Around this very hour last week, I was in another world. Istanbul – Turkey’s largest city with well preserved heritage from Byzantine churches to Ottoman palaces was simply, breathtaking. It’s so different from the city I flew from. The season was winter, weather cool at 14C at daytime and a bit cold with rain at night. Here was a city with lots of relics from thousands of years ago still standing.
Istanbul is situated between two worlds: Europe and Asia. We were taken to the Grand Bazaar, one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world but the last thing on my mind when I arrived in Turkey was shopping. The Grand Bazaar was wonderful but the traveling bag that I brought was small and I only had budget for small stuffs like key chains, fridge magnets and most importantly, Turkish delights.
In earlier times, the market was a meeting point for locals, a place to congregate after a visit to the nearby mosques and, of course, a trading venue, where merchants offered gold, gems or fine fabrics.
I loved the colors of things sold at the Grand Bazaar from lamps to ceramics to textiles and teas but this is a very big tourist trap and there’s nothing that you can’t find in other shopping places so I spent time admiring the architecture rather than buying stuff.
Pomegranate juice vendor in the street outside the Grand Bazaar.
My friend Sheila and I , along with one of our guides decided to go out of the Grand Bazaar as soon as possible and explore the nearby sights. The guide said we should go see the Suleymaniye Mosque.
The Suleymaniye Mosque is an Ottoman imperial mosque located on the Third Hill of Istanbul, Turkey. It is the largest mosque in the city, and one of the best-known sights of Istanbul.
Standing on this very ground and I felt I’ve been taken into another place in time. This is one of those places I wish I could stay longer and just linger and breathe in the sights. For a while, I thought time stopped.
This is the European side of Turkey and what’s more European than cobbled streets?
These walls in the above photos? Hundreds of years old!
Winter is Istanbul is tricky, weather wise. It could be sunny and a little warm one day and then cold and rainy the next. On the day of our city tour where we needed to walk a lot outside, the Gods were on our side. Istanbul is beautiful in November – at least when we were there.
It was a great weather to be outside. And so nice to see flowers thriving in their natural environment (no hoses to water them at regular intervals automatically, like in Dubai).
When you visit the Topkapi Palace, don’t ever miss the side where you can see the wonderful view of the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn from the palace patios.
At Topkapi Palace, you can walk through the courtyards and see the interiors of the buildings and just imagine what life must have been like in the past. Unfortunately photography is not permitted in the treasury rooms which house the most beautiful jewelery encrusted with emeralds and rubies and diamonds.
If these walls could talk…
What is a Turkey trip without visiting one of the historical places – The Blue Mosque (Called Sultanahmet Camii in Turkish) is an historical mosque in Istanbul. The mosque is known as the Blue Mosque because of blue tiles surrounding the walls of interior design. This is one of the few mosques in the world where non-Muslims can enter but (predictably enough), women have to cover their hair when entering the mosque and the textile color is, blue.
And of course, Hagia Sophia. Hagia Sophia is a great architectural beauty and an important monument both for Byzantine and for Ottoman Empires. Once a church, later a mosque, and now a museum .
Turkey was magnificent. The scenes, sights and food was better than I had imagined it to be. In three short days in this gleaming city, we were able to immerse in nearly 3,000 years of history, from Roman ruins to Byzantine marvels, Ottoman treasures and modern amusements.
Like all trips, it was time to go back home. This was the view I saw before I boarded the bus to the airport. I’m leaving this historical world behind but I heard a whisper in my heart, “I’m going to be back.”
Thank you for reading all the way to the end! I wanted to write about each day of the trip as soon as I can so it is still fresh but alas, the only thing my mind and body was able to handle at the end of the day was a quick shower and bed. If I forgot about some tidbits, I’ll be posting again.
A very huge thank you to Turkish Airlines for inviting me and other bloggers from the GCC (Dubai, Qatar, Egypt and Kuwait) for this Istanbul bloggers trip. It was an honor to be considered for this wonderful travel opportunity. All views and opinions are mine.