Early in the afternoon we land at the Atatürk airport. We have to wait at the customs for a very long time but once we've paid the fees and got the stamps everything proceeds smoothly. To go to our hotel, the Yasmak Sultan hotel in Sultanahmet, we take the underground and the tram (according to the instructions at TurkeyTravelPlanner, great!).
To find an akbil (click for more about transport) is a bit troublesome but everybody is very helpful and in no time we are sitting in the tram, eating rolls, enjoying ourselves and get our first impressions of Istanbul. We don't have to get off before the 17th stop, the sun is shining and it is fun already.

Day 1
Arrival in Istanbul: the Yasmak Sultan hotel,Hagia Sophia, Basilica Cisterne, dinner in Hoça Pasha

The hotel (photo above) appears to be very close to the Gülhane tramstop, at the eastern end of Ebusuud Caddesi, (contrary to the information provided by Google Earth).
We are given rooms at the 5th floor, quite small, but the kids (who have a room at the backside) have a view of the Galata tower across the Bosphorus from their window!
More about the hotel see day 5.

To the right a map of the hotel and its surroundings: it is situated perfectly.
The tramstop near the hotel is at the Gülhane Park. The Archeological Museum and the Topkapi palace are located there as well.

Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya)

The Hagia Sophia is the nearest monument to the hotel. It was the largest cathedral in the world from the time Istanbul was called Constantinopel until nearly a thousand years later, when the cathedral in Sevilla was built (Hagia Sophia wikipedia).
We have travelled a lot and are used to small wonders but this really is miraculous.
We take a rest at the square between the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque (photo to the right, day 3, sunday, we will visit it properly).
Next we go to the Basilica Cistern, an ancient underground tank for storing water, also from Byzantine times (4 to 5th century)
At this romantic place filmscenes for a James Bond movie have been shot. Until the 90's one used to row by boat between the pillars but now there is a somewhat slippery path.
Everybody - young as well as old - throws coins into the water making wishes. In it fat carps are swimming.

Basilica Cistern
(Yerebatan Saray)

There are two Medusa statues, one on its side and one top-down on its head.
To the left you can see the coins thrown into the water to make wishes come true.
Click the oil lamp to get a wise Turkish or Sufi saying that might be concerning your own future....(not yet English)

Dinner in Hoça Pasha and(our first)
visit to the pastane

At the end of this day we have dinner in Hoça Pasha Sokak, not far from the hotel (see map at the top), near the Hoca Pasha mosque. (Another tip from TurkeyTravelPlanner )
Our first Istanbul dinner is at 'Et Is': tasty food, pleasant atmosphere and not expensive at all. After dinner we get a glass of very sweet apple tea. Eva loves it and adds even more sugar.
A cup of apple tea after dinner becomes a set habit.

Another habit from day one on is a visit to the pastane, a shop where all kinds of baklava(pastry with honey and nuts)and Turkish Delight (lokum)is sold by weight.
Our pastane (photo left) is just past Hoça Pasha (Hüdavendigar Cd). Later at our hotelroom we eat our catch .

day 1:

day 2:

day 3:

day 4:

day 5:


Even further: photos and travelogues of other travels: