My next adventure: Valletta (Malta) – May 2024

Istanbul – April 2024

Day 5 (Istanbul) – Final Thoughts

Before we delve into ones final thoughts on Istanbul, let’s discuss airports! Given that staff were not willing to assist with lifting Superbunny off the trolley upon arrival, it was thought that the departure process would be a palaver. IST does have a special assistance ‘office’, however, it was closed requiring you to telephone the number given. Once connected, the individual asked which airline followed by a simple message of ‘contact BA’ and then hung up…very helpful! We then found the relevant check in desk who, thankfully, was used to the process. The actual ‘flow’ of the airport was pretty straightforward with dedicated lanes for individuals with disabilities with baggage handlers willing to listen about how to operate electric wheelchairs. It is worth noting, however that you need to explain EVERYTHING even if you are in a manual wheelchair which they kindly bent AGAIN…thanks IST!

Final thoughts on Istanbul aka the largest city in Europe then. As I say, in terms of travelling around the city via public transportation, its one of the most accessible that I have visited in Europe, especially with the trains, trams and funicular being flush to said platform. However, as per most cities, if you are looking to visit neighbourhoods outside of the centre, be prepared for the drop kerbs to be pieces of concrete.

In terms of its citizens, you have probably gathered that it requires a little persuasion for people to assist you in general, although the hospitality sector is very welcoming. The attitude towards disability seems mixed in Turkey, for example, when waiting for lifts on the Marmaray railway, the majority of the public seemed to ‘dismiss’ the fact that you are present and push themselves into said lifts with little regard. Due to this, it’s helpful to leave a little extra time.

From the biggest city in Europe to the smallest capital in the EU, my next adventure takes me back to Valletta in Malta on the 19th May exploring what was missed last year and, in particular, the island of Gozo.

Day 4 (Istanbul) – Sapphire Tower and The Bosphorus Strait

Today is a national holiday in Turkey meaning that Istanbul has come alive making public transportation a little difficult but we pressed on regardless to the Istanbul Sapphire which is one of the observation decks in the city located in the Levent financial district. Reaching said tower was pretty straightforward from our hotel taking the Marmaray railway and then hopping onto the M2 metro which, again, had lifts and level boarding. Despite its historical significance, Istanbul has to be one of the most accessible cities in Europe that one has visited in terms of public transportation.

If you ever find yourself visiting the Sapphire, it is worth noting that the two lifts to street level are placed either side of a dual carriageway which is impossible to cross for miles. The towers interior is currently undergoing refurbishment hence the accessible entrance is non existent. No fear though as we were led by security through the construction site to reach said lifts…

Towering 261m over Istanbul, the observation desk provides panoramic views over both the Asian and European sides of the city.

Although the deck has a little platform, there are ramps…

The tower also has a ‘SkyRide’ which is a 4D experience emulating a helicopter and walking tour of the city. Although it’s not wheelchair accessible, it’s a great way to experience attractions such as The Blue Mosque.

Seeing as we could see the Bosphorus Strait, it made sense to experience it from ground level, especially on the Asian side which we were yet to explore. The Marmaray railway makes the crossing very easy thanks to the tunnel which opened in 2013. The station on the Asian side is located adjacent to the Strait and ferry terminal. The wide promenade makes it easy to head down to the waterfront although it can be lined with fishermen and crowds…

Tomorrow we head back to the behemoths of IST airport and onto Heathrow. One did see a taxi last night with a wheelchair sticker, however it was a little hard to distinguish if it had a ramp or not.

Day 3 (Istanbul) – Galata Tower and Basilica Cistern

After a late night, one decided against the YHT option as there is so much more to explore in Istanbul. Saving the trek to the Istanbul Sapphire for tomorrow, it was decided to head to the Old Town and marvel at the infamous Galata Tower (which is currently closed for refurbishment) followed by a visit to the lesser known Basilica Cistern.

Although not planned, the tram network (especially T1) has been very useful in transporting us around the city centre due to it being 100% accessible. What one did know, however, was that a few funicular railways are in the city, one of which takes you up the rather steep hill located near the Galata Tower. Of course, one couldn’t resist taking a ride…

As per the above photos, level boarding has been achieved with both stations possessing ramps in the appropriate places.

The funicular is particularly useful for wheelchairs as the majority of the Old Town comprises of steep hills and good old cobblestones…not a great combination!

