Turkey has always been on the top of my travel-lust list after the Arctic. We were flying Turkish Airlines on our way to Luxembourg from Dubai and it only made sense to do a day long transit stopover to check out Istanbul. Of course, the weather was not in our favour, it was raining and freezing at the same time in the month of late March. Luckily for us, we were carrying our winter clothes because as on arrival the weather forecast was quite a surprise. Now, with only a day in our hands and so much to explore we decided to fit in what ever ‘Turkish’ we could do within our itinerary.
Turkey faring well as a gateway to Europe hosts a good assortment of all cultures; middle eastern to European. With a day in hand we were first thing at Sultanahmet square to visit the ever famous Blue Mosque. Over there on queueing to enter they were pretty strict with the dress code and a head scarf is compulsory for women. The blue mosque was personal highlight of Istanbul for me as it was awe-aspiring inside out.
The Sultanahmet Square is the historic heart of old Istanbul surrounded by the Hagia Sofia Museum, Basilica Cistern, Topkapi palace, Great palace Mosaic Museum, Blue Mosque and several other lesser sights.
Each one of them intact with engaging history behind them. The architecture of these monuments are striking with beautiful tile work.
TIP: Best way to know more about them is to explore the square with a tour guide who explains everything along the way.
One thing we made sure about was downing a fair amount of turkish sweets with a lot of turkish tea. The sweet shops are a treat to the sore eyes, there were endless options to choose from but no time to try them all. We especially enjoyed watching the staff prepare turkish delights from scratch at a dessert shop named Haci Ismail Hakki.
We savoured an assortment of baklavas and turkish delights with our tea and that was only “lunch”. Soon after for dinner we were at a local restaurant in the middle of a random market alley and tried some mind blowing spicy lamb kebabs and turkish pitas with minced lamb and cheese on it, all baked to perfection.
Those Turkish baklavas have set such standards on our palates that we haven’t come across any baklava as good as theirs and the search till date continues.
TIP: Save an entire meal space for those sweets. You might never get them as fresh and delicious anywhere else on the planet (we are still looking).
SHOPPING AT GRAND BAZAAR AND ISTIKLAL STREET
Even we couldn’t resist though it was just for a day that we were around in the city. Grand bazaar was overwhelming, it was an endless maze of beautiful turkish souvenirs, carpets, ceramic cutlery, glass lamps, tea and cafes. Istiklal street had more stalls selling clothes, bags and designer knock offs. It can get a little intimidating as stall owners holler at you in a friendly manner and try to lure you into purchasing their goods. It’s good to bring out your best bargaining skills while shopping at these places. We enjoyed bargaining and taking back turkish souvenirs for friends, decor items for home and tea for myself.
TIP: Do not miss the cafes serving baklavas, turkish delights and turkish ice cream from one of the many shops on ISTIKLAL STREET.
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