I have been reminiscing about my trip to Istanbul a lot lately and as I picked through my thousands of photos, I ran across a few I took at a restaurant we visited tucked behind the Grand Bazaar. The only reason we found out about it was because we made friends with a local shop-owner who gave us the name and after running around the maze which is the Grand Bazaar we finally found our way to it. It’s called Gel Cor Kebap Salon and you will not find it unless you ask the locals. It’s one of those ‘hole in the wall’ type places but by all means it is not a ‘hole in the wall’. It’s just one of those amazing place that only the locals eat at. And while it has been a while since I ate there, I will let the photos do the talking for me.
Our last stop this summer in Europe was Istanbul. We started at the tip of the continent in Portugal and ended in Turkey where Europe meets Asia.
Istanbul. You have won my heart. Your beauty, charm, history and friendly welcoming people. A first trip to Istanbul, I was not sure what to expect. Where to stay. What to see and eat. We ended up staying in the Sirkegi district at the Neorion Hotel, neighboring the historical Sultanahmet district where most of the historical sites are situated. The hotel is constantly rated No. 1 hotel in Istanbul by TripAdvisor, which also awarded it the Travelers’ Choice® 2013 Award: one of the top 25 hotels in Turkey, and one of the top 25 hotels in the entire world! Based on these great reviews we had to stay at the Neorion hotel and experience the greatness for ourselves.
Upon arriving through the mazed streets of the neighborhood I really was not sure what to expect. An unassuming street with a more unassuming outside appearance. Once we walked inside all worries were put to rest.
Neorion hotel is located in the heart of Istanbul’s history, culture, food and nightlife. Only minutes walk from the Topkapi palace, the Grand Bazaar, the Spice Market and everything else that you want to see in a short stay.
Rooms & Decor:
The hotel, opened in 2011, was conceived and designed to honor and reflect all of the cultures that have enriched the city and its empires.The rooms are spotlessly clean each room decorated with a large colorful historical painting of Istanbul. A welcome letter from the owners and a gift were waiting for us. The rooms were quiet even though they were facing the front street.
The complimentary breakfast was a combination of eastern and western options. A wall of honeycomb slowly drizzling down is a hit with hotel guests.
Landing in Istanbul and walking through the airport was quite a dramatic change from the rest of our European destinations. The mix of cultures, religions, languages and history was evident as early as the customs line up where women covered in the Islamic hijab stood in line next to girls in short skirts. I was already in awe and felt envious. In my motherland of Iran, such freedoms are not granted and it surprised me to see how harmonious the blend of individual choices and freedoms can be in a predominantly muslim country.
The taxi ride to the Neorion Hotel was like no other. While most airports are in a dreadful neighborhood outside of town where getting to the center requires looking out at the freeway and other not so pretty scenes, the ride to the center of Istanbul was the most breathtaking airport ride of my life. We were driven right next to the Marmara, with a view onto the Bosphorus. I was surprised by the overwhelming green space and lush gardens that covered most of Istanbul. It was love at first sight. And while my love for Paris will never be replaced Istanbul rose quickly to the top as my favorite destination. Maybe it was the melancholic reminder of memories of my childhood in Iran and the similarities or maybe it was the history, the people and beauty of Istanbul that made me fall in love. I’m still not sure. All I know is I have never been so sad to leave a city behind. I am left wanting more and planning my next destination to Turkey.
Of all the amazing things that Istanbul had to offer, the hospitality, generosity and warmth of the Turkish people was what left the biggest mark on us. This post is dedicated to the Turkish people and features mostly photos of the generous people of Istanbul. From the fig stand man from whom I wanted to purchase one fig from, who gave me 3 for free and insisted on not accepting my money because he only sold by the kilo to our hotel manager who personally rode the train with the Count to the other side of town late one night to pick up medication. And so the stories and myths of turkish rip-offs all turned out to be just that: myths and tales from an angry tourists past.
Istanbul, a universal beauty where poet and archeologist, diplomat and merchant, princess and sailor, northerner and westerner screams with same admiration. The whole world thinks that this city is the most beautiful place on earth.
Edmondo De Amicis
Rouge also includes a store downstairs to bring some bottles home as well as, as the friendly waiter told me, live jazz music once a week at their restaurant.