Total Pageviews

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Istanbul is one of those places that I had vaguely heard about throughout my life.  I'm pretty sure I read a few books where historians were digging through catacombs in the Hagia Sofia for something.  But it wasn't really a place that was on my "list" until I moved to Egypt and started talking to some of the people that have been there.  *That's one of the other perks to living in a foreign country with other teachers that are so focused on travel, you learn about many new places to visit!

Our five days in Istanbul were lovely.  I think that's the best way to describe them because there was an overall feeling of peace and beauty to the entire trip.  I'm not sure if it can all be attributed to the city itself, a generous portion of the good vibes needs to be dealt to the wonderful fall weather and the company.  We started out as 4, me, Ryan, Bill and Matt.  Then Maria jumped onboard and on the way to Istanbul we ran into Tessa at the airport headed to the same destination.  The funny thing about our groupings was that they were constantly changing.  We'd be in a palace and one group would move faster than the other and suddenly there were 2 separate groups.  With no cell phones and no pending schedules, we floated around each other in ever changing orbits without worry or care.  It was really kind of nice.

We arrived in Istanbul, bought our Turkish visas in the airport (much prettier than Egypt's) and were picked up by a driver to be taken to our hotel.  The drive into the city immediately told me that Istanbul was cleaner, greener and more modern than Cairo.  It was like a breath of cool fresh air to move from our streets to theirs.  It's really quite funny how you can get so caught up in your day to day life that you don't realize how much you need to get away until you do.  There was a lot of sighing in that van as we drove into the city and left our real lives behind for a bit.  Our hotel was AMAZING!  Right on the hippodrome, across from the Blue Mosque and basically in the heart of the city.  It was really easy to walk everywhere, which was a definite perk.  We checked in, dropped off our bags and hit the streets again, immediately losing Bill and Maria who ventured off at a gallop.  So Matt, Ryan and I were left on our own.  We wandered around for about an hour, basically taking in the ambiance.  The air was cool and crisp, with the smell of fire, roasted corn and fall.  We saw a lot of things that first day, the Blue Mosque, Obelisk, Hagia Sofia, but didn't go into any because the times were off, or prayer was just starting.  We did manage to make it to the Basilica Cistern before it closed and it was one of those things that completely surprised me!  I was walking down the stairs with a mental image already in place of what we were about to see.  Then when my eyes adjusted to the darkness I was blown away.  It was spectral, grand and so much bigger than I had imagined. Easily one of the coolest parts of the city and I'm glad we didn't miss it.  Our walking took us to the Grand Bazaar so we went in and explored the labyrinth.  After the Khan in Egypt and the Old City in Jerusalem, I feel like I've seen a bazaar or two.  The only thing that really stuck out in my mind was how clean and orderly this one was compared to others I've been to.  A very kind man selling scarfs helped us find our bearings and even gave us a map.  I bought a beautiful scarf made of linen and silk, but that was all we purchased in the Bazaar.  As we walked back to the main part of the city we stopped at a shop that had beautiful lamps in the window. We had been seeing them everywhere in the city, glass globes covered in mosaics, hanging in spirals from the ceiling.  The shop owner made us apple tea that was too hot to drink, so we clutched our glass cups trying not to singe our fingers as we looked at the beautiful globes.  In the end the tea cooled and was very good, much like apple cider, and we bought a hanging lamp in shades of blue and white starbursts, one for my bedside table and some gifts for Misha and Gabby who were back in Cairo watching our dog.  

The evening ended in a quest for pudding, because we had seen a sign for a "Pudding Shop" earlier and were dying to check it out.  Unfortunately it was a ruse and was simply a restaurant that had a few types of pudding on the menu.  Luckily we stuck to our original plan and found an amazing dessert shop a few doors down that we visited just about every night we were there because they had wonderful pudding.  And I'm sorry to do this to you grandma, but their rice pudding was the best I've ever tasted!  To their credit the owner explained that it's so good because they use rich buffalo milk to make it, but man was it good!  We were like beggar orphans going back every evening to see if they had anymore.

The rest of the week was much of the same, we would get up in the morning to have breakfast on the terrace of our hotel, where morning sunshine streamed over the domes of the Blue mosque and reflected off the Maramar Sea.  We explored Topkapi palace, The Blue Mosque, Galata Tower, The Hagia Sofia (which sadly had most of it's mosaics removed due to damage from condensation), Went on a bus tour of the city, and took a boat along the Bosphorous.  We rode the train, walked our feet off, ate roasted corn, popcorn, turkish delight and drank fresh squeezed pomegranate juice.  And every evening we headed back to the shop with the pudding!  Sadly the last few nights we were there they were all out.  Some nights we went to bed early, completely exhausted.  Others we stayed up late playing spades with Matt and Tessa or just talking about the day.  It was relaxing and fun.

I really enjoyed Istanbul.  Would I go back?  Probably not, mainly because we saw just about everything there was to see in the 5 days we were there.  But I like Turkey and would very much like to return to the country to see what the other regions are like, especially Cappadocia.

No comments:

Post a Comment