Not having found any trace of a Portal to Shambhala in the Sultanahmed Area, the old historical core of Istanbul, I decided to check out of my hotel and move over to the Beyoglu District on the other side of the Golden Horn. As I mentioned earlier, the old tekke of the Mevlevi Whirling Dervishes is in this area. Gunj, my host in Istanbul, was kind enough to take time off from her incessant labors on the behalf of Central Asian Artists and accompany me. Any journey with Gunj when she has free time entails a lot of stops along the way to smell the roses, or in this case, taste a fish sandwich at the famous water-side outdoor restaurants near the Galata Bridge where the fish are actually cooked on boats tied up alongside the dock.
The fish sandwich was just an appetizer. Having crossed the Galata Bridge to Beyoglu we stopped at another one of Gunj’s favorite restaurants, the historic Tarihi Karaköy Balik Loksantasi, for the next course—Fish Soup.
Then we climbed up the steep cobblestone streets of Beyoglu to the Galata Tower . . .
. . . where we had tea and dessert at this charming outdoor cafe.
Finally we arrived the Hotel Londres, Gunj’s favorite hostelry in all of Istanbul. This place is dripping with history. It was founded in 1892, one of the first European-style hotels to service travelers arriving on the Orient Express, the first non-stop version of which reached Istanbul from Paris in June of 1889. Although the hotel has been remodeled several times it still retains a lot of its nineteenth-century features. The doors to the rooms and the locks may well be the originals. Over the years many famous people have frequented the hotel, including Ernest Hemingday and more recently Gunj, who celebrated one of her birthdays here. I half-expect to see Peter Lorre simpering in a dark corner of the lobby.
Just down the street from the Hotel Londres is the equally famous Pera Palace Hotel, also founded in 1892. According to legend, Agatha Christie wrote Murder on the Orient Express in Room 411 of the hotel. The room is still available, if you desperately need an Agatha Christie fix.
Peter Lorre. If he didn’t stay at the Hotel Londres he should have.
Gunj relaxing from her otherwise relentless labors at her favorite table in the Rooftop Cafe of the Hotel Londres.