Happiest people on Earth and the hygge feeling

To move, to breathe, to fly, to float,/To gain all while you give,/To roam the roads of lands remote,/To travel is to live.”, this is what Hans Christian Andersen was saying in the Fairy Tale of My Life: An Autobiography and man he was so damn right.

Our first trips in the Northern countries started with Copenhagen. Well now, in figures, Denmark has a population of 5.4 million people, is made up of 406 islands, is a little bit larger than the Netherlands and could easily fit into Sweden 10 times. Hmmm, too much info? We agree. Let’s better leave this details for the science people and start an imaginary scroll down the streets of Copenhagen. We promise you will love it.

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What we did

It’s probably fair to say that most part of our 3 days escaped to Copenhagen was spent walking and getting lost on the streets blending with locals, tourists, kids, bikers and what not. We made no plans of what to see or do and just left it all to our feet to carry us around. Being a very compact city and not so big it was easy to actually bump in most of the attractions. Here’s what we’ve seen from the recommended attractions:

Nyhavn area

Most of the postcards and pictures of Copenhagen will either depict the Little Mermaid (more about this one later) or the Nyhavn area. Nyhavn is a 17th century waterfront, canal and entertainment district. It was a gateway from the sea to the old inner city where ships handled cargo and fishermen’s’ catch. In older times, it was notorious for beer, sailors and prostitution. Nowadays the area is notorious for its colourful buildings and great restaurants facing the harbour.

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Round Tower

The Round Tower is a 17th century tower located in the centre of Copenhagen built as an astronomical observatory. Walk the helical corridor leading to the top of the tower and you will have a great view from up above of Copenhagen.

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Amalienborg is the Royal Family’s main residence and consists of four similar palaces. The palaces have been built in the 18th century and represent a highlight of the Danish Rococo architecture. The Danish Royal Family enjoys remarkably high approval ratings in Denmark (somewhere between 82% and 92%). Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II has eight grandchildren – that must be fun!

Every day at noon you can see the changing of the Danish Royal Life guard in traditional uniforms. The route of the guards starts at 11:31 at the barracks and goes from Rosenborg to Amalienborg so if you are lucky you can actually catch them marching on the streets of Copenhagen towards Amalienborg.

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Rosenborg Palace

A renaissance castle and a former country summerhouse of the Danes Royals the Rosenborg Palace was built by King Christian IV in the 17th century and became his favoured residence. The Palace exhibits almost 300 years of the history of the Danish kings, valuable furniture, art treasures, well decorated rooms with impressive ceilings as well as an exhibition of the Crown Jewels and the Danish Crown Regalia (the symbols of the Danish monarchy – 3 crowns. Sceptre, an orb, a sword and an ampulla).

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Christiania

Christiania is located in Christianshavn and is walking distance from the port area of Nyhavn all you have to do is cross the bridge and walk some 10 minutes or so.

Also known as the Freetown Christiania it is a self-proclaimed autonomous neighbourhood of about 850 residents located on the area of a former military base. The spirit of Christiania developed in a hippie movement, collectivism and anarchism. People of Christiania have their own flag and even currency called Løn. Christiania it’s famous for Pusher Street where hash and weed were sold openly (and it seems that are still sold).

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Once you reach Christiania you are greeted by the words “You Are Now Leaving the European Union.” and by 3 main rules: “Have fun, Don’t run, No photos”. There’s a hippie look all around, barracks, some buildings that look more deserted than occupied, stalls covered up so you can’t see the faces of the sellers where you can most probably buy hash and weed, graffiti works, some sellers of artisan works. We’ve only seen part of Christiania but with all respect for free spirit we can’t say we liked it that much.

More about Christiania with pictures included in this interesting post http://www.littleobservationist.com/2014/01/27/colour-and-cannabis-in-christiania-copenhagen/ .

