THE EASTERN EUROPEAN SERIES PT2
There is nothing better than visiting a city have having no expectations and being blown away. And as if the Balkans wasn’t good enough, Istanbul then came along.
ISTANBUL IS ONE OF MY TOP 5 CITIES IN EUROPE
Visiting Istanbul was part of my Eastern European trip but it certainly justified it’s own post.
WHERE IS ISANBUL?
Being asked to strip in Istanbul
I arrived not long after Istanbul’s airport was bombed and straight away you could see how tight security was. This might only be restricted to the likes of the middle east countries but I imagine over time countries like my own might have to include the same policy’s. I checked into Megara Palace, an affordable boutique hotel just a few hundred yards from the city centre.
I hate architecture to be the first thing I talk about here but it is the first thing you will notice. The Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia Cathedral sit across the road from each other and are just a site to behold. They are two of the best buildings I have seen, not far from the Taj Mahal. LINK
Like the time I was at the Taj Mahal, I needed a seat to take it all in. There are park benches scattered around the small park between the two buildings and my biggest problem that day was not knowing which one to face.
Built in 500AD, The Hagia Sophia was originally a Greek Orthodox Christian Cathedral then an Ottoman Mosque but has now been turned into a museum. At the time it was the largest building in the world and changed the concept of architecture forever.
SULTAN AHMED MOSQUE
The Blue Mosque however is more recent and was built in the 1600s during the rule of Ahmed. It is still a functioning mosque and is open for tourists.
Topkapi Palace which is now a museum served as the residence for the Sultans of the Ottoman empire before Sultan Abdulmejid moved court to the Dolmabachçe Palace. Construction began in the 1400s and was originally named “New Palace”. Since then it has twice seen extensive renovations, once due to an earthquake and the other time due to a fire.
GALATA TOWER & TAKSIM SQUARE
It is also worth taking a trip across the Golden Horn river on the Galata Köprüsü bridge. Unfortunately, I didn’t get as far as Besiktas to see the Dolmabahçe Palace, something I regret but I do plan to return. Instead I visited the medieval Galata Tower and then onto Taksim Square, a busy retail and hospitality district. Here you will find some of Istanbul’s best eateries and cafes.
I was recommended a Hammam massage by my friend Lisa who lived in Turkey for a while and after two days of walking it was exactly what I needed. Little did I know what it involved.
First you are taken to a private steam room where you relax and allow your body to prepare itself for the scrub. The scrub is done in the main room with whoever else happens to be there and if you aren’t already naked, you are asked to do so. It was no problem but I just didn’t want to jumped the gun without knowing for sure.
Don’t get me wrong, the scrub was excellent and I felt rejuvenated, much better than a normal massage but there is something very strange about lying in a room with a few other naked men while a local scrubs every inch of your body. Do as the Romans do I suppose.
Istanbul not only has one of the largest and oldest Grand Bazaars in the world. It covers over a staggering 60 streets and includes over 4,000 shops selling everything from clothes and bags to jewellery and lights.
- PEOPLE – 7.5/10
- BACKPACKING – 8/10
- WEATHER – 7.5/10
- THINGS TO DO – 8/10
- FOOD – 7.5/10
- VALUE – 8/10
- HIGHLIGHT – The architecture
- LOWLIGHT – N/A
- MVP – The waiter who chose my lunch
- VISIT AGAIN – Absolutely
- RATING – 8.5/10
Istanbul left a lasting impression on me and I am counting the days when I can return to see everything I missed out on first time round.
Off to Kyiv where I visit one of the most dangerous places on earth. Click to read.
SAFE TRAVELS, DS x
- Have you been to Istanbul?
- What was your favourite thing to see?
- Can you recommend any restaurants or bars?
Let me know in the comments below . . .