Istanbul, Turkey

We journeyed to Istanbul, Turkey the summer of 2015. I want you to go because this county is beautiful, clean and we felt safe. The people were friendly the food was fabulous. Public transportation was simple. Enjoy my story. IMG_3421

Istanbul was a destination to us because it was a city full of Mosques, history and the fascinating Grand Bazaar or and I must not forget…. the Turkish Bath. There is almost no other city in the world as romantic as Istanbul. It spans two continents, has inspired thousands of authors and artists and, as it’s been around since 660 B.C., and it’s conglomeration of architecture rivals Rome.  Rick Steve’s Istanbul travel book was so helpful.IMG_0174

I had American Airlines Miles burning a hole in my pocket so it was time to see how far I can go. Los Angeles to Istanbul seemed like a good place to start. IMG_1528I love my Citibank Advantage card. If it was not for this card that I use for all purchases I would not be able to see the world like I have. This trip was for you my reader and for my son soon to be College graduate. Time to have a one on one with Mom. IMG_3343

Arriving into this city was special because it was graffiti free, flowers lining the boulevard and it was clean. Our six full days here we choose to stay at the Best Western President Hotel. It was close to the Blue Mosque and the Grand Bazaar. I had picked he hotel Best Western President Hotel pick us up and I am glad I did. It is always special after a long flight to see your name on a sign.

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We walked into a shop in Buyukada and they asked us to have lunch with them. It was delicious.

You will love Istanbul. While it’s in a Muslim country, Istanbul was different from the tense, religious scene that I read about in the newspapers. When we would go into a Mosque or explore a important monument we cried, but for a different reason: because we felt like we should be here it felt comfortable. It wasn’t one thing that made me feel that way. It was a combination of the scenery, the people, the culture, and the history. Taken altogether, it was a transportive experience, one that everyone should have.

Love street foodThroughout thousands of years Istanbul’s geographical position has maintained its importance. Today it is a huge metropolis connecting continents, cultures and religions and is home to eleven million people and one of the greatest business and cultural centers of the region. But we found the ciaos organized, safe and most of all clean.

Our hotel, The Best Western President was a short walk to the Grand Bazaar and Sultanahmet Square. Perfect place to explore the city. Our mode always when we travel is public transportation. Istanbul was so easy to navigate. I found that this website was the best for my Turkish adventure. http://www.turkeytravelplanner.com. After arriving to our hotel we took off on an adventure to stand and say, “oh my gosh we are in Turkey” It was beautiful and it was so much fun. I had fun trying to get the women that wore the Burka to smile, and yes! their eyes said Hi.

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The food tour of Istanbul was the best tour. She took us all over and we tasted the best Turkish delight, baklava, ice cream and the tasty Turkish food. Oh so good.

Our first day we went on a walking tour. I choose this company www.efenditravel.com We choose this company for all of our tours in Istanbul because they responded to me fast and you could tell by the way they wrote back that they were going to take me on an adventure of the city and bring it alive. The first sentence of my walking tour on line said. ” Istanbul has always been one of the most fascinating cities in the world. We offer this special excursion to our client who prefer to explore most in the city and pay less” They surpassed my expectations in all aspects. I can’t write about each day but I will give you a shortened version of my adventures.

Sultanahmet and The walls of Constantinople

Travelling to Istanbul during this part of the year is nothing short of a revelation. If you do travel to this amazing city, make sure you stay in Sltanahmet which is probably the beating heart of the entire city. And how can anyone ever miss the original walls of Constantinople. There’s something about these walls that identifies with grandeur on a different level altogether.

Hagia SofiaIMG_0267  IMG_0262IMG_0264

The co-existence of Islamic and Christian religions is downright astounding. It is fascinating to experience how this city accommodates these sects of religion with a bare minimum effort. From a Greek orthodox cathedral to mosque along with a Roman Catholic cathedral, religions co-exist in harmony signifying the absolute essence of ‘religion’ itself. The Hagia Sofia has the unique distinction of being one of the few buildings to have served as a church, a mosque, and a museum during its nearly 1,500-year history. Unlike the Hagia Sofia, the Blue Mosque remains an active mosque. It’s closed to non-worshippers during the daily prayers and female visitors are asked to wear head coverings. I really enjoyed this requirement. It was magical to be in here and hear the many in prayer.

Blue Mosque and the Hippodrome

Majestic-Blue-Mosque-in-TurkeyAs the Blue mosque is amongst the last of the classical period, the people revere this structure and expect everyone to follow, which is completely justified at every level. So, at the entrance, you’ll be given covering materials if you aren’t dressed aptly for the Blue mosque. There is no need to feel anxious about the same but yes, you do need to be concerned of other visitors so that they can have their offerings and prayers in peace. We found this place to be amazing. Small word for what we really felt.

Grand BazaarIMG_0509

Justifying its name, the bazaar is a commercial home to around 4000 merchants. And to be honest, it was delightful to be surrounded with innumerable shops and stores, offering various types of goods. Needless to say, we were very pleased. What we did find strange was not many places selling women’s clothing, ” Oh” I said when I asked this question to a merchant. It is a muslin county and the women do not go out and shop like this in public. But they do buy a lot of shoes.

One of our favorite days was Food Taste Walking Tour from www.efenditravel.com

Must-See Spots: I could have stayed at Topkapi Palace for days. You will need at least half a day to explore this fascinating palace. And go early; it gets crowded.

If you have time, take a tour that highlights Istanbul’s Jewish culture. Explore the island of Buyukada.IMG_3313 IMG_3284 A careless island and all you hear is the sound of the clip clop of horse hooves. The ferry ride was also fun with a man selling kitchen tools. Yes, I purchase several.

IMG_0238The Basilica Cistern

A underground marvel of engineering built in the sixth century to store drinking water for the Great Palace. It’s now a stunningly beautiful site —made even more so by the mood lighting

IMG_0419Ferry ride along the BosphorusIMG_3357

During the entire excursion, this ferry cruise along the Bosphorus strait was indeed a highlight. Isolated and away from all the tourists, the public ferry ride gave us an unpopular yet fascinating view of the city. We had one of our best meals at a restaurant that was close to the Red Sea. We watched a fast storm move across the water with the loudest thunder we have ever heard.

Turkish bath (hamam) www.cemberlitashamami.com was our experience.

Now I must tell you about The Turkish Bath. It is a must a must and I will say it again. You have to try this experience.

Bath Procedure

First you need to relax and loosen up for a while, and most importantly sweat! A great time to explore the architecture of a Turkish bath. You are given a towel to cover yourself and you close your eyes and you lay down on this warm marble and look up. In most cases you are in an impressive room completely covered in marble featuring a big dome, several basins and an impressive huge massive heated marble platform. Women and men are separated. After 15 minutes of sitting and lying on the warm marble, the masseur entered the room. The first part of the service took place on the side of the central platform, while shifting positions all the time. The attendant soaked my body with warm water and lathered me with a sudsy swab. At the same time, being all slippery and wet, I received the massage. It was glorious. After the washing up and massage, it was time for the scrubbing. The attendant took a scrubber type towel and started scrubbing and I loved it! Smooth and clean. I wonder how Michael is doing? Time for the wash down from the attendant. I must say I want to do this again after a long day of touring.

IMG_3391Turkish cuisine is very diverse and world renowned. Istanbul is a melting pot of cultures, and all these influences pleasantly affect the food scene. You must experience real Turkish food. But with so many different dishes to choose from, where do you start? We signed up for a food tour again with Efindi Travel. They took us to several Turkish Delight stores and we picked delicious samples to try, we went to baklava stores and tried this sweet flaky pastry that was to die for. Then after a walk through a local town we had lunch. The best of the best of the our taste buds exploding with good food. I cannot begin to write about each food we sampled. Food that simply pamper your taste buds beyond imagination.

So I found a web site you have to go to and they will explain the food. The link is to the left.

This link is a web site that told me all I needed to know about street food.

Street food  was also a wonderful experience. I learned so much about the food from this web site. I printed out a copy to make sure that I tried everything. I hope you do to.

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The offspring of a pretzel and bagel i.e. simit totally spoiled us. It is like heaven when you add some honeycomb and butter cheese. Also, eat at your own risk because it is shamelessly delicious. I ate this for breakfast with local honey and all I could say was, “WOW”

Spice marketIMG_3275

House inside a 350 year old market hall, we bought along some exquisite spices and nuts which will always remind us of this magnificent city. We purchased so many spices and at the beginning of our trip that when I got home I opened them up and smelled glories memories .

IMG_3434Have you heard of the Whirling Dervishes? You can see them here. I wanted to attend a more authentic show instead of a big spectacle. So go here you will enjoy the authenticity of the show. The Whirling Dervishes took their name from Jelaleddin Rumi (1207-1273), the mystical poet and the great Sufi master, called Mevlana (our leader) by his disciples. Sufis seek a close relationship with God, and for Mevlana it was through chants, prayers, music and a whirling dance. This ceremony can be witnessed by visitors just like you and me. Keep in mind though that although it may look like a performance, it is still a religious ceremony.

This web site http://www.atasteoftravelblog.com/category/turkey/istanbul/ helped me plan this amazing trip.

Six full wonderful days. Time to move on to the magical city of Cappadocia, Turkey. June 17, 2015. First day of Ramadan.

 

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