After two flights, absurd lines at customs, and almost lost luggage, we arrived at the quaint Hotel Şebnem (Sheb-nem) in the historic “Old Town” district of Sultanahmet in Istanbul and were welcomed with “Merhaba”s and smiles (even with the sight of our absurdly large luggage). The very friendly and helpful desk keeper named Huseyin showed us to our “sea view” room and carried all of our bags up to the first floor without one comment or complaint about the luggage weight.
While a bit small, the hotel room was cozy and comfortable with beautiful hardwood floors, a flat screen tv, antique furniture and a nice bathroom with the best shower/water pressure I’ve ever had abroad. At 95 Euro per night (about $115) the hotel was well worth it. The Şebnem also had a stunning rooftop terrace that overlooked the Marmara Sea, complete with plush patio furniture, free laptop/wi-fi usage, nargile pipes (hookah!), and a wonderful Turkish breakfast spread each morning. Best of all we were just a short walk through the neighborhood to probably the most popular spot in Istanbul (tourist-wise at least): Sultanahmet Park, home to the magnificent Aya Sofia and Blue Mosque.
We had come halfway across the world to immerse ourselves in a culture completely different from our own. The Şebnem was a warm welcome into that culture and from the moment we pulled up to the pretty mauve colored building covered in ivy, we knew we had picked the right place to start our adventure.