The Beauty of Istanbul

I had the wonderful experience of taking a post-IMEX 2012 tour to Istanbul, Turkey organized by Susan Sarfati and Liz Jackson.  The trip was generously sponsored by Turkish Airlines, The Hilton Hotel Istanbul and hosted by Esra Toğrul Gücüyener and Ünal Bilgin of Teamcon, a congress service company.

Hagia Sophia is a former Orthodox patriarchal basilica, later a mosque, and now a museum in Istanbul, Turkey.

With its 27 meeting rooms and breathtaking views of the Bosphorus, the Hilton was a great location to meet up with colleagues, take a stroll to Taksim Square or just lounge by the pool situated in the expansive gardens of this 5-star property.  This was Hilton’s first hotel built outside of the USA and opened in 1955. You can tell that the management and staff continue to celebrate the history of the hotel by keeping the shine on.

Decked out in a fez and Ottoman garb, a “Sultan Boat” attendant serves Turkish Delight.

Whether you are boating on the Golden Horn while being plied with Turkish Delight or you are attending a congress in one of Istanbul’s many modern meeting venues, you’ll be embraced by the warm Turkish hospitality and immersed in a culture shaped by three historical empires.  I learned first hand why Turkish cuisine is ranked among the top in the world and can be equally compared to that of France or Italy.  A taste of the famous kaymak (Turkish clotted cream) with a dollop of honey right from the honeycomb on crusty bread for breakfast followed by a sip of Turkish coffee is a true delight for the palate.

The Turkish flag filters the setting sun on the Bosphorus 

 

Armed with an iPhone and the Instagram App, and ready for adventure, each day offered a new and exciting pictorial essay as Esra and Ünal took us through many of Istanbul’s historical highlights and showed off the charm of the city’s hotels and meeting venues.  One of the most magical times was a short cruise on the Bosphorus at sunset as we traveled to the “Asian side” for a dinner with our traveling colleagues and hosts.  Caught between the European and Asian continents with breathtaking views, the Bosphorus offers a unique experience for business travelers and tourists alike.

As you might guess, it wasn’t hard to fall in love with Istanbul.  As a meeting planner, I would not hesitate to take a group to this great city with all that it offers.  In fact I was able to find a spa attendant at the Marmara Hotel in Taksim Square who was willing to hold my iPhone for a short video interview with Esra so that you can see for yourself what capable hands we were in!

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