I had a three day layover in Istanbul, Turkey on the way home from Uzbekistan. I briefly want to recognize Turkish Airlines for their excellent airline food (which almost made up for the mediocre service on board). Side note: I think I am an international flight snob now.
Back to Turkey though: Istanbul is incredible! The majority of the city is in Europe and it feels quite European. We stayed at a hostel in a bohemian part of town with lots of musical instrument stores, cafes, restaurants, and shops. I loved being able to walk so many places and also utilize Istanbul’s user-friendly public transportation system. Also, I traveled with another Op Smile worker and we both (independently) wanted to purchase and learn to play ukuleles. Lo and behold there were about five shops on our street with ukes in the windows. We took this as a sign from the universe that it was time to purchase.
The major tourist sites are the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, conveniently located across a garden from one another. The Hagia Sophia was built in the 500’s as a Christan church, but then converted into a mosque when the Ottoman rulers took over in the 1400’s. Now it is a museum with a fascinating combination of Christian and Muslim aspects. Also of interest (to me): there are several cats that wander around inside.
The Blue Mosque competes with Hagia Sophia for the beautiful ceiling award. I could not determine a winner. The intricate details are extraordinary.
We also visited the Grand Bazaar where you can get lost with the tiny alleyways of streets full of peddlers of every sort. Be prepared to bargain your little socks off on a visit here.
Another main attraction in Istanbul is taking a ferry across the Bosphorus River from Europe to Asia and back. Unfortunately, due to cold, rainy, cloudy, misty, etc. weather, we did not take such a ferry ride. We did, however, enjoy many a cup of tea and dessert at the various cafes throughout the city in our attempt at staying warm. Next time I visit Istanbul in April I will be prepared for cold Turkey.