When you hear from friends back home, and they say they’re going to be nearby, of course you make a plan to drop everything and head off to meet them! Such was the case with our trip to Istanbul, where we managed to see some of our favourite people, who had all planned to visit Turkey for a sailing-slash-exploration trip. Originally, we didn’t realise we’d be stuffing our faces with honey-pistachio-cranberry-pomegranate-Turkish-delight amazingness so soon into our trip, but wow, we’re sure glad we did!
Our eventful few days began with a tour of Istiklal Avenue in Taksim, the busiest street in the new part of town, surrounded by buildings highly influenced by the Ottoman era. Besides the almost-too-large crowd of 3 million people per day (on weekends), and the impressive Galata tower which you can reach easily from the street, you’re taken aback by the street performers and vendors, each luring you in with sweet sounds, magic tricks, and delicacies like Turkish ice-cream, roasted chestnuts and grilled mielies (that’s sweet corn cobs for the non-South-Africans).
Our stroll through the old town on day two, had us gazing at the world-famous Sultan Ahmet mosque, and admiring the maze-like Grand Bazar, holding over 3000 shops filled with patterned crockery, spice piles larger than small children, and an array of traditional ornaments. We ended the busyness with a cruise along the Bosphorus Strait, which boasted eye-popping views of the Golden Horn Metro Bridge, ancient palaces from the Ottoman dynasty, two continents close enough for one panoramic photo, and (unfortunately) a couple who took more selfies in the space of an hour than any pair of humans should ever, ever do.
Although we were lucky enough to explore the old and new parts of town, we felt most alive when we caught a ferry to the Asian side of Istanbul (where most of the locals live), to enjoy a real taste of local Turkish life. We couldn’t help but smile constantly with the city’s hypnotic energy, from the melodic calls for prayer waking us at 5am, to the beating drums of the entrepreneurial musicians accompanying us for the long walks home at 1am. The colors, the smells, and the overwhelming beauty of the architecture, made us incredibly sad to leave this magical town.
Thank you Istanbul…or as we have now learnt: Teşekkür ederim İstanbul.