A trip to Turkey was not originally on my radar but an opportunity arose and in May 2018 i found myself spending a full day in Istanbul.

The day commenced with a visit to an ancient Mosque. Unfortunately, the renowned Blue Mosque was being restored, but this was an acceptable alternative. Our next stop was Topkapi Palace. This is a large museum built in the 15th century and served as the main residence and administration headquarters for the Ottoman Sultans. Looking out over the Bosphorus Strait the views are just magnificent. A short distance from here is Hagia Sophia, a 56-metre-high former Greek Orthodox church which became a mosque and is now a museum. From here, daily prayers are broadcast across the city and we were fortunate enough to observe this ceremony close up.  Next, we walked across to the Hippodome. Now a market-place and public area the Hippodome was once used for chariot racing. And then for something completely different, we went underground and explored the famous Basilica Cistern whose location has been used for movies such as From Russia with Love and Dan Brown’s Inferno.

For lunch our tour guide took us to ‘The Pudding Club.’ Located in the vicinity of these great attractions this restaurant serves traditional Turkish fare and the locals are particularly friendly when they realise you’re from New Zealand.

Our last stop for the day was the Grand Bazaar the world’s largest and oldest covered market comprising over 60 streets. Easy to get lost there and we did!

That night we were offered the option of a dinner that included a belly dancer. We declined and instead opted to have a meal at a restaurant which offered ‘Pide’, a local delicacy in a McDonalds type setting which is popular with young people.

The restaurant was within walking distance of our hotel as were a number of other eating establishments on a street that runs parallel to the Conrad Hilton.

This proved to be a good option as there had been a lot of walking and climbing required in what was a very physically demanding day.

At the time of our Turkey trip the country was being starved of Tourism due its close proximity to Syria, Iraq and Iran and other troublesome hot spots. It has not helped that the media have given it a bad rap in recent times either. Cruise boats which made up a big part of its tourism dollar weren’t visiting Turkey either, so the locals were grateful for our custom. Many of the local products are extremely good quality but in spite of that we quickly realized that bartering is always an acceptable form of negotiation in this part of the world. Knowing this, we were able to secure some exceptional bargains.