Having just returned from my trip to Turkey, I can barely describe how magical that Istanbul is. You can feel the history soaking up from the streets. The food is mind-blowing and most importantly I realized how much I missed the regional culture. Turkey is everything I loved about Tunisia with half the sketchiness.
My travel buddy Carolyn and I stayed in Istanbul with our friends Kaitlyn and Ace. After 20 hours travel time, I arrived in Istanbul. I knew I was in love from the moment we took the bus to their fabulous apartment located nearby Isticklal center. In the morning we woke up and took a ferry ride down the Bosphorus to Yoros Place. A medieval place on the shore of the Black Sea.
The Bosphorus river is one of the most famous and historic rivers in the world. The two hour cruise has palace after mosque after fort. Its exhilarating! After the trip we took a short trip through the spice market. Dried fruit, Turkish delight, Olives, here is the food I have been missing! Much smaller then the Grand Bizarre the spice market has real values and I couldn't resist trying a little of everything.
After classic Istanbul fish sandwiches under the Galata bridge, we shared glasses of Effes on a hotel rooftop overlooking the Golden Horn. I couldn't believe that gazing at the same river as Caesars, Emperors and Apostles. The city once know as Constantinople was mine to explore.
One Monday we woke up early to take pictures from the panoramic view of Galata Tower. Originally built in 1348, the tower was guarding the "modern" part of Istanbul 100 years before Columbus was born. The 360 degree views of the city were spectacular if not difficult to capture with my camera.
We walked to Sultanahmet by way to the Grand Bizarre. Three hours, two scarves and one lamp later we arrived at the the neighborhood of Sultanahmet. This is the most famous district of Istanbul with all the major sights. We visited the blue mosque first. Finished in 1616 the blue mosque is still a working place of worship. With six minarets walking up to the mosque is a humbling experience. The inside is covered with its famous blue tiles.
Most importantly however is the really good "pretzels" that are sold everywhere (Thats for you Brett).
For the history nerd in me the good times never stop in Istanbul. We walked around the hippodrome and were I feasted my eyes on monument after monument. Including a jaw dropping Obelisk. The carvings look crisp although it is 3500 years old. Built in Egypt and moved in 390, the Obelisk dominates the hippodrome. I could not tear my eyes from it. We originally planed on simply walking past but I came enraptured.
How do you top that you ask? Well I thought it was impossible but Istanbul loves to prove me wrong. Enter the Basilica Cistern, a random sight we decided to drop by before dinner, turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip. Built in the 6th century the Cistern is 105,000 square feet. The feeling upon entering was like the I had the wind knocked out of me. It was eerie and strangely familiar. (Update-when I entered the Cistern reminded me of a Bond film moment, well I was right because it was featured in from Russia with Love! Score one me!) The Cisterns are lit perfectly with emphasis on the mysterious Medusa head's in the back. If you are in Istanbul, even just for one day, you must visit the Cisterns. I promise you will never forget them.
Wrapping up my second day in my new favorite city I went to bed early as tomorrow was our flight to Cappadoica. I was excited but hesitant to leave. What could top Istanbul?