People often assume that just because you work in the travel business, you must have been everywhere. I wish! Don’t get me wrong.We do travel extensive but what tends to happen is that you end up visiting the same destinations quite a lot — particularly if they feature heavily in the markets that you trade in — and much less so for places that you don’t. Now, personally I’ve hit the states in excess of 50 times now, and growing every quarter. And in that, I still feel like I’m only scratching the surface. By contrast, there are loads of places that I have yet to experience and which are definitely on my ‘To Do’ list. Places like Brazil, Japan, Madagascar, Antarctica to name but a few. In the list of visiting spots, Istanbul I’ve hit twice, and again recently our team in the office have for various reasons ended up transiting Istanbul as they criss cross the globe. I had never been to Istanbul. We all agree quite simply, Istanbul is an amazing city. It is full of contrasts — especially the contrasts between the new and the old as exemplified by the differences one finds in the areas close to the Hagia Sofia or Topkapi Palace (old) and Taksim Square (new).
Istanbul is not for the faint hearted but if you give it — or more specifically, its inhabitants — a chance, you’ll be paid back in spades! Estimates of the cities’ population vary widely but you can confidently assume that it’s in excess of 15 million! That’s a lot of people and Istanbul spreads out in all directions as far as the eye can see across mountains, rivers, headlands, inlets and ultimately continents! If you’re into your history then you’ll think you’ve died and gone to heaven as the city is like Rome on steroids and encompasses rich remnants of not one but multiple civilisations that have called the area home since before recorded history began.
The opening of the last Bond – “Skyfall” featured the Grand Bazaar, you’ll also find Istanbul in “The World is not enough” and “From Russia with Love”. Istanbul is frequently picked off in cinema as a featured location. Istanbul is a true cultural melting pot, and this is reflected in the cities amazing architecture.
And the best news? It’s cheap to get to with the national carrier Turkish Airlines (a great carrier!) often offering roundtrip airfares for less than €200 return per person. There is also excellent value in hotels with alittle homework. The obvious “name brand” hotels can be expensive, but, we’ve picked off plenty of great value. It’s also a shoppers paradise and a world-renowned centre for leather goods, ceramics and high quality textiles and rugs/kilims. Do yourself a favour and get yourself out to Istanbul before the population of the city increases and you have to haggle with another million or two of their country men!