Little Mermaid

The Little Mermaid (Danish: Den lille havfrue – still can’t properly read this one :p) is a statue by Edvard Eriksen, depicting a mermaid. Based on the fairy tale of Hans Christian Andersen, the small statue is a Copenhagen icon and has been a major tourist attraction since 1913. The statue is located in the Kastellet area and you can actually walk from the city centre to see it no need to spend money on a boat cruise or a Hop-on/Hop-off bus. Honest opinion about this one is that is more advertising than an actual attraction; it is small, it gets crowded around the statue with people anxious to touch the statue and click pictures and that’s kind of all to it.

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Where we ate

We tried to experience a variety of place while in Copenhagen so we went to restaurants in the Nyhavn area for breakfast, cafes in the city centre area near the Round Tower for late lunch or dinner and stopped for beer or coffee wherever it felt cosy enough. Our favourite places where Mormors and, although rather expensive, Geist.

DSCN4193_collageFor more details on where and what we ate click here – Food & Drinks Copenhagen.

Where we stayed

We stayed in Generator Hostel on Adelgade Street just 5 minutes away from the city centre and the Nyhavn area. Comfortable room, great location, good prices, cool shared area downstairs with music and bar with food, drinks and even a pool table, lockers downstairs to leave your luggage if you want to walk the city some more after check-out, helpful staff.

What we think about the Danes

It is said that the Danes are the happiest people on Earth. We don’t know about that but we can definitely share with you that we felt the Danes as being peaceful and nice people, handsome, tall, neat, family kind most of the time surrounded by kids, friends or family, lovers of nature and spending time outside irrespective of the weather, bicycle riders and lovers, health orientated people with the word organic being used often.

Interesting fact about the Danes is that they seem to have their own word for something that is cosy, comfortable, loving, and intimate all in one. And that word is “hygge”. To describe what hygge means is rather complicated but it seems to have something to do with people’s behaviour towards each other, the art of creating intimacy, the sense of comradeship, conviviality and contentment rolled into one.

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Click here for some Tips & Tricks of Copenhagen.

Click here for our Top 10 experiences in Copenhagen.

For more photos of Copenhagen just click here for our Facebook page.

Food & Drinks Copenhagen

Mormors

Our favourite spot in Copenhagen is definitely Mormors cafe which translates to “Grandma”. It’s a cosy little café with tables inside and outside and usual window stalls that you can find in most of Copenhagen cafes. The décor is a special one reminding you of a dream living room of anyone’s grandma, a place where you can find ancient furniture and old time memories, porcelain, old pictures, not matching chairs.

The staff is really nice and welcoming. They serve homemade sandwiches and Danish cookies, smoothies or all sorts, coffee and amazing warm chocolate to take the edge of any day. They even have two memories book where visitors have signed in from 2008 onwards; take time to read through them we promise it will be a fun ride.

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Geist Restaurant

Giest is a very fancy restaurant in Nyhavn area and rather expensive one. It has a simplistic décor, with diffuse light and candles and with everything just in the right place that you instantly fall in love with the atmosphere. The kitchen area is open so you can see the cooks preparing meals. The star and owner of the restaurant is the cook Bo Bech and the menu includes items like baked celeriac with condensed buttermilk, guail with chanterelles and chili, salted and dried young duck breast; the guy won a Michelin star in his fomer restaurant Paustian.

We enjoyed some wine at the window stalls, at candlelight overlooking the Nyhavn area and Geist definitely goes on our list for the next visit when we promise to try some of Bo Bech specialities.

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Spiserestaurant

Located in the Nyhavn area, good restaurant serving also breakfast and brunch for a fixed price (99DKK). The staff is really nice and the food is amazing.

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Café Norden

Located in the centre of Copenhagen on 2 floors it’s the perfect gateway from the city. It was incredibly crowded with locals enjoying dinner and drinks. We tried their Danish beer and their amazing chocolate cake.

Café Dalle Valle

Located near the Round Tower this is a spacious restaurant more than a café like the name indicates. It serves buffet dinner and lunch and it was thus crowded. We had late lunch for half price with pastas and Danish beer and all was very tasty. Prices are also very affordable.

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Café Sommersko

Fancy restaurant that seems to have also some live bands in certain evenings. We loved their steak and fries all together with some Hoegaarden beer.

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Emmerys Cafe

Organic bakery and coffee, light and elegant decor, the usual window stalls and a couple of tables and couches. They serve great coffee, juices and cookies.

