On our first night in Istanbul a few of us who originally met on the bus ride went out to dinner. It was just a little restaurant that served basic Turkish food, or so we thought, more like basic touristy Turkish food - but it was dirt cheap. It wasn't till we left there and went to a nightclub, sort of, that we discovered how cheap as our first (and only) round of drinks cost us more than all of our meals and several rounds of drinks at the restaurant - not happy! Feeling quite annoyed we ended up at another little place who were only too happy to cater for all of us - cheaply too.
After a late night we were up early for the official start of our tour. First though let me tell you about our fabulous 4 star hotel, yes the picture here is the pool of that hotel. So as you might have guessed 4 star in Turkey is a little different to what we all know and expect. However the rooms were clean, beds relatively comfy and the shower worked nicely. And that's the important things covered.
Our first day was an action packed - when we finally got everyone on the bus - trip around Istanbul. First stop was the Hippodrome, where they used to hold chariot races back in the Byzantine era, but which is now an open plaza area. It was here that we were given a brief run down on Istanbul and its history - little of which we can remember - shame on us! In the same location was the Egyptian Obelisk (from Egypt in 390AD) and the Blue Mosque, which is a 17th century mosque famous for its beautiful blue tiles.
After that we were privileged to visit a carpet shop where they showed how the Turkish rugs were made. It's also in the same building as an old water storage basement used in ancient times to ensure people couldn't be poisoned by the water supply. Later that day after lunch (so not worth mentioning), we headed away from Istanbul to go for a cruise down the river where there are lots of palaces along the river front. Finally before heading back to our hotel we got taken to what turned out to be a "please buy some leather goods from us" fashion show - but its hardly even worth mentioning really.
That night was the super fun filled Turkish Gala night - hummm. We were jammed packed in, and i mean that seriously, as it involved a domino chair effect with the rest of the people on the table just to get in and out of ones seat. It was with all the people from different tours buses - still with Go Anzac (whom I would never recommend). We were served Turkish tourist food and were treated to a show with Turkish music, dancing and belly dancers. The belly dancers were rubbish - to the girls at home who have done belly dancing, let me assure you, you would have stormed the stage and done your own proper "belly not bottom jiggling" version instead.
The night was topped off by an express Turkish bus ride back to the hotel, in which the bus driver had a bit of a tangle with the back end of a taxi - but no dramas there, we didn't even stop!!!