Ancient mosques, underground churches, bustling markets, crowded modern shopping streets, vibrant spices, KEBAB (yum!), and the boundary between Europe and Asia. Istanbul has it all and so much more. It is impossible to fully describe the vibe of this culturally wealthy city. As you wonder the streets centuries pass in a matter of steps, wheeling sea birds break up a skyline of minarets as the devout are called to prayer, a vast modern public transportation system shuttles shoppers, tourists and workers to the city’s amazingly distinct areas. Hawkers yell in the streets competing for attention and Turkish Lira. Rarely do I fall instantly in love with a place but Istanbul proved the exception. The sites, sounds, smells, people and culture touched something deep inside my chaotic nature. Rather than ruin the magic of the city with my words, I present a photo and video journey through the streets and monuments of Istanbul for you to experience the magic of Turkey for yourself.
The Blue Mosque is beautiful anytime of the day. Even better is that fact that it is free to enter. Just watch out for prayer times when it is closed to tourists. I would recommend getting there early in the morning before the crowds.
Across the street is the magnificent Aya Sophia. Originally the cathedral of Constantinople from 360 until 1453 it was converted to a mosque before finally settling in a state of limbo between the two religions as a museum.
It is difficult to capture the humility one feels as you first enter the building. The exterior architecture plays tricks on the senses into believing the size is smaller than it really is until you walk through the door unprepared for the vastness of the building.
Less impressive size wise but infinitely more detailed is Topkapi Palace, the Sultan’s Palace. The mosaic work on the walls is absolutely stunning.
Underneath the main historical area of Sultanahmet is the Basilica Cistern. The buzzing of cars and tourist is left quickly behind as you descend into this water filled church. Search for the Medusa head at the end for the full mythological experience.
Once you’re tired of seeing how people used to live head to the Grand Bazaar to see how the living make a living. While it is not as grand and as traditional as I had imagined, it is a great place to buy souvenirs and try your hand at buying a carpet. Don’t worry, my next post on Istanbul will be a negotiator’s guide to buying a Turkish rug.
If you really want to get a feel for how the locals live then walk around the side streets surround the Spice Bazaar. This is where the real shopping is done. The items may not be as sexy as a carpet or floor lamp, but the atmosphere makes up for it. Watching the action from nearby restaurants is perfect. Just check out my friend below, he really loves to sell his scarves…
High Pitch Sales Tactics…protect your child’s ears!
Have you visited Istanbul? Turkey? What are your favorite places to visit and hidden recommendations?