Jason discovered there's much more to Turkey than bazaars and Turkish baths! He went to the country's largest city, Istanbul, historically known as Byzantium and Constantinople. It is the only city on earth straddling two continents Europe and Asia.
Istanbul is said to be a bridge between Europe and Asia where east and west have co-existed for centuries. It is a city rich in history and culture, existing in one form or another for nearly 3000 years. It has constantly reinvented itself, and today the ancient capital has again emerged as a modern, hip and fun city to visit. It's full of optimism and has wonderful places to shop and eat.
Jason's first stop was at a floating fish stall by the Bosphorus to try a fish sandwich, one of the local specialities. Then he headed off to another part of the city, away from the old town, across a bridge to Beyoglu on the north bank of the Golden Horn.
In the 1800s it was the newer, more European section of Istanbul. Embassies were built there, foreign merchants lived and worked there and shopped at the up-market shops along the Istiklal Caddesi. It was also one of the neighbourhoods favoured by the sultan's Jewish subjects and a few beautiful synagogues remain.
Given the many nationalities who have called it home, Beyoglu has a much more western feel than older parts of Istanbul, particularly evident in its architecture. It is a true melting pot with a definite Turkish flavour. Like many cities, the best way to soak it all in is walking.
Taksim Square is known as the symbolic heart of modern Istanbul. Laid out in the 1880s, it has been a lively hub ever since. It has an impressive monument dedicated to Kemal Ataturk, founder of the Turkish Republic.
A Turkish ice-cream was an interesting treat. Jason chose chocolate and it was quite different from what we are used to. He found it to be stretchy, stringy, thick and jelly-like.
Eating is something Istanbulians seem to enjoy more than anything else. It's much more than mere fuel. Every meal seems to be a celebration boisterous and more often than not, communal. Everyone hoes in to meze, a range of appetizers, kebabs, seafood and salads, with great gusto.
5Kat 5th floor is a rooftop bar and restaurant. Apart from great food it has views from the Bosphorus Bridge to the historic Sultanahmet. Owner Yasemin Alkaya is a successful actress. She has the help of her mother in the kitchen preparing breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner covering many cuisines.
While in Turkey, Jason stuck to local dishes. Fried haloumi and quesadilla, falafel and crispy chicken fingers, beef with saffron rice. The menu will have you pondering, but dishes are well explained in English. They have a vast array of drinks alcoholic and non-alcoholic.
Istanbul, Turkey's largest city.
Greece and Mediterranean Travel Centre has two night packages in Istanbul including accommodation in a three star hotel, a day of sightseeing and return airport transfers. They cost $229 per person twin share.
Emirates has flights to Istanbul and twenty-seven other European destinations via Dubai from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. For an exclusive Getaway viewers' discount, check out www.emirates.com/getaway.
Prices correct at 24.09.2011.
For further information
Ph: 1300 303 777
Greece and Mediterranean Travel Centre
Suite 2, 644 Botany Road
Ph: (02) 9313 4633
Fax: (02) 9313 4475
Soganci Sokak No: 7
Kat 5 Cihangir
Ph: 90 0212 293 37 74
Fax: 90 0212 249 66 08
Visa: Australians do not require a visa for stays of up to three months.
Electricity: 220 volts, 50Hz with round prong European style plugs.
Time zone: GMT +2 hours.
Currency: Turkish lira.
Telephone code: +90.
It is recommended travellers see their doctor at least six weeks before departure as there may be specific vaccinations recommended for areas you will be visiting. Other health precautions and preventions may also be recommended. For further information, visit www.smartraveller.gov.au and www.welltogo.com.au.