I Love Istanbul. Let me count the ways.
Our love Fighting couple love letter to Istanbul must begin with the people. But before we start our overture, let’s say we accidentally fell in love. It was Luci’s year to pick our location for the annual big trip. We went back and forth on various spots around the world. Luci wanted a place with history, culture and food. I showed her a video of Turkey. In the next 24 hours, we booked a trip to Turkey. It happened so fast, she says I “Jedi-Mind Tricked Her.” She spent the next six months trying to get to Greece! But it turns out our “accident” in selecting Turkey was a dream come true. We fell in love.
Like most Norte Americanos, the first thing that comes to mind when we think of “Turkey” is the poor foul that gets placed in the center of the table in November. But Turkey is one of the most hospitable countries to visit.
We found Turks to be the epitome of kindness and generosity. On several occasions, Turks went the extra mile to show off their country and culture. As an example, once my subway card won’t work, and a man came up and swiped his. Whether we were buying a rug or a kabob, we were greeted with a smile and a “Welcome, my friend.”
Shopping is one of our favorite pastimes. Shopping in Istanbul is a contact sport! If you can buy it, you can find it in Istanbul. Of course, you cannot visit Istanbul without a trip to the famous Grand Bazaar. It literally takes days to explore it from top to bottom. There is so much to take in, so many little dark alleyways leading to hidden treasures.
A friend recently asked if an hour would be sufficient, we laughed. An hour is sufficient to have lunch before even going in. The main attractions at the Bazaar are rugs. Prices range from a few dollars to hundreds of thousands. Part of the game is agreeing on the price. Turkey also sports some beautiful hand painted pottery and delicately designed ceramics.
Our exposure to Islam has been very limited. In preparation for our visit, we invested some time to learn more about the world’s second largest religion with 1.5 billion followers or over 22% of the earth population. A few of the keys to understand about Islam: Followers of Islam are called Muslims. Muslims and Islam are not different (common misunderstanding).
Muslims take their teachings from the Qur’an. They believe that the religion was revealed universally through prophets including Abraham, Moses, Jesus and the last prophet Muhammad.
With a basic primer in Islam, we took in many of the famous holy places in Istanbul. Many of the historic mosques are now open to the general public to enter and explore. Again, we found the people of Istanbul more than willing to help us interpret what we were seeing. The artwork, carpets, stonework and the parishioners make visiting these places something special. Hearing the call to prayer at diverse times of the day added to the mystic of the city. We found the “quality” of the prayer caller to be dependent on the size of the city. Istanbul hosted the most beautiful prayer callers.
Regardless of your religious bent, take the time to understand what you are seeing, what it means to the people and why. Most of all please be respectful of the buildings. Most mosques require conservative clothing, women’s heads to be covered and shoes removed.
One of the defining features of Istanbul is the water. It is magical. The city itself is dived in half by the Bosporus River. It is not like the wimpy canals of Venice. The mighty Bosporus is a powerful, choppy and colorful symbol of the city. The bridges that link the city and two continents are works of art in both day and night time. Also, check out the Basilica cistern with discarded columns underground that held the city’s drinking water. It’s another monument’s to the city’s dramatic water.
Istanbul….(or is it Constantinople?), we love you. We love your intense waterscape, spirited markets, your warm people, and your heart. We can’t wait to go back!
If you are looking for help booking your holidays to Turkey, look no further!