A Travellerspoint blog

Istanbul, Turkey

Into the Mediterranean!

sunny 80 °F

Perhaps it’s because we were so excited to be out of the heat and crowds of India, or because it reminded us so much of San Francisco, but for whatever reason, we fell in love with Istanbul. It is surrounded by beautiful blue waters, filled with cute tea shops and green parks, littered with sky lines and cityscapes, alive with trams that meander flower lined walking streets past historical castles and bazaars. It is a wonderful city to get lost in and to absorb all of the sites, foods, and sounds of the mosques. We enjoyed fresh veggies without worry of bad water, and sampled many of the local delights with the first and most obvious being the Turkish Delights. We decided that we like the original chewy ones, that don’t contain nuts or other frills. Second, there is baklava, with all different kinds, including chocolate! We ate doners, which are similar to our beloved schwarma and last but not least there is an endless supply of yogurts, cay (chai), and Turkish coffee. All of which can be enjoyed while sitting outside in cafes with ample people watching opportunities. The people here are super friendly and hold true the legendary ‘Turkish hospitality.’ People seemed to be relaxed and spend a lot of their day sitting outside, drinking cay from tulip shaped glasses.

Istanbul is unique in that half of the city is located on the European continent while the other half separated by the Bosphorus is on the Asian continent. While on the Europe side, we stayed in 68 Hostel on the Tophane tram stop. We were pleasantly surprised with it being located smack in the middle of a cute little neighborhood, with a market, a few veggie and fruit stands, a baklava bakery and a caged mini soccer field. We were close enough to walk to all of the historic sites, and just around the corner was a park on the hill with an awesome sunset view of the Bosphorus!

We spent some time wandering around the entirely covered Grand Bazaar, through the cavern like underground streets with blue glass “watching eye” charms peering at us from every shop. We learned that these watching eyes are supposed to fend off evil and bad spirits, and Robin is now protected with here new necklace! We had the impression that they were sold only to tourists since they were sold all over the bazaar, however, we later noticed watching eyes in every normal shop, home and on bumpers of cars and buses!

We found the best tourist site to be the least visited and hardest to find. It was the Basilica Cistern that was featured in the movie ‘From Russia with Love.’ It’s an underground water tank that used to hold 2,800,000 cu ft of water for the city and it blew our expectations away. It was like walking underground into the ‘Mines of Morea’ with spooky columns holding up a dimly lighted dome roof.

Before heading over to the Asian side, we took a cruise along the Bosphorus to the Black Sea, where we spent a few hours enjoying the view from a castle on top of a hill. We were joined by some dolphins swimming just off the bow of our boat and went under several familiar looking bridges :)

Leaving the tourist sites behind on the European side, we ventured into the suburbs to meet up with Osman and Kubra where we experienced a more practical version of Istanbul. We were greeted with an amazing spread of typical Turkish breakfasts and some good home cooking. Osman and Kubra took us on day trip up to the Black Sea near Agva where we stopped in little fishing towns and spent some time relaxing on the beach, making sand castles, flying a kite, and riding river bicycles!

Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 10:53 Archived in Turkey

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