Sunday, May 13, 2012

"I want to go somewhere where I can marvel at something"

During our week off for Easter, 3 friends and I went to Istanbul, Turkey!! I was totally stoked! Turkey was definitely on my list of countries I wanted to visit!

We arrived at the airport around midnight awaiting our 4 am flight (I was having great flashbacks of my European travels sleeping in airports and having ridiculous flight times haha), we spent the night lounging in the fake grass, eating snacks, and playing cards! The time passed pretty quick and we were off!

good morning Turkey!

 We set foot in Turkey around 6 or 7 in the morning, on the Asian side. We were pretty tired but excited for our first day!! We took a bus, and then a lovely ferry ride and arrived on the European side to begin our day!!

We disembarked the ferry and just happened to stumble upon the Egyptian Spice Bazaar! The smells wafting through the air were heavenly. I felt as if I had stepped back in time a few thousand years. Any and every spice you could ever imagine was in there. As well as uncountable amounts of teas, Turkish delight, dried fruit, baklava etc.The construction of the spice bazaar began in 1597 by the order of Safiye Sultan, the wife of the Ottoman Sultan Murat, and was completed 67 years later. Back in the day this market was the last stop for the camel caravans that traveled the Silk Road from China, India, and Persia.

We made our way out of the bazaar in search of the hostel. We stopped for the most delicious find! Perfect early morning treat!! Mine was called Koktely made with banana, apple, pear, carrot, orange, kiwi, and peach. I was one happy girl!

We arrived at our hostel, took a short walk by the water while we waited to check-in, then explored a huge and gorgeous park! Little did we know we happened to be in Istanbul during the tulip festival!! Most people don't know that the tulip is the official flower of Istanbul and that they were actually the first to have it not Holland as many people believe. The park was extraordinary! So green, clean, and bursting with colorful flowers and an array of designs!

 I just wanted to hang out there for hours! But there was too much to see, so we journeyed onward!

 Next we were off to the Grand Bazaar! It is one of the largest covered markets in the world with its 4400 shops in 64 streets! You can buy things from jewelry, carpets, silk, t-shirts, shoes, soaps, gold, to basically anything! It's quite overwhelming! The rest of the day was spent walking around the city, we felt as though we were basically dead/sleep walking from no sleep so a couple of us napped in the grass, then continued with checking out the ancient aqueduct, seeing some more mosques, ate a delicious dinner then called it an early night!

Day 2: We got up early to get in line to see the Hagia Sofia which means "holy wisdom" or "divine wisdom". It was first built as a basilica by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian in 532-537 AD. In 1453, when Istanbul was conquered b the Turks it was converted into a mosque, then later it was transformed into a museum.

delicious apple tea

Then we took the Bosphorus Tour! It was a gorgeous day to be on a boat! It went all along the coasts allowing us to see Istanbul from a whole other view! Seeing tons of mosques, palaces, old homes, bridges, and just splendid views of the city!

                                                      Next, we explored the happening street: Istiklal avenue filled with tons of people, shops, stores, restaurants, bars, cafes and basically everything!
We walked around for a while, enjoyed some dinner, then sat in a restaurant by the water where there was live music and just enjoyed the view.

Day 3: Today we went inside the Blue Mosque! A lil bit of history: Built in the 1600s "Sultan Ahmet I wanted to have a mosque with minarets made of gold which is altin in Turkish. The architect misunderstood him as alti which means six in English. However, the Sultan liked the minarets so much, Prior to that time, no sultan had a mosque with 6 minarets." It was massive and beautiful inside. Later that day it rained so we spent hours in a impressive archaeological museum. So much of what I've learned in history over the years, as Istanbul was once the capital of 3 world dominating empires: Roman, Empire, and Ottoman. There were so many interesting artifacts! It was still raining so we roamed around the Grand Bazaar again for a couple hours!

Day 4: We went to Miniaturk! Kind of a cheesy touristy thing in my opinion, but cool nevertheless! There are 105 models of architectural structures, 45 from within Istanbul, 45 from other parts of Turkey, and 15 built by Turks on the borders of other countries. It was neat and quite a different way to see some sites! It was amusing!

Next, we meandered through street markets and wandered in the spice bazaar again to get some baklava and enjoyed it in the wonderful park. Then had some tea, and explored the little streets and ended up going into another mosque, then  followed some music we heard which led us down to the boardwalk where locals were playing.

That evening we strolled back up to Istiklal Avenue to experience it at night. We ventured onto one of the tiny crazy side streets enjoyed a drink.You could just feel the energy of the city and we sat and savored the moment and atmosphere around us.

Following that we decided to take on a club where we were lured in with all drinks 5 lira about $2.80! So we got a drink and after they even gave us free drinks! The music was pretty good and it was a nice evening on the town!

my ride for the day!
Day 5: Today we took a boat ride to Princes' Island! It was a lovely ride to a place where there are no cars allowed! A nice change of pace from the bustling city! Only horse and carriage and bikes! It was formally a place where princes' were exiled. In my opinion not a bad place to be exiled to! We all rented bikes and rode around the island! It was the perfect weather and simply amazing! It felt incredible to be on a bike again!!...and pretty sweet to be cruising around a gorgeous island!!

Day 6: Today I was on my own and went to see the Dolmabache Palace! It was so lavish, and luxurious, and exquisite! Many people think it's a small version of the palace of Versailles in Paris. We weren't allowed to take photos inside, but it was extraordinary! I made one more run through the spice bazaar (where a guy made me some free tea with lots of delicious flavors!) then a stop at our favorite juice drink spot, and called it a day! We made our way to the airport that evening for our late night flight to return to back to Georgia. 

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