4th Day in Istanbul – Wandering through Sea and Sky

Our 4th and last day before taking a plane to Kapadokya was one to decompress. A boat tour going up the Bosphorus was going to keep us occupied for 6 hours. We started very early that day because we were catching the boat at 10:30 (if I’m getting up before 10:00 am on vacation, it’s very early).

Very important tip: don’t purchase the 20+ euro tickets you see everywhere for a boat ride on the Bosphorus. That’s a giant tourist trap. If you go to the very discreet Şehir Hatları ticket booths, Istanbul’s official ferry company, near the docks, you can purchase a ticket for a 6 hour tour for 25 Turkish lira (little under 4 euros). That’s what we did.

Our boat.

The boat was full but not “packed”, which made it was easy to see the scenery. I can still very vividly remember the sun warming my shoulders and the quiet sound of water splashing, having the white noise from the boat’s motor as a background sound.

The Bosphorus shores are beautiful. As we leave Istanbul’s dock, the landscape is very urban and busy, but it turns more and more country-like when you go up the river. You get to see Dolmabahçe Palace, which we didn’t have time to visit, from a unique perspective:

This tour takes you up to Anadolu Kavağı, almost at the entrance of the Black Sea. It stops on what is called a fishing village, but from what we could see, at least where we hopped off, tourism from the boats is the main economic activity. There were mainly restaurants and souvenir shops.

We had lunch in one of the restaurants with a deck right above the water, and were massively entertained by a black feathered seabird that took long dives and almost always came back with a fish on its beak. And it ate them instantly when it came above water, only to dive right after.

On our way back, dolphins were swimming alongside us.

When we got back, Galata Tower was our next destination. Our last major checkpoint. After a view of Istanbul from the water, we needed one from the sky. We crossed the river by tram and walked from the station to the Tower.

Galata Tower.

The area surrounding it was sprinkled with little stores and a cool, modern, bohemian vibe. I bought a very extravagant skirt from a small boutique there. The lady at the shop told me the skirt (and many other pieces at the store) was made by her daughter, and the brand goes by NesGalata.

We got in line. Don’t be scared by it: it actually moves fast. Next thing we know we are riding the elevator up to the top. The top floor has a restaurant, then you go up another flight of stairs to a cafe, and that’s where the exit for the circular balcony is, where you can see the view.

And see the view we did:

The photos never translate the time you have to wait for other tourists to get off the way so you can take a pretty picture. We walked all around the tower, we took all the pictures, and then got back inside to eat some more baklava at the cafe, which was amazing and surprisingly inexpensive.

Seriously though, when in Istanbul, eat baklava.

I wish I had more time to spend in that district of Istanbul. It was trendy, artistic. A hipster’s habitat. Apart from tourists, the locals seemed very different from where we were staying, in Sultanahmet. Talk about urban tribes. Istanbul has them all.

We wanted to go somewhere special for our last dinner in Istambul. A rooftop on a nearby hotel was the first choice and a major casting error. We ended up only drinking raki and leaving the place because although the view was good, the windows were dirty, the food was expensive and the service was subpar.

Thank god we left. We ended up strolling for a bit and finding Cafe Privato, much more up our alley. It was artsy and quirky and the menu looked very appealing. For the first time we remembered to take photos of the food.

The lights at the Cafe Privato terrace.

The rest of the night was a walk through a very agitated Istiklal Avenue. It was a Thursday night but the street was crowded and the shops were open and full of people. We bought Turkish delight, tea and a few beauty products.

I love busy avenues. It was a great note to end our stay in Istanbul.

Photos by Sir Fiancé.

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