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Top 10 Copenhagen

  1. Beautiful, peaceful people that enjoy riding bicycles;
  2. Nyhavn area and breakfast outside;
  3. Rosenborg Castle;
  4. Danish cookies and warm chocolate in Mormors;
  5. View of the city from the Round Tower;
  6. The special cafes with bookshops;
  7. The change of guards at Amalienborg Palace;
  8. Danish beer;
  9. Danish restaurants with candles and an opened kitchen area;
  10. The Marble Church (Frederik’s Church).

Tips & Tricks Copenhagen

Tips & Tricks for visiting Copenhagen. Feel free to jump in and add any advice to the below:

  • we visited Copenhagen at the beginning of February and believe us it’s not that cold and the day was not that short; we say this is a city to visit irrespective of the season;
  • Nyhavn (the port area) it’s really a good place for enjoying breakfast or brunch; they also have fixed prices;
  • Rosenborg Castle is worth visiting; the interiors are well decorated and the treasury hold an impressive collection of royal jewellery, royal crowns and even the crown of King Christian IV;
  • don’t bother with the Hop-on – Hop-off buses, cruises, metro cards, bus cards, Copenhagen city card; the city is a walking city and you can easily get to the landmarks just by walking; better find accommodation near the port area and just walk the city;
  • the Little Mermaid is not that impressive and it can get crowded around the small bronze statue with all the tourist crazy for touching the statue and clicking pictures; it is the kind of landmark to scratch off the to do list and not more;
  • Christiania it’s not that much of a town but more like an area with a surface of less than 1 km (0.34 km2 to be precise); it is definitely not for everyone but it’s worth seeing as an experience; if you don’t like the hippie look, barracks, the feeling of a deserted place, graffiti work and stalls for selling hash and weed just skip it;
  • if you do decide to see Christiania don’t forget their main rules: “Have fun, Don’t run, No photos”;
  • for a great view of the city don’t miss going on top of the Round Tower.

The magic world of Harry Potter, Warner Bros. Studio, London

Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense...” this is how the magic world of Harry Potter begin.  The idea of Harry Potter came to J. K Rowling on a delayed train from Manchester to London in 1990.  In 1995, Rowling finished her manuscript for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and after several refusals the book was finally published by Bloomsbury in 1997.  This was followed by 6 more books and 8 movies that conquered the world.
 
 
If you happen to be in London and you are a movie lover you must not miss a tour of the Making of Harry Potter in the Warner Bros. Studios, Leavesden.  Leavesden, originally an aerodrome for the production of aircrafts during the World War II, was turned into movies studios by Warner Bros. Studios.  In 2000 the studios started to be used by Heyday Films on behalf of Warner Bros. and have been the home of Harry Potter movies since then.
As the guide introducing you to the studios will say, a visit to the studios usually takes around 3 hours but it can also take anywhere between 30 minutes and 13 hours.  Walking through the gates of Hogwarts you are instantly teleported into the world of Harry Potter.
The visit carries you through two hangars and one outdoor area where you can see anything from rooms, offices, costumes, props, special effects, testing area for wands, special area for flying on broomsticks and so much more.
Everything we see in the movies, from costumes, to tapestry, paintings on the walls, props, newspapers, leaflets, wands was designed to bring to life the words of J. K. Rowling.
 What could not be designed in material shape was put together with the help of special and visual effects.   
Just to give you some numbers by the time the production ended in 2011 there were 5,000 pieces of furniture, 12,000 handmade books and 40,000 Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes products and packages specially made or purchased for the movie. 
More than 3,000 wands were made for the films using combinations of wood, plastic, resin and rubber. Olivanders was the home of more than 17,000 individually labelled wand boxes.  If you look carefully, you can see on the wand boxes the names of each and every person that was involved over time in the making of Harry Potter.
What impress about the studios is the fact that you get a chance to get behind the scenes of the movie, to understand a glimpse about visual effects, special effects, set decorations, hair and make-up, directing, producing, marketing and to get a sense of how important is each and every person involved in the making of a movie, from the person that appears in front of us on the big screens to the person that rubs the floors or brings the coffee every morning when the shooting starts.
It is said that 4,000 people contributed to the making of Harry Potter movies.  We don’t get to see them on screen and we don’t really get to appreciate their work.  But for what is worth, there would be no magic world of Harry Potter without these guys and visiting the studios in Leavesden makes each and every one of them special.
Practical tips:
– buy/reserve the ticket online http://www.wbstudiotour.co.uk/ ;
– if you plan to use the metro and trains to get to the studios plan around 1:30 – 2:00 for the trip to cover the metro, the train and the bus taking you from Watford Junction to the Harry Potter Studios;
– the bus from Watford Junction comes every 20 minutes; do check the schedule of the bus for the specific day you plan to visit; the ride takes not more than 10 minutes;
– if you get hungry, in the outdoor scenes you can find something to drink (the butterbeer is really a must try) and to eat;
– save some energy for the souvenir shop; it is full of all you can imagine and it’s a must to take home at least a wand.
J. K. Rowling: “The stories we love best do live in us forever, so whether you come back by page or by the big screen Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.”

