The main things we had considered when booking accommodation in Istanbul was a) proximity to old center and b) free Wi-Fi.
I had been told that living too close to the center can be a bit frazzling as the busy-ness starts as soon as you step outside the front door (think passionate carpet sellers all but begging you to step foot inside their stores (read Part 7 for more information)). But we threw caution to the wind and chose Santefe Hotel, a seemingly boutique place a sensible distance from the main square. The photos on Booking.com looked phenomenal. Sparkly purple walls inside, funky, fluffy curtains and polished golden handrails. It looked like a mini palace. Only Pasha, with his eye for photography, noticed that the photos were done professionally and looked damn good. Almost too good to be true. And even though, when we arrived, we saw there were indeed purple walls and fluffy curtains, we also realized that the photos on the website were not just damn good, but deceptively good.
Our room was much smaller than we had expected (but isn’t that always the case) and the sparkly purple paint had seen much better days. The bed was only just long enough for my legs, while Pasha had to get used to sleeping three quarters on the bed, one quarter off. The TV mounted on the wall was not facing the bed, but actually the wall beside the bed and the fridge didn’t work. The whole place seemed quite tired and worn out. But to be honest it wasn’t really a big deal. We knew that all our quality time would be spent out and about and the room was just for sleeping and working. And it served us pretty well in that respect.
Did the Wi-Fi work well all the time? Of course not. We had to buy a sim-card our second week there because the hotel internet was so temperamental. Were there blackouts? Yes, twice. Both at night. Our room was a sauna. Luckily, we had a window. Was the laundry service overpriced? Yes. We paid the receptionist 70 lira for his ‘friend’ to do the washing (which, as we found out later, didn’t include our socks). Next time we paid a nice gentleman 40 lira and he washed everything. Could we use the promised airport shuttle service? Nope. We were kind of fobbed off, told that it was just easier and cheaper to catch a taxi. Did this affect how much we enjoyed our stay? Not really. We had a place to lay our heads every night. The receptionist was friendly, spoke Russian and English and was always happy to help. The street was full of life – cafes, sweet stores, clothes markets, restaurants and so much more.
Had we stayed in a more luxurious place in a more prestigious location, we wouldn’t have been able to step outside every morning and see the eclectic, colourful, awesome world that is Istanbul. People from all walks of life gathering together and living harmoniously: workers from Central Asia madly packing textiles in the morning heat, big, proud African women in traditional dress strolling down the street, Turkish families going about their daily business, the odd tourist looking around anxiously, trying to make sense of it all. So, all in all we didn’t do too bad. And the 10 minute hike up the very steep hill to the old center sure did help work up an appetite for breakfast.