I've loved putting together these posts on Turkey. Our time there was so eye-opening and whimsical. I had never been submerged in a culture so different from my own.
I learned a great deal from our time there. I remember taking a Sunday cruise down the Bosporus with my husband one weekend, looking off and seeing the extraordinary views, thinking to myself that one day in the future my mind would wander back to our Istanbul days and feel that perhaps it wasn't real. It would feel like a dream; a surreal all-to-perfect dream that I would hold so very near and dear to my heart...and that day has already arrived.
Going through these pictures has reminded me of how infatuated I am with this city.
Okay, so if you missed my Part 1 of this series--you can check it out here (it covers the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, and Chora Church)
Today the travel guide continues and I'm so stoked about it. We're going to start off with 1) The Bosporus River Cruise--This is a must & there are many different types of cruises you can take. We took an afternoon cruise that only lasted 3-4 hours and we thought it was a great amount of time, but there are evening cruises that serve dinner and also all-day cruises that go further and have more stops that you can get off at and do a little exploring.
2) Rumelian Castle (Rumelihisarı) may have been one of my favorite adventures that I had in Istanbul. I ventured out on my own one day and walked there (it took about thirty minutes from where we were staying) and loved it so much that I took my husband back the next day.
It has a very unique history that I could go on and on about, but I'll just give you the watered-down history lesson. It was built by built by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II between 1451 and 1452 as part of his quest to conquer Constantinople. He used it to control the sea traffic and keep aide from reaching the city.
The coolest part of visiting this castle is that it's only five turkish lira to get in and it's basically abandoned. Other than a few security guards by the front door, you can pretty much climb any walls you want and hang out for as long as you wish. I don't recommend taking small children there. I was having small panic attacks just getting my husband and I up and down some of the narrow stair wells. There is no railing and extremely high drops.
I love this picture for two main reasons, 1) I am standing in an ancient piece of world history while a modern and very famous world landmark stands in the background and 2) I am standing in Europe and that land across the river behind me is Asia. That's rad.
3) Sultanahmet Camii was a unique experience that I definitely recommend. Visiting the mosques is really one of the main parts of the true Istanbul experience. They all have a lot of similarities, but also a lot of differences--and of course as females we do have to cover our heads in some of the mosques (hence my scarf)
This was the instagram picture I posted the afternoon we were there.
"Which none shall touch but those who are clean." - The Qur'an
4) The Grand Bazaar & Spice Bazaar are definitely two of the main tourist attractions (and you can see both in the latest James Bond movie)
But trust me, in real life there would be no possible way he could actually ride a motorcycle through the hallways of the grand bazaar without seriously injuring hundreds of people. It's packed with crowds constantly and is already a pretty narrow space.
It's fun shopping, especially for tourists. We were able to get some great hand made pillow shams and also bought some fun snacks and desserts to take back to our family and friends (Sidenote: My husband and I love their "Turkish Delights". They are a jelly like candy that they cut up into small squares and cover in powdered sugar! I definitely recommend trying some while you're there!)
Lots of handmade goodies at low prices. Definitely made for some good touristy-shopping!
5. Taksim Square is a great location to visit both during the day and at night. It's known for its bustling nightlife, shopping, and food. We noticed that it attracts a much younger crowd and also a decent amount of tourists.
Street performers all over the place. This girl and her fire hula-hoop were pretty impressive.
I also want to give a shout out to our amazing accomodations at Le Méridien Istanbul Etiler
By the end of our multiple month stay they probably knew us much better than they ever wanted to, but they were absolutely the most accommodating staff I have ever seen. The hotel is only a couple years old and is such a stunning space. The staff was so wonderful and I was genuinely sad to leave them by the end.
On my birthday they sent me up chocolate cake and card signed by all the staff that worked on our floor. It honestly made my day! (That and the cirque du soleil tickets that my husband surprised me with!)
I was a little spoiled while staying at the Le Meridien :)
In the evenings we'd often go up to the Rooftop Club/Bar at Le Meridien and have coca-cola lights & eat pears (they have the BEST pears out there--I would probably eat two or three pears a day)
"Mangerie" is one of my favorite places we ate while in Istanbul. It's a little breakfast/brunch cafe up on the third floor of a little building down by the water and fairly close to the Le Meridien. It was delightful, but very busy (so plan on a small wait) They are known for their breakfast/brunch dishes and Turkish Coffee.
Ohhhhhh, so that's where Paris Hilton went! I've been wondering what happened to her.
Thinking back on our time there it really does feel like a dream of sorts. Exploring ancient ruins, enjoying the beautiful scenes of the Bosporus, not understanding a word my taxi cab drivers were saying, standing on my balcony in Europe--staring across at the bridge connecting us to Asia, and having my eyes opened to the depth of the cultures all thrown into a magical melting pot they call Istanbul.
It will always have a cherished place in my heart, and I know one day when I return it will be a heartfelt reunion.