What do Manneken Pis, exquisite chocolates, French fries, dark beer and BDs have in common?

Grand Place


First time in Brussels was in 2011 on the way to Germany. It was a brief encounter just walked around a bit in the city center, took some pictures of Manneken Pis, bought some Godiva chocolates and off we went to Germany.  At that time Brussels seemed to me more like a one day pass through city and nothing more. When I started planning the 5 days trip to Brussels in November last year I was a bit worried about what we will do for almost one full week. If you ask me now what I think about Brussels I will tell you that it is the kind of city that grows on you with each minute you spend there and sticks to your heart forever. But let’s leave the poetry behind and get into the real talk about what you can see and do while in Brussels.

 
Once arrived in Brussels the first place you should go is the Grand Place or Grote Markt.  This is the central square of Brussels surrounded by guildhalls, the Town Hall and the Breadhouse and is a Unesco World Heritage Site.

 

 
Next (at least from where I see it) is beer, beer, beer and some more beer. Beer in Belgium varies from pale lager to lambic beer and Flemish red. There are roughly 180 breweries in the country. It seems that beer in Belgium dates back to the age of the first crusades; under Catholic church permission, local French and Flemish abbeys brewed and distributed beer as a fund raising method. If you ask me abbey beers are still one of the best beers. More on Belgium beer here http://www.roughguides.com/article/top-twenty-best-belgian-beers/.

 

 

My personal favorites were Chimay and Delirium Tremens. The Delirium Tremens Cafe (http://deliriumcafe.be/) which you can find next to Jeanneke Pis (more on this below) in Impasse de la Fidelite is like a huge laboratory of beer with tubes and glasses and pretty cute waitresses and they sell nothing else than beer. In 2004 the place won the prestigious Guinness book of world records for being the establishment with the most commercially available beers with a total count of 2004. Today they have more than 3,000 beers.
 

 

And since we are talking about beer you next topic should be food. You can eat in Brussels all kinds of food you would imagine: there are fancy restaurants, coffee places, fast-foods, local Belgian kind of fast-food with French fries and huge sandwiches, Turkish food, Vietnamese or other Asian food, Greek food, American food. We tried fancy restaurants, local Belgian kind of fast food, Greek food and Hard Rock Cafe. First on our list is definitely A La Morte Subite (http://www.alamortsubite.com/). It opens at 12 sharp and get instantly crowded with locals that like to have their breakfast with a pint of beer…just to start the day better :p
 

 

 


If you are a chocolate lover than Brussels is the place to be. You can find chocolate shops everywhere you turn your eyes and we are not talking about any chocolate but one of the best chocolate in the world (for more on this see http://intelligenttravel.nationalgeographic.com/2012/12/28/the-10-best-chocolatiers-in-the-world/). If we were to listen to Google, Brussels has more than 2,000 chocolate shops. We entered a couple of them and tasted some of the chocolates on display and we confirm that yes they taste delicious. As chocolate lovers you must not miss the Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate (http://www.mucc.be/). It has a nice exposition on cocoa and chocolate and provides for free lessons on how to make chocolates with a chocolate fountain that you can use for tasting.

