceremonial robes and
The 17th-century mosque
of Sultan Ahmet is known
as the Blue Mosque
because of the thousands
ceramic tiles that decorate
its graceful interior. Queues
of tourists are inevitable, so
arrive as early as possible;
the mosque is closed to
five daily prayer sessions.
This beautifully preserved
is a feast for all the senses.
Aside from the vividly
aromatic spices, stalls sell
nuts, dried fruits, teas,
tourist trinkets and a
range of edible souvenirs
including the best
Turkish Delight you’ll
ever taste. Stallholders
here seem to enjoy a
chat, so expect some
friendly banter along
with the haggling.
Clockwise from main: View across the port to
Topkapi Palace; the Blue Mosque; exotic wares at
the Spice Bazaar; a Turkish carpet weaver
’You can spend an hour or two in
the beautifully restored, 16th-century
bathhouse being scrubbed and
massaged for about $65.’
between crumbling warehouses. The Istanbul
Museum of Modern Art is worth a visit, and
baklava lovers are in for a rare treat at Karakoy
Gulluoglu, a large teashop that sells a huge
range of the deliciously sticky sweet pastries.
Karakoy has a traditional Turkish bath at
the Kilic Ali Pasa Hamam. You can spend
an hour or two in the beautifully restored,
16th-century bathhouse being scrubbed and
massaged for about $65 – a supreme recovery
treatment after a bout of intensive sightseeing.
The old city is chock-a-block with cultural
and architectural marvels. But where to start?
Most cruise lines advise first-timers to take a
Despite making a sensible list before we
set out on our first day, my cruise companion
and I deviate immediately to Topkapi Palace.
There are queues but we persevere, hiring self-
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