I know this is really over-due. I’m sorry!
About six weeks after I presented Ryan with his trip by wowing him with dancing skills and filling his belly with delicious traditional Turkish food, we were off to Istanbul!
Istanbul is a beautiful city with a rich history, fantastic food, beautiful mosques and interesting, elaborate decor with colorful lamps, silk pillows, handmade carpets and tapestries, mosaic tiles. We enjoyed countless cups of coffee and tea… oh the tea. Here, I fell in love with tea again. And, black coffee. We go through phases of drinking black coffee or adding flavored creamer but here is Istanbul, we wouldn’t have dreamed of ruining the intense flavor of the coffee with cream or even sugar. Though we did learn that the amazing coffee in Turkey is different than Turkish coffee. Coffee in Turkey is bold but almost sweet on it’s own. The flavor is complicated but not fussy, just plain good coffee (pictured below, left). The Turkish coffee (pictured below, right) on the other hand was more like sweet coffee sludge with a think layer of coffee gunk at the bottom.
We stopped for coffee several times to warm up and dry ourselves out between touring the Topkopic Palace, the Hagia Sofia church -turned mosque – turned museum. We walked the jagged cobbled stoned streets exploring the well-known sites and finding hidden gems.
The rain wasn’t all bad, it was a great excuse to cuddled under the disposable plastic umbrella, which vendors were selling on the streets for one Turkish Lira (about 60 US cents).
Our first stop was the Blue Mosque. This is probably the most recognizable structure in Istanbul and it was beautiful in person. We walked around the outside of the mosque while the call to payer sounded from every speaker mounted around the exterior walls. We watched as men walked inside to pray and many others stood out in the rain to watch and listen to music. The line to get into the mosque was far too long to wait in the rain but through a side door, we could see the mosaic tiles and the large yet simple chandeliers that lit the interior. Beautiful.
Next, we went the adjacent Hagia Sofia. The inside of the museum is breathtaking. The mosaics and the beautifully painted walls were aged and faded. In some areas the paint was completely worn and chipped away. We walked up the worn marble stairs. It made me think of my mother, who was not a fan of the chronically uneven stairs of Europe.
Of course, we went to the famous Grand Bazaar of Istanbul. The numbers of shops hawking spices and Turkish Delight was a little overwhelming. Here we reconfirmed my total lack of ability to barter at markets. After over paying for a silk scarf (although still a deal by American or European standards), I gave up and told Ryan to go in alone to buy the silver tea set we had found earlier in the day. The shop owner was so sweet, I knew I would end up paying what ever he asked.
We decided to see a show at the Hodjapasha Culture Center and it was well worth the time! This was one of our favorite parts of the trip! We picked the folk dance show, which contained about 15 different folk dances. Each dance had beautiful, elaborate costumes. There were a few types of belly dancing and one amazing solo belly dancer. The live music was up-lifting and fun. We found ourselves smiling through the entire show, amazed at the talent of the dancers and just happy to be there.
The weather wasn’t fantastic but we made the best of it. On the day it rained, we opted for a river cruise to the Asia side of Istanbul. Istanbul actually sits on two continents so why not? The boat took us along the river to see the mosques, churches, palaces and beautiful private homes on the bank of the river. The boat took us to a little fishing town, with very little to see apart from a yogurt stand. Apparently, the thing to do here is eat yogurt and that was about it. Ryan had yogurt topped with honey, I had powdered sugar…. a LOT of sugar. We did set foot on the continent of Asia though so… CHECK!
Visiting Istanbul was a wonderful trip. There was so so much to see and do. It was too much for one post. Istanbul Part 2, coming soon!