Evolving perception of Istanbul

The Sultan Ahmed Mosque, also know as The Blue Mosque
The Sultan Ahmed Mosque, also know as The Blue Mosque

It’s only day two and we have a man down. Dusty is sick in a bad way. Despite his efforts to partake in today’s visit to the ornate Dolmabahçe Palace, he opts to hang in for the night. We sure hope he’s well enough to live it up in Beirut later this week.

Sometimes basements lead to rooftops.

Patrick and I decide not to let the evening get away without a few shenanigans. We wander in a random direction and end up in a hotel bar. We’re sipping fine cocktails and talking about “real life” when a sign seems to appear out of nowhere. Literally, a sign – it reads “disco” and points to the basement. We have to follow this trail of proverbial breadcrumbs, obviously.

The smoky basement establishment requires an expensive cash-only cover and offers an array of foreign friends to be made. Among the crowd is a couple from Poland, a group from Australia and a guy from Russia who thinks he is my date for the night. He has another thing coming.

We’ve exhausted the dance floor and ourselves when we decide to head out for a mid-night snack (it’s 4 a.m.). On the otherwise vacant sidewalk, a young teenager approaches and asks “döner? Hungry?” He motions for us to follow. This would seem dangerous in almost any situation, but we are so hungry and I have an affinity for döner kebabs…

A private rooftop with a nice view of the dimly lit street seems just about right. Our teenage friend and a fella we presume to be his uncle whip up a tasty meal. Uncle doesn’t speak English, but he laughs hysterically at Tom and Jerry cartoons. Laughter truly is a universal language. Sometimes a little risk leads to a memorable story.


I’d recommend a stay on the north side of the Golden Horn versus in the Sultanahmet district. The view from a hotel rooftop overlooking the old town is far more impressive than any view you’ll find in Sultanahmet.

Do not take the metro to the Istanbul airport late at night – opt for a taxi instead.

To maximize potential for positive experiences, you have to go with the flow and roll with the punches. Although a trip to see belly dancers led to a $240 bill for a pile of nuts and three mediocre beers, overall, we had a ball in Istanbul.

Usually experiences are most magical during the first time around. But sometimes you find that worthwhile details were missed on the first go. That’s the beauty in repeat trips.

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