 

 

 

 

And if we are talking about chocolate and cookies definitely one of our favorite shops is #LaCureGourmande (www.la-cure-gourmande.com)- with biscuits, chocolates, caramels, cheerful old time boxes and many more surprises for sweets lovers. We stuffed half the luggage with their biscuits.
 
 
Now that we walked a bit, tasted the beer, eaten something is time for Brussels landmarks or those things you see on those lists of 10 things to do when in…
 
One landmark of Brussels is definitely Manneken-Pis. Who would have thought that a peeing kid could become so popular. The famous statue is located a the junction of Rue de l’Etuve and Rue du Chene.  The small bronze statue was designed by Hieronymus Duquesnoy the Elder and put in place in 1618/1619. You can read some of the legends on Manneken Pis here http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WMFX6V_Manneken_Pis_Legends_Brussels_Belgium.
 
 
The statue of Manneken-Pis is dressed in costume several times each week, according to a published schedule.  We did visited the City Museum, located in the Grand Place, which has a room dedicated to the wardrobe of Manneken-Pis (call it a dressing :p). The wardrobe of Manneken-Pis counts today more than 800 costumes (seriously the little fellow has more clothes than I have!) from lots of countries around the world like UK, France, India, Canada, USA, Japan, Korea, Mali, Mexic, Peru and we are happy to say that the Romanian traditional costume was among the couple of costumes on display.
 

 

And if you think this is all about Manneken Pis well think again. When searching for the big Delirium Tremens to drink some beers we found the little peeing girl because yes Manneken Pis has a little lady called Jeanneke Pis.  The statue may be found on the east side of Impasse de la Fidelite from the restaurant packed street Rue des Bouchers and was built in 1987. More about Jeanneke here http://www.jeannekepisofficial.com/index_m.html. And if you still did not have enough with this Pis know that in Brussels you can also find Zinneke Pis which represents a dog in the same lines as Manneken and Jeanneke.
 


Another landmark and one of my favorite part of Brussels are the mural paintings.  BD – the Brussels’ Comic Book Route offers more than 50 mural paintings, most of them located inside the Pentagon (as the city center is often called due to its geometrical shape).

 

 
Broussaille by Frank Pe was painted in 1991 and is the first city’s giant comic mural depicting a young couple arm-in-arm discovering Brussels. The strip is located in Brussels’ gay nightlife hub and, in the original version, it was difficult to tell whether the couple was straight or not. More on Brussels BD here http://www.ebru.be/Other/Strips/StripsHome.html.
 
 
We did visited the Atomium (http://atomium.be/) just because it was pictured on all the lists of to see when in Brussels. Honest opinion? Too much advertising :). We used the metro to get there and all in all with transportation, ques and visit it took us around 4 hours. Atomium was built for the Expo in 1958; it represents a molecule and it provides a view of the city (more of a glimpse) from almost 100 meters.
 
 
Although not on the landmark list we have to say that we enjoyed immensely  the Musée royal de l’Armée – Royal Military Museum (http://www.mivb.be/). Great exhibition of military clothing, gear, vehicles, planes and we even got to “fly” a plane :p.
 
 

 

 
Finally we did visit also the quarter with the European Union institutions but let’s just say it was not our favorite part of the city and felt like it misses a bit of the free spirit in the Old City Center.
 
Tips and tricks:
 
– if you are coming by plane to Brussels use the train to get into the Old City Center; is cheaper than a cab and really fast; it took us not more than 30 minutes to get from the airport to the Ibis Hotel where we were staying in the hearts of the old city (more information here: http://www.brusselsairport.be/en/passngr/to_from_brussels_airport/train/);
 
– don’t bother with buses or Metro while in the city, just wander around by foot; surprises are around each and every corners and if you are a BD lover you are going to definitely enjoy the walk;
 
