A Day in Istanbul

Istanbul from the Galata Bridge

After a long, and thankfully uneventful flight, Valerie and I began our long-planned journey to Turkey. We’ve strung together multiple tours through several different parts of the country for a total of almost 4 weeks. To make everything work, we had to limit ourselves to two nights in Istanbul before heading off to the wilds of the Kackar Mountains (pronounced “catch-car”) in Northeastern Turkey. We weren’t too concerned about the short time we had to explore this magnificent city as we planned four nights in the city on the return.

After settling into our comfortable hotel in the heart of the Sultanahmet region of the city, we decided to wander around to get our bearings. We discovered we were only a block away from the one of the most magnificent religious structures in the world: The Sultanahmet Mosque, or as its more famously known, the “Blue Mosque.” We met a gentleman outside the mosque by the name of Youseff who offered to guide us in the mosque for free. He was trying to drum up some business to his family’s nearby carpet shop. Since we were in the market for a Turkish rug for our new home, we decided to let him take us to the shop after the tour.

View of the Blue Mosque from the roof of our hotel

I was surprised by how enormous The Blue Mosque is – it holds a large number of worshipers at one time. At the rear of the mosque is an area where visitors are asked to remain so as not to disturb the worshipers. The mosque got its name from all of the beautiful blue tile work on the interior. It was just getting dark as we entered the mosque so we didn’t stay long as the evening call to prayer was about to begin. We knew we’d return at the end of the trip to take our photos.

So now it was time to check out the rugs. The experience of shopping for a Turkish rug was quite fun, and a bit overwhelming, with so many carpets of differing sizes, materials, and designs. But the owner cheerfully explained the different aspects of rugs and showed us many different designs while we sat and drank some tasty apple tea. The carpets were stunning, especially the silk ones. Sadly, they were way out of our price range. We finally decided on a particular carpet and after a few minutes of friendly haggling, we bought our first Turkish carpet. They packed it up in a case that would be convenient for carrying on the plane and kept it for us while we toured the country.

Basilica Cistern

The next day was our first full day in Istanbul. I was suffering a bad bout of jet lag, so my energy level was not at its highest. We did a nice loop walk around the Sultanahmet area, visiting the Basilica Cistern, which is a very unique experience, and the Grand Bazaar, a shopper’s paradise. We did the audio tour of the Cistern and it was worth the money. We worked our way from the Grand Bazaar down to the Golden Horn and crossed the Galata bridge to the Beyoğlu District. We then worked our way back across the bridge, with a brief visit to the local fish market, and climbed the hill back to our hotel for a brief rest. Just wandering the streets is such a treat – you never know what you’re going to see.

Art in the streets of Istanbul

Art in the streets of Istanbul

After a refreshing nap and a light lunch, we wandered back towards another magnificent monument, The Hagia Sophia, which is adjacent to the Blue Mosque and is an important monument both for the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires. Originally built as a Christian Church, it later became an Islamic mosque, and is now a museum. This is another enormous structure with towering domes and arches adorned with Islamic religious symbols and sections of beautiful mosaic Christian art that had been plastered over when it was converted to a mosque.

The Hagia Sophia

The Hagia Sophia

Interior of the Hagia Sophia

Interior of the Hagia Sophia

Mosaic in the Hagia Sophia

Mosaic in the Hagia Sophia

After our visit to the Hagia Sophia museum and a nice walk around the Hippodrome, we decided to hunt down a place for dinner. During our wanderings, Valerie had spotted a place selling Turkish Ravioli, so we decided to check it out. Instead of the usual square shape with fillings of the traditional ravioli, this was very small lumps (about the size of marbles) of dough filled with lamb meat. This was served in a bowl, with yogurt sauce and chili oil spread over the top, followed by a combination of the three spices mint, sumac, and chili powder. This ravioli is a traditional Antolian dish and it was fantastic.

Turkish Ravioli – delicious!

A fine dinner topped off the end of a wonderful day in Istanbul. We will return in a few weeks after our tour around Turkey to savor more of its delights.

Note: most of our time in Istanbul was at the end of the trip. Read about it here. Or you can watch a fast-paced video tour of Istanbul here.


About Mike

I have a passion for adventure travel that began in 1989 with my first overseas trip: climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Having never been to a foreign country, Africa felt like being on another planet; I knew then and there I was hooked on travel. Since that time, I have visited all seven continents and dozens of countries. I’m using the experience I’ve gained in planning my own trips to help my clients plan their own adventures through my adventure travel company (http://www.offtrailtravel.com). After working as a firefighter for the US Forest Service in California and Wyoming for three years, I moved to Durango, Colorado where I graduated from Fort Lewis College with a degree in accounting. After graduation I moved to the Denver area where I worked in a Big Eight accounting firm to obtain my CPA license; soon afterward I began a career as an auditor with the Colorado Department of Education. My background in accounting helped me develop detailed-oriented skills that have been extremely useful in researching and planning my own travel over the years. I think this provides a unique asset to my clients in putting together their adventure travel plans. I currently live in Golden, Colorado with my wife Valerie, who shares my love of adventure travel. I’m an active member of the Colorado Mountain Club where I lead trips for club members and have taught ski lessons in their Telemark Ski School. I enjoy skiing, mountain hiking, trail running, photography, and astronomy. I take any opportunity I can get to explore new places, whether it’s on the other side of the world or just down the road.
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One Response to A Day in Istanbul

  1. Pingback: Exploring Istanbul, Turkey – VIDEO « Off Trail Travel

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