Jun 29, 2008
Istanbul was Constantinople
If India was our lobster-red sun burn, then Turkey has become our soothing and refreshing aloe. The storm has finally passed. Traveling is suddenly wonderful again. The roads are paved, the food is filled with meat, the cities are clean, and everyone is honest. Welcome to Turkey.
Our plane landed in Istanbul and to our absolute wonder and amazement not a single individual approached us to take their taxi or bus or stay at their hotel or buy their map or buy their daughter. We strolled onto the air-con metro and glided into beautiful Istanbul in absolute peace. Keep in mind we had just left a land of more than one billion people and even more headaches.
Istanbul is a world class city. It is also the only city that spans two continents: Europe and Asia. It has managed to blend old world beauty and heritage seamlessly together with a new sense of energy and excitement. We fell in love as soon as we stepped foot onto its rock paved streets and shaded parks. We spent four days exploring sights such as the Aya Sofya (Haghia Sophia). Built as a church in 537 AD, It is without doubt the most incredible building we have ever witnessed. Its walls and frescoes have withstood many earthquakes. Considering that 97% of Turks call themselves Muslim, it now serves duty as a mosque. Highlighting the skyline among dozens of mosques is the famous Blue Mosque. We fought the crowds to catch a glimpse of the beautiful blue tile work inside that give this standout its name.
We walked for miles enjoying the Grand Bazaar district of leather, gold, rugs, and anything else a tourist might buy. We took a poor man’s cruise in the form a 30 minute ferry across the Bosphorous River at sunset (highly recommended). Mostly we just strolled and enjoyed all that this westernized metropolis had to offer. We sat in benches and spent Turkish Lire and loved everything about it, especially the absence of cows.
It was an incredible city that greeted us with open arms and a warm kebab; exactly what we needed.