special places 6

The other day I got into a forum discussion about favourite hotels. What they are, and why.

I already had a few in mind, and just had to work my way through them to come up with the top one. The short list includes 2 Radissons (Riga & Amsterdam) an Intercontinental (Washington DC) and a Meridien (Brussels) – but several small places too. The list features a national monument in Mostar, Bosnia & Hercegovina.

Muslibegovic House

http://www.muslibegovichouse.com

The winner is in Istanbul, which (perhaps not by coincidence) is also one of my special places.

The hotel first. It’s the Terrace Guesthouse.

www.terracehotelistanbul.com

Why? Well, when I was trying to work out how a place got onto the short list, I realised it is usually a combination of location and ambiance.

The Terrace is in Sultanahmet. The Blue Mosque, Topkapı and Aya Sofya are around the corner – literally. It is in the heart of the old part of the city. That has its drawbacks – in summer the dawn call to prayer from the Mosque is about 5am, so be prepared to be bounced out of bed early (or wear earplugs). But it’s worth it.

Then there’s breakfast. A typical Turkish breakfast, with no pandering to tourist tastes. But what makes it special is the view from the rooftop room and terrace where it’s served. The Bosphorus, the Asian side and the Sea of Marmara. Spectacular.

breakfast - the view

It’s a 5 star guest house. The rooms are clean, comfortable and well furnished – because the owner has a sideline in selling rugs and carpets, the ones on the wall in your room will be for sale. You’ll get free wifi, TV, air-conditioning, a minibar and a telephone.

Terrace Guesthouse - room

It’s close (a short walk) to the tram route, so that can get you to the main airport (Atatürk) easily. In 5 minutes the tram will also get you to the railway station for trains to the rest of Europe (Sirkeci), and to the ferry piers you’ll need to get to Haydarpaşa on the Asian side – the railway station to catch trains to Ankara and the rest of the country.

Then there’s the owner – Doğan. Friendly, knowledgable and with perfect English.

Sultanahmet, seen from the Bosphorus

I could write about the city for quite a while. “Special” is the only word to describe it. I was lucky to have a native of the city as my “tour guide” on my 4 visits, and that gave me a real advantage. Thanks Saadet.

I’ll just leave it at that. For now.

© iain taylor 2011

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