After a while of bumping around, we arrived at the Galata Tower which, as I say, is currently closed for refurbishment. When open, it does have a lift to the top but these views had to satisfy on this occasion…

The next stop was the Basilica Cistern, which, as described by Wikipedia, is an “underground Roman water source held up with 336 marble columns covering 9,800 sq. meters”. Now, we double checked its accessibility for evidence in case the staff tried it on as per yesterday. Disabled individuals can enter for FREE and the majority of the attraction is accessible bar a small step at the entrance. A stair lift has been installed to allow wheelchairs to ascend down to the water source…

Once at the bottom, you are free to explore at your leisure, it can be a little dark however!

Tomorrow is our last day in Istanbul, Turkey. As I mentioned, the primary aim is to navigate the metro system to the Istanbul Sapphire observations deck and, perhaps a wander through the ‘Urban Forest’.

Day 2 (Istanbul) – Mosques and The Grand Bazaar

As I mentioned yesterday, today was about exploring the Fatih district which includes the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and The Grand Bazaar but first, we had to conquer the Marmaray railway/metro. It is worth noting that the majority of the ticket machines only accept certain Lira notes (which are difficult to obtain from petrol stations as we have learnt), however, one or two do accept card, its just seeking the correct ones out. After that, lifts are in the appropriate places and said trains are perfectly flush with the platform making for a smooth roll around the system.

A few minutes walk from Sirkeci station is the gigantic Hagia Sophia. Akin to Florence, the structure seems more like a painting. When researching Istanbul, it stated that there was an accessible entrance, however, when we asked the staff the location, they simply said ‘not possible’ which either means that said staff couldn’t be bothered (likely!) or the entrance no longer exists…

Perhaps we would have more luck at The Blue Mosque…don’t be stupid! However, this time, there was a ramp sign informing you to use the side entrance. This entrance still possessed a small step akin to the Sousse Ribat (but higher) and took you into the courtyard which ramp signs ceased to exist and no ramps were to be seen after a circuit of the perimeter…

The last stop today was the Grand Bazaar which is around a 15 minute walk from these structures and it’s ACCESSIBLE! By this, one means that the inside market is mostly smooth (until you find an exit with a step!) making for an easyish roll. It has to be said that, if you are looking for a bargain, the outside portion is a better shout…

Istanbul is also home to a tram network which we took back to the relevant Marmaray station. As per the majority of modern tram systems, the vehicles are flush with the platforms which can be accessed via ramps.

Tomorrow, we either head out of Istanbul to the city of Izmit via the YHT high speed railway network or stay in the city and take the metro to the observation deck at the Istanbul Sapphire…decisions!!

Day 1 (Istanbul) – IST Airport Experience

Living in the UK, it’s difficult to imagine that one has never rolled around Türkiye (Turkey) in nearly 32 years considering that it is one of the ‘go to’ places for British tourists. The question when planning this trip was, however, where should myself and Superbunny go? The metropolis of Istanbul (which is home to over 10 million inhabitants making it the most populous city in Europe and ranked as one of the biggest in the world) has always intrigued oneself due to it straddling both Europe and Asia plus its importance in regards to the Silk Road.

London Heathrow was the airport of choice for this excursion, in particular, T5 which one hasn’t visited since COVID and to my surprise, not much had changed. Flying with British Airways always means that Superbunny gets it’s own container which ensures that no baggage can fall on top etc.

After roughly 3.5 hours, we touched down at the behemoth of Istanbul Airport which opened in 2019 and is currently the 5th busiest in the world. Akin to other airports around the world, one had to collect the electric wheelchair from baggage reclaim. The large expanse was apparent during the never ending journey to reclaim Superbunny. The staff were, on the other hand, rather rude and simply answered ‘no’ when asked if they could help said wheelchair off the trolley.

Given the size of Istanbul, one thought that sourcing a wheelchair accessible taxi to transport us to the hotel would be an easy task…should have learnt by now never to assume! After a while of Googling, I came across Accessible Istanbul, who, thankfully have a fleet of accessible vehicles albeit at a hefty cost.

However, we did see a few other taxis with ramps hence one will be looking out for more during the week. It is also worth noting that, as of 2024, Istanbul Airport (IST) are vastly improving the public transportation network from said location which will be much cheaper and, of course, accessible.

Whilst exploring this vast city over the next 4 days, we are staying at the Hampton by Hilton (Zeytinburnu) which is slightly outside the tourist centre (clearly not in the nicest of areas with little in the way of restaurants). The room is pretty standard with ample space and a decent size shower seat…

The hotel is conveniently located just minutes away from the Marmaray railway which takes you direct into the heart of the city’s Fatih district in under 10 minutes which is home to The Blue Mosque, The Hagia Sophia and within walking distance to the Grand Bazaar, all of which will be explored tomorrow.

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