Istanbul: A Turkish Delight
This former Christian city of Constantinople is today a Muslim Istanbul, a city that straddles both Europe and Asia; where East meets West. Two nights of our stay in Istanbul were on a cruise ship and three on land. Despite being an enormous city (and enormously crowded—Istanbul has a population of 14.6 million), all the major tourist attractions are in the district of Faith, the old part of the city. Here are a few of our highlights:
- Visiting the Spice Market and Grand Bazaar, both of which are filled with a maze of countless vendors selling variations of only the following: spices, Turkish delights, carpets, ceramics, clothing or jewelery. The Turkish are aggressive salespeople but in a joking and amusing way.
- Queuing a relatively short 40 minutes to see inside the Blue Mosque.
- Hagia Sofia, an architectural marvel from the 6th century that was first a church, then a mosque and now a museum.
- Exploring the gardens and ornate interiors of Topkapi Palace.
- Sitting either on the deck of our cruise ship or on the waterfront taking in Istanbul’s incredible skyline of rolling hills uniquely layered with mosques and minarets.
- Sneaking free samples of Turkish delight without making a purchase.
- Observing how playful and affectionate Turkish men are with each other. Coming from macho America, it’s an endearing sight to behold two (straight) young men walking with arms interlocked.
For the first time ever, we purchased a Museum Pass because it more or less paid for itself just to get into Hagia Sofia and Topkapi Palace, but also, it allowed us to bypass the lengthy queues to buy individual tickets at each site. We then visited the other attractions included with the pass, including the Mosaic Museum, Archeological Museum, and another ancient mosque—all of which we wouldn’t have paid to see otherwise.
Will we be back? Of course! Istanbul and Turkey were simply delightful, and there is still so much more for us to experience.