I just got back from Turkey this week, it was a truly unforgettable experience. Eight days was not nearly enough and I can’t wait for the next chance I get to go back.
With a 6am flight, I of course just decided to just not sleep if I had to be at the airport at 4am. So by the time I get on the plane I’m a complete zombie and I was dead asleep from the minute I sat down in my seat to when we landed at Sabiha Gocken International Airport right outside Istanbul around 8am. The Havas Shuttle to Taksim Square in Istanbul took about an hour and then reached Sultanahmet and my hostel around noon after getting lost a bit, of course. Sultanahmet is the area where any first-time visitor to Istanbul should stay. Not only does it have an abundance of hostels and hotels, but it is the home to great Istanbul attractions such as the bazaars, mosques, the Hagia Sofia, Topkapi Palace, the Basilica cistern, and countless other things to see and do, along with being extremely walkable, clean, and pretty.
Part of the reason I loved this trip was thanks to seeing a friend from home I hadn’t seen in over 4 months. Being away for so long has gotten me used to being separated from all my friends and family, but it was really great spending time with a close friend again. Add this to the fact that another friend of ours had the chance to come to Istanbul the next weekend, and we had a Boston reunion in Turkey on our hands! But alas, that is a story for another time…
Our first day in Istanbul was full yet relaxed. After settling in at our hostel (Agora Guesthouse was amazing!), we walked around most of the city, exploring the Grand Bazaar, the waterfront by the Bosporus River where we tasted all sorts of delicious foods before heading over to the Spice Bazaar and finally going back to the hostel to rest before going out for the night. The bazaars were a crazy frenzy of crowds and salesmen begging everyone to just “come in take a look” and assuming we were Spanish, yelling “hola” and “buenos dias” to us as we passed by.
At the waterfront, we had some seriously addicted mussels sold by a man with a table in the middle of the sidewalk (I do not even like mussels and I couldn’t get enough of these!), some fish sandwiches tossed straight off a violently rocking boat, and lightly friend doughnuts topped with pistachio with liquid that burst out upon the first bite.
On our way back to the hostel we passed by the Blue Mosque and decided to pop in for a visit, we tried earlier in the day and it was wayyy too crowded to be any sort of enjoyable experience. Now, later in the afternoon, the crazy crowds were gone and we had a chance to walk in and look around for a bit.
That night, we explored Taksim Square and Istikal Street for the first time, getting lost more times than we can count and recruiting the help of 5 or 6 friendly Turkish people to find our destination.
We took our time the next morning, waking up just in time to catch the end of breakfast before taking out to walk around Sultanahmet for a few more hours before our hunger drove us in search of food. It was here where we had our first encountered the very Turkish pottery kebop, which may be one of the most entertaining ways to serve food I have encountered. A clay pot is stuffed with meat, onions, peppers, mushrooms, and other vegetables before being cooked. Then, the server brings the pot over and heats the bottom layer slowly over a bed of flaming ashes before finally knocking the bottom of the pot right off, shattering on the floor with a crash, to reveal a steaming mass of delicious food.
After this delicious and stuffing meal, we decided to head over to explore the famous Topkapi Palace. On the way, we stopped at a few shops by the side of the road where I found the one and only Sheep. My new travel buddy!
I would have gone in to Topkapi, but I was turned off by the disgusting behavior of the adults in the lines. I understand that a place like this is going to be crowded on a Sunday afternoon in the summer, full of tourists, but that is no excuse for grown adults to be elbowing throats to be in the front of the line! Honestly, the group of 30 or so small schoolchildren were more well-behaved than the group of 4 60-something women behind me who were trying to take me out to get in first. I don’t care how old you are or how important you think you and your time are, if you act worse than a small child throwing a tantrum you will get zero respect from me. These people should be truly embarrassed by their behavior.
Anyways, after ditching the Palace (as there was no way I was going to put up with a bunch of grown babies, we checked out the Basilica Cistern instead, which was so cool! I’ll let the pictures do the talking.
That night, after a couple more hours of shopping (finally found the perfect harem pants I had been looking for all weekend!) and lounging on the grass with yummy ice cream (how have I never before experience the perfection of banana ice cream??), we finally had to get ready for our bus that would take us all the way to our next destination in central Turkey, the Cappadocia Valley.