No, I haven’t taken over Istanbul…but it’s what I’ve been nicknamed by a fellow co-worker. It makes me smile, so I’m fine with it.

As you will have guessed…I’m in Istanbul. And I’m here until about December 21st, and possibly back in the new year for a few more months. As I was leaving to come here I heard a lot of “be safe”. No need to worry folks, Istanbul is a very safe city. Yes, Turkey is a secular Muslim country. It is also where Europe meets Asia – which is true in more than geography terms. There is a large mix of cultures and religion in this city. As I walk down the street I’m not obviously a tourist until I try to speak Turkish, or haul my camera out (for which there is ample reason). This city is going to provide a number of posts…there is just so much to see and do, and then there’s the day-to-day as I settle into “living” here for 8 weeks.

First up – the Pera Palace Hotel. It was the first ‘western’ hotel built in Istanbul, created to accommodate those arriving here on the Orient Express. It has seen guests the likes of Agatha Christie (who is believed to have written Murder On The Orient Express here, in room 411, now named the Agatha Christie Suite), Queen Elizabeth II, Alfred Hitchcock, Pierre Lotti and a host of modern-day celebs. It has a ballroom, a saloon, a tea room, a little bakery, and the Agatha restaurant. Steeped in history and a murder mystery written here….all things that make me happy! So, I’m going to scrimp and save and one day book myself the Agatha Christie suite and lay in bed reading Murder On The Orient Express (many of her books are provided, in multiple languages, in the room). Until then, I’ll pop by the bakery and have tea and cookies.

A taste of the European – the ballroom. Yes, please, I’d love a dance.

This is how they got you from the train station to the hotel when arriving on the Orient Express. I haven’t quite figured out where the train station is/was yet, but I’m hoping it wasn’t a long walk for whomever was carrying this…

Istanbul’s first western hotel is also home of Istanbul’s first elevator…complete with a lovely red velvet bench you sat on as you made your day up or down.

I don’t know about you, but I’d be quite happy to use the stairs.

The tea room. Or rather, one of the chandeliers and a look at the walls and ceiling in the tea room. Beautiful. And if feels “Turkish” to this tourist.

Sigh…I can see and feel what it must have been like back in the day. Happiness.