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Istanbul, Turkey

A View of Two Continents


Some hotels have an ambiance that is so perfect for the locales in which they are set and a comfort level that is so high that they are perennial favorites. No matter that newer, more luxurious facilities spring up around them, they remain like "home" to a loyal group of travelers. The Istanbul Hilton, the pioneer of all of Turkey's luxury hotels, was built nearly 40 years ago at a time when tourism was not as strong an industry in the country as it is today. To accommodate the increase in visitors, corporate incentive travel, sales meetings and conventions, more rooms were constructed. Nevertheless, the Hilton has held its own in popularity.

Although it opened in the mid 50s, management has kept up with the needs of the 90s guest. The executive floors offer special services for businesspeople and the sports and health club facilities are first-rate. Because the grounds are so vast—the hotel is set back from the street in a very central district—there is ample space for tennis and squash courts, cabanas and a huge outdoor pool. There's an indoor pool, too.

A trip to a Turkish bath (haman) is one of the nation's treats. A benefit of staying at the Hilton is that you do not have to venture out to another part of the city to a possibly unsafe haman. The circular-shaped marble bath is luxuriously appointed and the experience is a familiar one to those who visit spas. An attendant scrubs you with a loofah and washes you with a bag filled with suds. Modesty towels are provided for patrons.

The Harbiye district in which the hotel is situated is very convenient for visiting Istanbul's major attractions. The vistas from the rooftop restaurant and the rooms that face the Bosphorus offering a glimpse of the Asian side of the city, convince one that Istanbul is truly among the most, if not the most, beautiful metropolises on earth.

The Istanbul Hilton, Cumhuriyet Caddesi, 80200 Harriye, Istanbul. Tel. 800-445-8667. www.instanbulambassadorhotel.com


It is hard to figure out why, but the Haci Baba restaurant, located a few blocks from the hotel, is mentioned frequently in guidebooks and travel articles. Most of the food is unappetizing and the place is filled with tourists. Their brochure states, "Haci Baba Restaurant who is continuously developing while giving his name to taste with the admiration of the public is proud of serving you delicious traditional TURKISH MEAT FOOD types the wanderful (sic) taste of which you will have the chance of tasting." Now, isn't that description reason enough to stay away!

Haci Baba, Istiklal Caddesi, 49 Beyoglu, Istanbul. Tel. 011 90 212 244 18 86. Open seven days for lunch and dinner. Moderate.

Spring 1994