What does one do after traveling around the Amalfi Coast? What could possibly top that? We decided that going to Istanbul would be a pretty good choice. And let me tell you, if this place is on your bucket list, you gotta’ go!! Honestly, it was amazing!
So, Turkey. People (friends/family) were stunned we went. We were scheduled to arrive only 5 days after the bombing at the airport. When you are thinking of planning a trip, bombings do seem scary. It seems unwise to choose to go to someplace where that “kind of thing” happens. However, friends, there are things beyond our control. At any given moment, you could lose your life in a car crash. Statistically speaking, this is way, way, WAY more likely than getting killed by a bomb or a “terrorist.” My friend and I did discuss the possibility of changing our plans, but then we decided, no. No we aren’t canceling our plans. No we are not going to live in fear. And we went, and I’m so glad we did.
We stayed at this really incredible little boutique hotel call The Vault. It’s really cute with a restaurant that has amazing views of the Bosphorous and The Hagia Sophia. At one point, it was an actual bank building and the decor from the original bank is still present and predominant feature in the hotel. Despite our unwillingness to cancel our trip, many others didn’t embrace our intrepidness. There were hardly any guests at our hotel, and it wasn’t in the super touristy part of the city, so it was a nice little sanctuary of calm after our BUSY days of clomping all around town.
Istanbul is an easy city to navigate. You can literally walk everywhere. But if you’re feeling like you don’t want to walk, there’s a tram that you can take that makes stops at all the sites you might like to visit. It’s cheap and easy. Hop on, hop off. We took it a few times, and let me say, it really makes a difference when you are hot and tired and don’t relish the thought of a long hike to your hotel!
So what to see while in Istanbul? Of course, everyone raves about the Blue Mosque. And we were impressed with its size…it’s enormous. And it’s got a long and amazing history! Built in 1616, it really is something you must see. It’s a popular tourist attraction, and properly dressed and hair covered, you can go inside and see the amazing tile work. We were a little disappointed at all the wires hanging down from the ceilings that hold up the modern lighting. But between the gorgeous stained glass and the intricate tile work, it’s a peaceful, beautiful place to visit. And if you think the Blue Mosque is impressive, then you’ll want to travel to Abu Dhabi and see our beautiful Sheikh Zayed Mosque. While it’s not ancient, it is enormous, and it is beautiful on the inside. Just wandering the grounds of the mosque, here, is magical. I’ve been lots of times, and I still love going. The next place to visit is right across the way from The Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia. Talk about a history!! Construction began in 537, and until 1453 it served as an orthodox cathedral. Later Crusaders converted it to a Roman Catholic cathedral (1204-1261), and finally it was converted into an Ottoman Mosque. Now it’s a museum for all to visit. And the sheer enormity of this place will blow you away!! It’s giant. We were trying to take pictures so that we could some how show the scale of the place. There were tons of people there the day we went, and it didn’t feel crowded at all. The other amazing thing about this place is how both Christian and Muslim symbols exist together. It’s seriously one of the coolest places I’ve ever been. And while you hear a lot of talk about The Blue Mosque, It’s the Hagia Sophia that merits the attention. Seriously. Go see it!
What else do people talk about? The Grand Bazaar. We enjoyed our time there. There is a ton, ton, ton of shopping to be had at the Bazaar. They’ve got those beautiful Turkish Lanterns, and the hand-painted pottery which is incredible in every color you can imagine…all of it you’ll find at the Bazaar. You’ll also find lots of mass-produced stuff from China. Just make sure when you’re there to double check to make sure your stuff isn’t made in China. Then you can head on over to the Spice Souk. This place is giant and amazing. Spicy aromas fill the air, and the sweet treat of Turkish Delight fills the shelves. We got some wonderful chocolate covered fruits and nuts, and some of the famous apple tea. But if you haven’t had Turkish Delight, have some in Turkey. It’s so delicious–remember, it was what the White Witch used to lure Edmund in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. So it’s gotta’ be good, right?
The food in Turkey is actually quite tasty. We had amazing meals at our hotel, and ate street food like Doner wraps, and the weirdly delicious Turkish ice cream. It’s a production to get a cone, but well worth it. And don’t forget to have the Baklava. It is sold in every bakery, and the crispy, sticky deliciousness is crazy good!
We also visited the historic Bascilica Cisterns which are super cool! They helped provide clean water to The Palace at Constantinople and later to the Palace at Topkapi.
You absolutely must visit the Palace at Topkapi. It’s amazing!! It’s a beautiful compound, and a wonderful way to spend the day. We spent the better part of one morning walking the park grounds surrounding the Palace and later visited the Palace itself. There are amazing views of Istanbul from the Palace grounds and we got lots of great shots. Never mind the gorgeous tile work we were obsessed with! It was one of my favorite places!
We loved our time in Istanbul. The history, the people (who are wonderful), the food, the places…I’m so glad I got walk inside the ancient places where others in history have walked. And I’m so glad I got to spend my time there with a friend who showed fearlessness and excitement in the face of possible danger. Istanbul has a little piece of my heart. So I’ll be bringing a little piece of Turkey back with me to the US!