Istanbull – Turkey

A month late with blogging this which honestly for me is not that bad. Anyway this year my dad and i took another  short vacation. We ended up choosing Istanbul which was the most interesting of the cheap options.  We had done the same last year with Iceland, if i’m not mistaken the flight tickets to Iceland have already doubled in price from when we went. At any rate this year it was Istanbul, Turkey.

A quick note on the weather in Istanbul in early february, well lets just say dress warm and bring water/wind proof gear. We were there for a good 3 days. The first night we arrived and went exploring the weather was relatively pleasant, not Caribbean warm but very doable with a warm jacket. The next day however we were plagued with rain. At first it was the kind of rain which is very small and just whips you in the face whilst walking. It is the kind of rain where if you were at home you’d prefer to stay inside. As tourists however we did not have that option. We had to brave the weather. Which progressively got worse until the point where it made the whole ordeal rather unpleasant. Not exactly ideal site seeing weather. The next day was much of the same and on the third day much to our surprise it snowed. and snowed. and snowed. Personally I like snow especially back at home where it covers everything in a blanket of white. Snow in Cities however is not the most pleasant, everything quickly turns into a brown slush. Enough of my complaining however i just wanted to give an idea of the weather conditions we experienced.

The first night we were in Istanbul we arrived relatively late Around 19:00 or later. After getting into the hotel we got the directions for one of the restaurants we were looking for and walked out of the hotel, Which was more or less in the thick of things with a short 30 min walk to most of the biggest tourist attractions. The first thing we noticed when stepping out of the hotel was a mosque right in front of the hotel. It was relatively small and unimportant but living in the Netherlands you don’t have that many mosque’s. Though i daresay no place i know of or can imagine has quite as many mosque’s as Istanbul. Our walk through Istanbul proved not to be as easy as was previously thought. Yes we had a map, yes we did know how to use it, but no… we did not know where the restaurant was. We ended up finding it after a chance turn down a street that looked nice. Needless to say perhaps navigating through Istanbul is not that easy. Luckily some of the biggest sites are really big. You don’t usually need a map to find the Hagia Sophia, you just need a general direction, that didn’t prove to be enough for us sometimes though.

Eating was one of the biggest reasons i was looking forward to coming to Istanbul. To be fair however eating is one of the biggest reasons I do much of anything.  Anyway lamb is pretty popular in Turkey and as it happened to turn out lamb was pretty popular with the two of us as well.   I’m afraid I do not remember what my first dish was called. It was lamb in a thickish reddish sauce with some bread mixed through and what I believe to be garlic sauce, though i could be mistaken.

The next day was our first day in which we could see the sights in Istanbul. The weather was miserable but it was not really raining so we opted not to bring an umbrella. Our first objective was, not surprisingly, food. I think my dad in I had something slightly different in mind when we thought of Turkish breakfast. We were thinking more in the lines of kebab’s or something of that nature. Instead it was actually not very different from most western breakfasts. Bacon, eggs and bread. We ended up having juice. Which one really can’t complain about, fresh juice is everywhere, its quick and tastes just as good fresh juice should, very good.

I don’t think we were sure about where we wanted to go after breakfast though it seemed as though it would be one of the mosque’s. Our undesicivness proved to be fatal so to speak. We walked for a good two hours through the city and slowly the amount of rain increased. One thing i do have to mention is that Istanbul is a rather chaotic place, not in the sense of screeching cars and the bustling of businessmen and others needed to get to work but the layout of the city, the tight streets people here and there. Perhaps because of this I didn’t not get the impression that it was the cleanest place. They had construction places sand was also surprisingly common and in one place there was a random fire (controlled) burning on one edge of the city. Naturally we got to see a good deal of the city. As you may expect we got sick of he rain pretty quickly so we took a stop, drank some tea and went to the Istanbul Archaeology Museums. (pictured above) It’s museums because there is more than one museum, there are a few buildings. Due to the rain however we did not visit what was outside of the museums (most of everything was inside anyway)

Taking pictures in these venue’s however proved to be a big hassle as they do not allow tripod’s. This is no surprise as tripods are usually big and bulky and will quickly be in the way. For this reason i took a gorilla pod.  A gorilla pod is essentially just a smaller tripod (much smaller). I do not see anyway in which it would be a nuisance, especially since there was about 5 people in the entire museum but none the less I was not allowed to use it. I ended up getting one shot with it however (pictured bottom left) before i was told to put it away.