– plan to stay more than 2-3 days in Brussels; in addition to the city that offers lots of adventures it is damn easy to take the train from Brussels and in not more than 3 – 4 hours get to Paris, London or Amsterdam (we went to Amsterdam and back in just one day and had plenty of time for wandering around the city, eating Argentinian beef and visiting coffee shops);
 
– if you are a beer lover make sure you taste all the beers in Delirium Tremens locations;
 
– best brunch you can have (with a must have 12:00 o’clock beer) is in the restaurant “A La Morte Subite”; opens at 12 sharp and servers omelettes with bread and butter as big as a main course plate;
 
– do not go to the Beer Museum unless you go there for drinks, there is not so much of a Museum more like a movie about beers playing in the background in a small room;
 
– do not miss the Musée royal de l’Armée – Royal Military Museum (Metro need for this one) – it’s free entrance and they have an impressive collection of military equipment, vehicles and planes (http://www.klm-mra.be/).

 

View of Mini Europe from the Atomium



 

 

 

 

Istanbul or the cohabitation of Europe with Asia

Since today Turkey celebrated the Republic Day and I have not yet finalized the story of the recent trip to Vietnam, Cambodia and Malaysia (but stay tuned :p) I thought of talking tonight a bit about Istanbul (Turkey) or the biggest city in the world spread on two continents – Europe and Asia.
Yeni Mosque
How does my story with Istanbul begins?  Well, like every story it begins with planning for New Year’s Eve in 2010 and having no idea were to go.  Finally me and my friends decided that it is time to try something more out of the ordinary European vacations but not to go to much over the edge.  The evident choice was Istanbul, a combination between the edge of Europe and the edge of Asia and add on top that it was supposed to be warmer than the usual European Christmas/New Year location such as Prague, Budapest, Vienna or Amsterdam.
So there we were, four ladies storming to new horizons on 28 December 2010 after a miraculous taxi trip with a Romanian cab driver that for sure forgot to drink his coffee.
Lucky us the flight from Bucharest to Istanbul is a short one and in 2 hours we were there.  I am not going to annoy you with tales about touristic objectives and details about our 6 days in Istanbul.  Instead, I am going to share with you some impressions about this city which hopefully will get you excited and make you want to put on your trip list the city about which Atatürk used to say that “On the meeting point of two worlds, the ornament of Turkish homeland, the treasure of Turkish history, the city cherished by the Turkish nation, İstanbul, has its place in the hearts of all citizens.”
At a first glance Istanbul seems, feels and looks like a huge city.  Forget about the tram, the metro, the ferry, the cabs, the train…there’s nothing quiet enough to cover it all. For an European, used to gray flats and orthodox or catholic churches and women who express themselves in far to many words and far to few clothes, Istanbul stroke me with its mosques and very conservative women.  You can find a bit of everything once you get here but you should definitely not miss the following:
Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia
The Blue Mosque (by its real name Sultan Ahmed Mosque) was built from 1609 to 1616 and is still popularly used as a mosque.  More than 20,000 Isnik ceramic tiles, huge colorful prayer carpets, the mihrab, many lamps that were once covered with gold and gems, the colored glass of the windows…all impressive and all an introduction to the Muslim faith.
Tips – Pay attention to the prayer hours when the Blue Mosque is closed to visitors; recommend you to go in the morning. Make sure you are properly dressed and, if you are a woman, you have something to cover you hair with.  Also, be prepared to take off your shoes.
 
Hagia Sophia is a former Greek Orthodox church, later an imperial mosque and now a museum.  Its interior is decorated with mosaics and marble pillars.  Apart from the mosaics a large number of figures can be found such as an image of Christ in the central dome, Orthodox saints, prophets, scenes from the gospel, Islamic elements on the main dome…
 
Mosques are all over Istanbul.  You will notice most of them by their towers (called minarets) and you will “hear” tem when the imams will call people to prayer for the five daily prayers.  Do not miss the Suleymaniye Mosque (my favorite because of the interior light and openness and the well known masterpiece of the architect Sinan), Yeni Mosqu (or the New Mosque for the blue mosaic), Iskele Camii (mosque on the Asian side with heated floors), Semsi Pasa Camii (small and beautiful and one of the last works of Sinan).
 
