Istanbul was our last destination on the European continent and technically, we were actually already infringing on Asia. A city packed with history, culture, souks, people and so much more, I was well aware our five nights in Istanbul would zoom by. We were meeting up with friends, we had booked an EIGHTEEN hour tour to Gallipoli and we were staying in two different accommodations. I also hoped to eat my weight in baklava and/or Turkish delight.
Multiple times we ate at various cafes down near the water in Karaköy. Moms Cafe, Station and Federal were all delightful, to name just a few. We also had a good time wandering the narrow winding streets near the Galata Tower, jam packed with coffee shops and stylish souvenirs. We stayed near Taksim Square, meaning we also frequented Independence Street: it’s liveliness, over crowded trams, bright colours and smells never once got old.
Sultanahmet is the hub for all the old tourist attractions. We had a mixed bag of luck: our entry into the Hagia Sophia was swift and the museum (/church) was not particularly busy. To my utmost disappointment the Blue Mosque was undergoing such severe interior renovations that it was virtually unrecognisable. The Basilica Cistern was also being renovated so although we could still go underground, there was no water. It became almost comical when we arrived at the Grand Bazaar to learn it was closed on Sundays, but when we did finally visit we had a great time wandering the stalls and being (lightly) hassled by the vendors. The spice market was also amazing: more upmarket and touristy than I had hoped for but housed in a rather magnificent arched building.
We didn’t indulge in fish sandwiches from under the bridge, although the mouthwatering smells almost broke me more than once. However, we did indulge in a boat cruise around the Bosphorus, giving us unhampered views of the Dolmabahce palace, fancy hotels and a closer view into the residences on the Asian side. We also splurged on rooftop wines at Snog Bar, which gave us a close up of the Galata Tower and the sprawling city beneath us.
Although I loved my time in Istanbul, I didn’t like the city quite as much as I’d been led to believe I would. Maybe it was because I was probably travel fatigued, but it just felt a little more piece meal as a city compared to other big places I’d been. Of course, it had the undeniable charm of souks, haggling and bargains present that European countries without an Asian influence lack. From Istanbul we are essentially beginning our journey home. See you soon NZ!