The Pictures are of a sarcophagus. Of the many they had there.

The next of the venues we visited was the Hagia Sophia. Which was unless i was mistaken initially a christian church but upon which later became a mosque. This would explain why the religious figures have their faces scratched out.

That was the last trip for the day after which we went back to the hotel to escape from the never-ending rain.

The next day started much like the first, miserable weather (but now more windy) but with a glass of fresh orange juice. This time we decided to take the tram. Upon waiting for the tram however it actually started snowing. That pretty much persisted throughout the day. Initially we had decided to go to some square in turkey, due to the cold however it was rather hard to navigate and after having made a bit of the roundabout we decided the square was not that important in the first place.

So we then went to Topkapi palace.  Topkapi palace was a palace constructed and lived in by the ottoman sultans. They were rather big and magnificent and I wish I could have spent a bit more time to enjoy it properly. The wind and snow however was too great and sent us inside. The first place we visited was the harem which was where the Sultans kept their women, hundreds of them.  It must however have been to cold for them as there were no women present. (yes i am fully aware that was a horribly lame joke, but it had to be said)

Much to my regret I did not take many pictures of the exterior of the Topkapi palace. I should have endured the cold a few minutes longer. Either way here are two pictures of the interior.

Besides the many rooms in the palace there where also several rooms displaying certain treasures such as the Ttopkapi dagger and various other treasures which i cannot remember but most of which looked incredibly valuable.

After the palace we went out for lunch. I cannot remember what we ate but that is mostly irrelevant. What was most interesting is that every table contained a game of sorts. Chess, checkers or backgammon. We were seated at a table with backgammon, after a few minutes of trying to remember how to play the game a turkish guy next explained how it worked and played a quick game with my dad.

Due to the wind and cold we were somewhat reluctant to go back outside. Never the less we ended up making our way to the blue mosque. The thing about the blue mosque however is that you had to take your shoes off when entering. Normally I don’t have a problem with that. The problem however was the place we had to take off our shoes was outside and was covered partially in melted snow. The second you took your shoes off your feet were quite literally drenched with cold water, moreover because it was cold everyone took off their shoes right in front of the door so the entranceway got quite clogged pretty quickly which led to rather wet feet. The same happened on the way out.

The blue mosque itself was of course quite impressive. Personally however i prefered the interior of the Hagia Sophia. The blue mosque in comparison seemed rather empty. The exterior of the Blue mosque however i found more impressive. (Blue mosque pictured below; exterior and ceiling).

The blue mosque was the last significant location in Istanbul we had visited. This was the last night and we ended up having dinner in the hotel due to the vast amount of snow that had, and still was falling. In fact there was so much snow we had to left an hour earlier to the airport just incase.

In conclusion i think Istanbul is an excellent place. We were slightly unlucky with the weather however i think that in the summer Istanbul will be full with tourists.  We had most of all the sites to just a small group of tourists and even the most famous of items in Topkapi palace we had plenty of time to admire. I have not mentioned anything of the grand bazar not because i havent visited it nor because i didnt care much for it. (but because i had forgotten) Essentially the grand bazar is interesting in its own regard it is very much a maze and it is incredibly large. One thing i feel i should mention however is that it feels very much the same. Just about 90% of all the shops there display fabrics of sorts which is interesting in its own regard of course. For a guy who is not particularly interested in shopping however it gets old relatively quickly. The atmosphere and the way the shops are set up however are not boring. It is very different from what I’m used to and i would not have too much trouble to just walk through the grand bazar. This holds true for much of Istanbul which was just different. For one the call for prayer is not something we have, or at least not in the same fashion. We have church bells on sundays denoting time for church but otherwise the church bells are only sounded for time purposes, or when someone of importance dies i believe.

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