A Travellerspoint blog

Turkey

Where East Meets West - Istanbul

We arrived into Istanbul at 5am from Bulgaria and so had finished our Intrepid trip. Although sleep deprived we were wired from the great vibe that Istanbul delivered. We were both cautious to over hype Istanbul considering everyone we talked to raved about the city...we didn't want to be let down. Let down we were not. We both loved this city and our time exploring.

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We started our time in Istanbul hearing the call to prayer and watching the sunrise by the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. It was a spectacular way to start the morning! The call was mesmerising and echoed throughout the streets of the old town (I was quite glad we weren't staying there to be awoken by it).

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After watching the sunrise and admiring the mosques without the hoards of tourists we went to have apple tea (a tourist thing in Turkey but it tastes so good).

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A short tram out of the old town area we were at our AirBnB accommodation. Our hosts Paul and Yvonne were lovely and so inviting. They took the time to help organise what we could do with our limited time in Istanbul and gave us a lovely little tour around the area. The view of the Bosphorus from the balcony was breath taking and we both spent a fair bit of time out there just watching the boats go by.

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Our first morning we headed further down the Bosphorus to see yali, the old original wooden houses. In parts the sea still reaches them and swells hit the side. We also saw the swarms of massive boats that the wealthy owned. It was here we tried lamb Lahmacun and Kofte. Both were delicious and from this I was exhilarated to try all the foods I had dreamed of trying while here.

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That evening we completed a photo tour. It was a great night where we had a guide to ourselves. Our guide helped us take photos of the mosque at sunset. We walked along taking photos of the amazing scenes that lay before us…lanterns, pipers arcades, stalls, old tombs and mosques. It was great way to explore and Lewis appreciated the little extra fine tuning to his techniques.

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Dinner was bean soup with bread and a stuffed eggplant for Lewis. It was fabulous! I also discovered that I enjoyed the little cups of turkish tea. They are refreshing. We grabbed some turkish delight and continued on to see the Süleymaniye Mosque, one of the biggest in the city.

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It was closed but glowed beautifully on the clear night we had. We discovered a tea house with 360 views of the city near the mosque. It was magical up there and my photos don't do it justice. It was hard to leave to continue exploring. After going through the dark streets of the old town we arrived at the Golden Horn to see the bridge covered with fishermen.

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It was a great view but the smell was fairly terrible. It didn't seem like they caught much fish but apparently a lot sell them to restaurants and it is their livelihood.

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The next day we headed to the Hagia Sophia to see what all the fuss was about. The inside was spectacular. It was interesting to still see crosses (like a shadow) behind the muslim inscriptions and a few of the old mosaics.

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We headed to the Basilica Cistern. This area was amazing! They had flutes playing in the background which aided in giving the area a mystical feeling. The two heads of Medusa at the end of the cistern were swarmed with tourists hence the colours from all their flashes on them. Its not really known why they are there but it is known that they are meant to ward off bad spirits.

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We headed to the spice bazar to see all the tea and spices. There were spices everywhere. We had plenty of people trying to get us into their stall and feed us nuts and tea. We caved eventually and obviously then felt we had to buy something.

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We head back to the Süleymaniye Mosque we had looked at last night This is a more conservative mosques so I was required to be full covered and a head scarf are required to enter. It was beautiful inside and I was blown away by how the simplicity added to it’s beauty.

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Just like Bulgaria, street animals are everywhere here. There are more dogs than cats but the locals and the government look after these animals. There are also more street kids and beggars now. This was not heard of previously but has become a huge problem due to the Syrian refugees coming into Turkey. They have camps in out west but want to come to Istanbul for opportunities. Sadly they come with nothing and have no education. This is currently turning into a massive problem for Turkey and other neighbours of Syria.

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We headed to the Grand Bazaar. This place is like an overwhelming maze. It is ridiculous! We ended up coming out the same way we went after exploring for a couple of hours and I swear we didn’t cross the same stores (who knows how that happened!). Due to it being overwhelming I gave up even attempting to buy anything and just looked around.

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We had to try Chicken Breast Pudding. It is a milk pudding with shredded chicken breast fibres in it to make it thick. It didn't taste of chicken but you knew it was there so that was interesting. It was fairly rich so we failed to finish it.

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The next day we attended The Other Tour which is meant to give you an alternate view of Istanbul and take you a little more off the beaten track. We had a great day hanging out with two young guys.

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We went to the Asian side of Istanbul for Kanlica yoghurt and to explore Kadıköy before ferrying back for a homemade lunch by his mum (this was my favourite part!... The lentil soup and filo cigars were to die for!)

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We explored Fatih which is one of the more conservative areas before having a turkish bath. The turkish bath was definitely an experience. It was a long sauna before having someone exfoliate and wash you with a massage and then another sauna. It was an interesting and enjoyable experience and probably something I will do again when I am next in Turkey. We played pingpong and had the most delicious toasted sandwich with a dry chilli sausage in it. We headed to dinner and had to have a pre-dinner turkish ice cream. Turkish ice cream is delicious but unusual in consistency. It is chewy and you have to pull at it to get it off the scoop. They do an amazing little show and ring a bell when they put it in the cone. It has lotus root in it which gives it that texture!

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We discussed politics...current government (mixing politics with religion..conservative) to Ataturk..very liberal previous prime minster. Apparently this worries a lot of people. Originally before all the wars Istanbul was 50/50 muslim to foreigners. Now it is 5% foreigners. There are over 3000 mosques with more being built, 100 churches and 8 synagogues. The mosques are everywhere and kind of are a constant reminder of the islamic culture that is a part of the country. It was an interesting and enlightening day.

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My final day in Istanbul was spent completing a food tour. The tour consisted of 5 of us and our guide. It was better than I expected and I loved every moment of it. I can't wait to do another one. I tried a lot of random things like intestine kebab...it was so delicious! (yes I was surprised too) and drank a delicious turkish coffee. I have a post pretty much dedicated to the tour (I will put it up when I can).

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I took Lewis up to Takism square for dinner and more food experience. We had gomleze...we used to get them at the market and home and they were always delicious. The little shop had a lady constantly making gomleze in the window. She was lovely! And I thoroughly enjoyed watching her make our dinner. The gomleze was delicious. It was not too oily but no too dry.

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We also sampled a wet burger...that left a lot to be desired and I am glad I can say I tasted it. It basically was a soggy McDonalds hamburger. They but a lot of sauce in it and then put it in a humidifier to make it soggy.
I was sad to leave Istanbul. Hopefully it won't be long before we can head back to explore more of this amazing city and hopefully more of the country too.

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Posted by chellebelle 12:35 Archived in Turkey Tagged food tea mosques tours west photos east airbnb takism Comments (0)

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