“If the world were a single state, Istanbul would have been its capital.” – Napoleon Bonaparte
Istanbul is absolutely majestic. With its impressive history, this city me giddy with excitement to explore and explore I did.
The Grand Bazaar was one of my favorite sites. Colorful can’t even begin to describe this shopping wonder. Opened in 1461, it has over 4,000 shops. One can buy anything from hookahs, jewelry, souvenirs, ceramics, magic carpets or magic lamps. Never accept a person’s first price because you’re expected to haggle for the best price, often lowering the initial price to half. Unfortunately, all I could do is ogle and take pictures of the things I wanted considering all I brought was a backpack as luggage for 13 days of travelling. Make sure to give yourself 2-3 hours to sniff around because it’s enormous and worth getting lost.
Another cool site was an underground cistern practically in the center of Sultanahmet. A cistern is a fancy word to describe a reservoir that stores water. It was built by Emperor Justinian in 532 CE and it holds 335 marble pillars that supports the roof! The bottom is filled with water and is lit with orange-looking light that makes one believe there’s gold or hidden monsters lurking for their next meal. At the end of the walkway are two mysterious giant Medusa heads. No one knows why they were placed in the cistern. I like to think they were there to combat those hidden monsters lurking in the water. At the end of our little walking tour, Lenny and I did the super touristy thing and paid to take pictures in traditional Turkish clothes.
I think mosques are so beautiful and majestic. The exterior is just as impressing as the interior. The Mosque of Sultan Ahmet I, also known as the Blue Mosque, is right across the Hagia Sophia. Five times a day, you’ll hear this enchanting call to prayer being broadcasted from the speakers of the Blue Mosque. Only allowed to enter during the non-worship hours, you have to take your shoes off. Ladies, if you’re showing off your legs or shoulders, they’ll give you a wrap to cover yourselves. Inside, you’re greeted with enormous chandeliers and beautiful ceiling work. It’s free to enter and enjoy.
This UNESCO word heritage site is the famous Hagia Sophia. It was rebuilt by Emperor Justinian in 537 CE and was the center of Orthodox Christianity for 900 years until 1453. When the city was conquered by the Ottomans, Sultan Mehmed II converted it into a mosque and it became known as the grand mosque of the sultans. In 1935, Hagia Sophia was preserved into a museum and is now one of the coolest and most important monuments in the world. Inside, you can still see the Christian mosaics alongside the turkish treasures.
If you want some real Turkish food or nightlife, take the tram up to Taksim Square. This side of Istanbul is super modern and feels like a metropolitan city. Here you’ll find most of the nice hotels, restaurants, nightclubs and shopping centers. Fortunately for me, my friend Selim who I met when we both studied abroad in Florence, Italy, lives in Istanbul and insisted in taking Lenny and I out to eat. He treated us to real authentic Turkish food, helped us learn a couple of Turkish words and took us out for drinks (Be aware of the taxes on alcohol. A couple of drinks can get pretty expensive).
Here are some of my other favorite pictures from around Istanbul:
If you like an adventure and want to experience something unique and amazing, take a trip to Istanbul! Have any of you guys been to Istanbul? Or somewhere else in Turkey?