ISTANBUL
November 29, 2017

TURKISH DELIGHT

Mummy Starr often travels to Turkey for business. Just like her son, she is a born entrepreneur and has often commented on the benefits of commerce in Merter. Being less business inclined, I opted to visit the city of Istanbul for a full on adventure of the touristy variety. It was a trip that almost wasn’t to be. I had lost a dear friend not long before and ended up attending his funeral the morning of my flight. A surreal experience, dashing from the church to the airport. I can’t truthfully say that I was in the holiday spirit when boarding. The moments leading up to my trip were fraught with emotion and I was unsure I’d even be able to see the trip through. Somehow though, l managed to compose myself, and the vacation turned out to be exactly what l needed – one of deep introspection and quiet reflection. Perfect I  guess when visiting mosques and museums. Unintentionally, my emotional state had matched my surroundings and I felt very much at peace.

We travel, some of us forever, to seek other places, other lives, other souls – Anais Nin

MOSQUES + MUSINGS


Istanbul was not like how I’d imagined it to be… Engulfed in history and tradition, the city still felt modern – sort of like old town Dubai or Marrakech but simultaneously, not at all. It is far less exotic than the latter yet the richness in culture and history permeated the air and is evident everywhere you go making the city almost magical.  I enjoyed wandering the streets at dusk, mostly in a haze of my own tortured thoughts. I visited the wondrous Hagia Sofia – both a Christian church and a mosque. Arabic gilded text adorned the walls and ceilings adjacent to ornate murals of Christ, all superbly offset by candlelit chandeliers and selected streams of natural light which poured in almost angelically through towering glass windows. It was truly spectacular to see!

Fortunately, my hotel was less than 10 minutes walk away from Sultanamhmet square which is pretty much where most of the main tourist attractions are. Here you can purchase a ticket that gives you access to all the main attractions over 2 days at a reduced cost, including the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia, Topkapi Palace and many museums. Topkapi Palace was probably my favourite place –  I was completely blown away by how much history had been preserved. Now a large museum, the palace was originally built in the 15th century and served as the main residence of the Ottoman sultans.  The Sultan’s harem chamber is wonderfully conserved, and the privy chamber houses sacred relics such as the cloak of Muhammad, including his tooth and a strand of his beard. You could easily spend an entire day here – I would suggest you set aside at least a couple of hours to walk the outside grounds alone, if not for the history, then for the scenery which is totally instagrammable. The palace overlooks the Golden Horn, where the Bosphorus Strait meets the Marmara Sea. Having always been a bit of a history geek in school, I still hold an affinity to happenings of the past. I left the palace feeling absolutely humbled and can’t thank the people of Turkey enough for lovingly conserving these old buildings, the treasures inside and selflessly sharing with the world.
TURKISH DELIGHT
TURKISH DELIGHT

TOP PLACES TO VISIT


HAGIA SOFIA

THE BLUE MOSQUE

TOPKAPI PALACE

SULTANAHMET SQUARE

GALATA BRIDGE

GRAND BAZAAR

 


 

 

TURKISH DELIGHT

SCAMS, SWEET TREATS + NAKED BATHS


Other highlights of my city break included the Galata Bridge which also offers a great view of the Golden Horn. Locals can be found fishing for their supper and you can even rent a rod and try your luck too! For those not feeling as adventurous, you can dine at one of the many restaurants in the local vicinity which all serve fresh seafood dishes caught directly from the sea.  Word of caution though – if a shoe brush is dropped in front of you keep walking! It’s a known scam which I unwittingly fell for; whereby a shoe brush is dropped directly in front of you and of course, you pick it up and return it to the owner who will then offer you a ‘free shoe shine’ for your kindness. Despite refusing multiple times, I eventually relented and then was asked for 100 TL which is about £20! Needless to say, I didn’t pay, given that my Vans hadn’t needed cleaning in the first place and ended up dirtier afterwards than they were before!

Other highlights of my break included an authentic hammam at the oldest Turkish Bath in Istanbul – Aga Hamami. It wasn’t a luxurious 5* experience by any means, took a long time to find, and not in the most desirable area either, but it was an amazing experience all the same that I would highly recommend. Again, the historic element of the building sold this particular venue to me, but I’m sure there are many other places you could go to for something similar. Be warned though – you are expected to get fully naked, and will be scrubbed down like a new born baby! Definitely not one for the shy or the prudish.

Of course you can’t visit Turkey without doing a spot of shopping. The Grand Bazaar is the perfect place for this as you will find everything from gold, to oils and perfumes, soaps, lamps and amazing crockery (I somehow managed to stuff hand made ottoman inspired serving bowls and dishes precariously into my hand luggage without breaking them). The Spice Market is also a great place for the budding chefs among us – but not so much applicable to me, so I opted to indulge in sweet treats instead to which there were plenty. You won’t need to walk far to find a sweet shop in Istanbul – in fact there are some streets which are literally lined with candy shops. Don’t leave without grabbing a box of  baklava and Turkish Delights – which come in an assortment of imaginative flavours, colours and textures. The sweet treats alone are enough to have me plotting my return to this wonderful city…

 

 

Did you like this post?

Why not leave a comment? Or take a look at my other travel adventures HERE