Alison and I left the University at 12am on Friday, after calling our amazing and wonderful cab guy…we finally found a regular one who is awesome and reliable! After being surprised once again at the laxness of security in Egypt…we meandered to our gate and sat. (To pass time we sounded out words written on signs….we didn’t know what they meant but we could say them! Haha) We jumped on our 2:30 am flight to Istanbul, Turkey sleep drunk and ready for a nap! The flight was easy (I wish I could have slept more though) and the landing was gloriously smooth (no Inshallaha Air landing here!)
The taxi ride to our hotel was BEAUTIFUL! I fell in love with Turkey on the ride. (Our old bald driver was blasting techno music the whole time…it was wonderful) It was so exciting to see flowers, and trees, and grass everywhere again! The weather was crisp and cool; which was awesome because I thought I wasn’t going to be able to experience a fall this year! Our hotel was gorgeous and Alison and I didn’t want to leave! It was a nice change of pace and exciting to be spoiled for a few days!
Our first night there we went out and explored the street we were living on. We found this awesome restaurant, Doce, where we ate several other times during our stay. Later that night we met up with two of our friends who are staying in Istanbul the rest of this week and went to a Nargile café and smoked/ drank tea while we planned the rest of our stay.
The next day we went and explored the historical landmarks in Istanbul. We went to the Topkapi Palace, which was the grand palace of the Ottoman Empire. We saw lots of jewels, pretty paintings, and pure elegance. The palace is located right on the water! (Which was wonderful because I was missing those chilly fall days where the wind whips off of the water and sends chills through your whole body!) It was the perfect location for tons of pictures with my friends and me! (I will do a picture only post when I get back to Egypt!!)
Then we ate lunch at a little café by the Hippodrome, across from the Egyptian obelisk, where we witnessed (we only found this out later though) the burial procession of the last Turkish Sultan who died earlier this week. We were scared that we were by a riot! We then went to the Aya Sophia, it was a Church in Constantinople which was later changed into a mosque when the ruling class became Muslim. The meshing of the two religions in one building was astonishing and breathtaking. The mosaics that had been hidden by plaster when the church was converted to a mosque were gorgeous and still glittered with their past elegance! After leaving the Aya Spohia we went to The Blue Mosque.
The Blue Mosque is so named for the hand painted blue tiles that adorn its walls. But before we were allowed into the mosque we had to wait for the evening prayer to finish! Also when you go into a mosque you have to cover up, so we all slipped on our sweaters and put our scarves over our heads…and you must take off your shoes. (If you don’t have things to cover up with they have people outside handing you robes that you can slip on over your clothing.) The mosque was just as amazing as everyone had made it out to be! It is lit only from light from the windows with a few chandeliers that dangle down from wires that stretch from the ceiling to 7 feet above the floor. It gives the illusion that you are amongst the stars when you sit down on the luscious carpet and look up. We sat in the mosque for a while just taking it all it. The air was filled with a peace that you can only find in a spot filled with so much faith.
That night Alison stayed in and did work while Nimisha, Cheyenne, and I went and explored! We ended up eating the best chicken kabob sandwiches we have ever had from an awesome vender by the hostel they were staying at! Then we headed back to the hotel Alison and I were staying at and had a sleep over!
The next day we woke up and headed over to the spice market! (Who doesn’t want to start their day filled with fresh spices and yummy free food!!!) Then we walked over the bridge to the other side of Istanbul! There we ate lunch (corn from a vender!) and sat by the water. (In order to get to a place to sit we had to walk past a creepy fish market though…it was depressing…) After that we went to a hidden book market outside of the Grand Bazaar. It was defiantly a hidden treasure and smelled amazing! (Who doesn’t love the smell of old books?!) Then we headed back to our hotel where we chilled and watched Aladdin! (The evening was punctuated by a frantic search all over Istanbul for pizza since we had been seeing signs for Pizza Hut all day!) We had another sleep over that night because we wanted to get up early and go spend our last day at the bazaar.
Our last morning in Istanbul we woke up and headed out to the Bazaar where I spent too much money…but it was fun and I got some really cool things! We ate one last time at Doce, the first restaurant that Alison and I ate at in Istanbul, and had apple tea one last time (a local yummy favorite), then headed back to the hotel to catch our cab!
It was a wonderful 4 days and I know I left a part of my heart in Istanbul! I hope that I get to come back to this wonderful city again sometime in my lifetime!