Basilica Cistern and the Grand Bazaar
Enter the Basilica Cistern to see the old drinkable water system of the city.  The cistern is an underground chamber capable of holding 80,000 cubic meters of water.
Go on Yerebaten Cadessi, walk for 10 minutes and on your right you will find a little restaurant called FishHouse.  They make the most amazing fried shrimps with butter covered in sweet pepper.  Ask for the hot “halva” with ice cream as desert and you will not regret it.
Walk on Divanyolu Cadessi to get used to the crowd and the shops as you go towards the Grand Bazaar.  When you enter the Grand Bazaar be prepared for a place where you can buy anything at any price.  No price list, no strings attached, no rules.

Negotiation is the rule and is a cultural thing so it’s a must to do it.  Here you will be surrounded by gold, sliver, precious stones, smoking pipes, glass, porcelain, lighting appliances, Turkish delights, sellers who are there to sell you just about anything.  Check out the paintings on the walls if you are an art lover, the streets with gold sellers if you like jewelry and start negotiation for a scarf.

Dolmabahçe Palace
Dolmabahçe Palace was ordered by the Empire’s 31st Sultan, Abdulmecid I, and built between the years 1843 and 1856. The design of the palace is a combination between the European styles (Baroque, Rococo, Neoclassical) and the Ottoman architecture.

Topkapi Palace
The palace was the primary residence of the Ottoman Sultans for approximately 400 years.  The palace had its own water supply, kitchens, dorms, gardens. libraries, schools, even mosques.  The imperial harem contained more than 400 rooms for the sultan’s mother, the concubines, the wives of the sultans, their children and servants.
Tips – take an audio guide at least and you will get a better insight of the Topkapi Palace and it’s history.
 Eminonu Port
Forget about museums; instead walk the streets near Eminonu Port and go to the spice market.  Enter the trains station at Eminonu.  It’s new and modern but it used to be the last station on the tour of the Orient Express.  If you pay attention to details you can still see the old structure of the train station and imagine the passengers of the Orient Express with their fancy clothes just sipping a coffee in the train station coffee place.


Galata Bridge, Galata Towe and Taksim

Take the tram over Galata Bridge and get down in Takism Square.  Walk on Istiklal Street for shopping.  Shopping malls are to far away and just don’t worth the hassle.  Here you can find also clubs and bars for chilling.  Ada Café (which is a restaurant and a bookshop) has a great New Year’s Party.  Forget about Coffee House, is to crowded and to European.  Choose instead one of the side streets from Istiklal Street and find a small local restaurant were you can drink Turkish coffee and savor a baklava.

In the night take the elevator in the Galata Tower; the view on top is amazing.  Stop for a while at the coffee place at the last level to enjoy a Turkish coffee with biscuits and watch over the Old City of Istanbul.
Asian side
Take a trip to the Asian side.  Ferries leave from Eminonu Port regularly.  The trip is no more than 20 minutes.  When you get to Uskudar visit the three mosques on the shore.  You will notice that people in the Asian side are more conservative and rather curious with tourists than in the European side.
 
Once all of the above done…
 …enjoy a nice traditional food in one of the restaurants where you notice a woman in the window making bread (some sort of pancakes). You can find two of this restaurants on Hudavendigar Cadessi which is in Sultanahmet (great neighborhood for finding your hotel)
Tips – make sure you try the lamb kebab and the local red wine. Ask for starters (zacusca and yogurt with cucumber).
  
….take a cruise on the Bosphorus…
Tips – choose the one that is around 2 hours is enough to give you a great view both of the European and the Asian side and a glace at Marmara Sea and in the same time spear you of seasick.
 …buy souvenirs, they are cheaper than in other places. For architecture fans search for a book of Sinan on Istiklal street and enjoy the mosques. Over 400 works are attributed to Sinan. For movie fans, make sure you buy DVDs in one of the DVD/Bookshops – they have a good price and you can find the Audio in English.
…for cooking fanatics do not miss the spice bazar and make sure you take home sweet pepper, sumac, mint and saffron.

…for music lovers book a night in one of the restaurants with traditional dances and Turkish belly dance.

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