Leaving Istanbul and Boarding the Azamara Quest

September 3, 2011 Our final day in Istanbul left us with a few hours before we had to board our cruise ship. We used the time to visit Dolmabaçe palace and Taxim Square, both very near our hotel.

The palace was built between 1843 and 1856. Located on the shore of the Bosphorus, it was comprised of several buildings, including a Harem and large gardens. After all the palace visits we had in the Baltics, this didn’t seem unusual to us, but once again, the opulence and extravagance impressed us.

Every element of the palace buildings was decorated in some ornate fashion. Custom parquet floors, elaborate tile work, complicated 3 dimensional Italian paintings and 1 and 2 ton chandeliers all added to one feast for the eyes. The crystal staircases and the palaces main 4.5 ton chandelier (the largest in Turkey) are beyond extravagant….but we were unable to take pictures of them in the palace.

Unfortunately, all the building tours were guided and didn’t allow cameras. So, we couldn’t wander on our own or take pictures of what we saw. I’m sure we’ll be able to find images on the internet though.

Taxim Square is a major transportation hub located not far from our hotel. Many busses and trains stop there and the area is filled with shops, cafes and hotels. We grabbed lunch at a street side cafe in the middle of it all at the Taxim Hill Hotel. I had a fantastic lunch! It was probably the best kefte I’d ever had. Kefte are basically ground meat formed into meatballs or small patties. However, the seasonings that are added are what make them so flavorful and addictive. We appreciated seeing our credit card run through a portable machine at our table and not taken away to be swiped elsewhere.

We’ve been super cautious of security after all we’d read and heard, but happy to say we never felt unsafe or at risk of pick pocketing. On the contrary, we found everyone in Turkey to be very social, polite and friendly, without an alternative scheme in mind.