Day 15 – Welcome to Istanbul


Day 16.29

Yes thats right, we are in Istanbul which I think most of you guessed. We have decided that we have made it way to easy up until now so beware, the next and final clue will be a tough one.

Day 16.28

Ok but back onto Istanbul, the city straddles the Bosporus, a large river the separates Asia and Europe. Istanbul is the only city on the planet that covers two continents. So we flew in yesterday and we flew from Rome to Istanbul …. however we flew into the Asian side of the city but are staying on the European side so had to cross a large bridge to get over the the right side. So really, in one day we travelled from Europe to Asia and then back to Europe.

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The two main tourist areas in Istanbul are the “Old City’ and the “New City”. The Old City is a tourists dream full of old buildings, the grand bazar and lots of large hotels. The New City is a commercial area and has lots of local restaurants, shopping centres, antique districts and walking streets. We choose to stay in the New City and picked a lovely little hotel called the Tom Tom Suites. Actually located within the security of the Italian Embassy this was a large relief when it came to the current political climate going on here… last night we actually had a large protest going on just streets away from where we were staying, we heard fireworks and bangs but luckily we were so shattered we managed to sleep right through everything.

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So for Istanbul we hired a private guide, a lovely guy who picked us up and vowed to show us not just the the sights but also try to give us some insight into the culture of Turkey.  First up Topkapi Palace, this was home to generations of Sultans and their families who were closeted away in the Harem. The buildings are almost works of art from the outside, exquisitely detailed and beautifully balanced. Inside is odd, it has warrens of rooms full of beautiful blue tile work with patterns featuring tulips and trees. It was a beautiful space but didn’t feel overly luxurious or extravagant, it was quite utilitarian in its design and it really showed how they almost live on top of each other.

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After that it was a really special visit to something called Basilica Cistern. A complicated underground cistern built to provide drinking water to the city during the Byzantine times it lay forgotten for centuries until it was recently recognised as a possible tourist attraction. It was actually built out of spoils of war from different cities conquered by the Byzantine’s, so no two columns are the same. With the addition of lights and walkways you can now wander around down there actually viewing these  …. its cool, damp and totally fascinating watching the fish slowly swim through the the inky black water.

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After that it was time for Aya Sofia. Ok so this particular church does not look very pretty from the outside, hell it looks like a ruin but the minute you step inside your breath is literally taken away. A huge structure almost empty in its interior, its large cavernous space has little in the way of furniture or design. The space is so very tall it dwarves everyone and if your neck is not sore from looking up by the time you leave you obviously haven’t spent enough time in the place.

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Lunch was spent at the Medusa Cafe, a small place just slightly off the main square we sat outside in the sunshine and tried some traditional turkish food. I had a lovely chicken and almond curry and Ben had something called a Medusa Kebab. We also found out a lovely dish which is pretty much purred eggplant. Its light a fluffy and ever so slightly spiced and I have to say it could be becoming one of Ben’s favourite new dishes.

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Finally a trip to the spice markets, we tasted turkish delight, apple tea, spicy dried corn cobs and so much more. It was busy, loud and even a little bit crazy but the atmosphere was always friendly and it never felt in any way uncomfortable. We even learnt that there is one place in the city that all people feel is lucky and there were over hundreds of people cueing to buy their ticket from that particular store.

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Finally a trip to the spice markets, we tasted turkish delight, apple tea, spicy dried corn cobs and so much more. It was busy, loud and even a little bit crazy but the atmosphere was always friendly and it never felt in any way uncomfortable. We even learnt that there is one place in the city that all people feel is lucky and there were over hundreds of people cueing to buy their ticket from that particular store.

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Now home again home again and maybe a wander down Istiklal street tonight – however let me just say …. I am totally and completely in love with this city and can’t wait to discover more!

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Categories: TurkeyTags: , , , , , , ,

2 comments

  1. We loved Istanbul… Amazing city… Grand bazaar…wow….have fun and keep safe. Love deb and frank .
    Love reading your blog…

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