A long weekend of exploring two continents.
Istanbul has been on my list for 6 years now and never did I think I would be visiting on that fine weekend. As most of my travel impulses, booked my flight last minute and headed to this beautiful city with no real plans but to explore and absorb what it has to offer.
With four days to explore this city, I set off for a walk from my hotel to Taksim Square, a bustling center that has a heartbeat of its own and makes it perfect to learn the vibe of the city. With tingling taste buds waiting to try some Turkish flavours, I found a busy cafe called Hafız Mustafa 1864. Order yourself their famous kunafe with a chai, sit outside and enjoy your treat as you observe Istanbul’s life flow through the square.
This city has a rich interesting history. Make sure you spend a day at least to tick off the usual tourist suspects – Sultanahmet (a.k.a Blue Mosque), Hagia Sophia, Basilica Cistern and the Topkapi Palace.
With years of anticipation to see Sultanahmet, it was under major restoration process when I visited. What a feeling of falling flat on your face after a long dive! Oh well, a reason to visit again I suppose.
Just a short stroll away is Hagia Sophia. As you walk in, you are whisked away to admire the years that have passed through these walls of this massive structure. Though your eyesight is filled with tourists, just a look up at the ceiling and walking through its tunnels, gets you into another experience. Talking about tunnels, if you feel a little like Indiana Jones, head to the Basilica Cistern. This underground ancient water system is very dark despite the lighting support and takes a few minutes for your eyes to adjust. However, with such a closed space filled with people, I barely survived 20 minutes before feeling dizzy and heading to the exit.
Istanbul is constantly expressing itself with a range of cultural and culinary notes. It is your traveler duty to experience all of it. Walking through the Spice Market, I was amused my the colours and smells of everything on display. The vendors are a tricky affair in these tourist-dense markets. Bargain whatever you plan to buy and remember you will get this at a down-to-earth price in a supermarket elsewhere.
Apart from the world famous Turkish Delight, Instanbul has an abundance of cafes, restaurants and bars with the best views of the Bosphorus. You can stay there for a week and still would be finding it hard to find your best view chai or dinner experience.
One such view that I was adamant to see was from Uskudar. Asking the ferry route to the other side of Bosphorus (asian side as many call it), I headed to find this spot which has views of the Maiden Tower. A short ferry ride with heavy chilli winds and accompanied by seagulls, Uskudar is right at the port. I walked about 30 mins by the water-front until I found the chai stall by the pavement. Sitting here on a cold day, sipping chai, watching seagulls dance to the heavy wind in their wings with the backdrop of Maiden Tower was just superb!
Istanbul is a beautiful maze to get lost in with so many aspects to experience – food, culture, history, people at each turn. My experience for a short few days in this city attracts me to come back for more and also to see other places past Istanbul. Hopefully I will be back.
Check out more snippets from my travel here…