Istanbul, a wonderfully diverse city

This time last year I fell in love with Turkey. It’s an amazing country, great food, so much history, friendly people for the most part, and beautiful scenery. I spent two and a half weeks travelling through Turkey with my mum and dad, hitting up some of the ‘must see’ spots, and let me tell you, they are must see spots for a reason.

We spent six nights in Istanbul, which gave us plenty of time to explore the city itself as well as go on some day trips. There is way too much to go into everything we did, but here is what I thought of some of the ‘must sees’ spots that we visited.

The Grand Bazaar

The Grand Bazaar is famous for being one of the oldest and largest covered markets in the world. It is located in the old part of the city, Fatih, and is hard to miss. I wasn’t sure what to expect when we arrived to the markets, but I did think it would be hard to resist buying every second thing I saw. But it turns out I wasn’t so impressed. My favourite part of the markets was weaving in and out of the spice and tea shops, and particularly enjoyed when one shop attendant called Waleet, gave us the chance to smell and taste some of his favourites. He was so lovely, he even told my mum that if he was my husband he would “love me every minute of every day.” It seemed sweet at the time, but then as we continued to follow the maze of shops, we had male shop attendants (the shop attendants throughout Turkey were predominately male) yelling out offers to my mother asking her if she would sell me to them for camels, tea, money, gold and so on…it even got up to ferraris! It was funny at first but then the offers started to get old and repetitive.

Overall, I wasn’t that impressed with the Grand Bazaar, but, I do think it is something you should put on your list to see. It is part of the heart of Istanbul and if you wander the streets around the markets you will see locals carrying on their business and get a feel for the lifestyle. It is so close to some of the other main attractions in the city you can stop by easily, but keep in mind it is closed on Sundays.

The Blue Mosque

The Blue Mosque, officially called the Sultanahmet Camii, is a historical mosque in Turkey which is well known for the blue tiled design. It was so interesting learning about a religion which I had little knowledge about prior to this year, and seeing the architecture of such a majestic building.

We were lured into a ‘free’ tour by the nephew of a carpet salesman, who in return for the tour wanted us to visit his uncle’s shop. With the local close by we were able to jump the queue of other tourists lining up to enter the mosque (to a few unimpressed looks) and venture inside.

The mosque was huge – but the majority of it was sectioned off for males. We stood (with our scarfs wrapped around our heads) behind the roped off section observing the behaviour of the local Turkish people and admiring the blue tiles which gave the mosque its name.

The Galata Tower

The Galata Tower was the best way to get a panoramic view of Istanbul. Don’t let the height deceive you, there is an elevator which will take you all the way to the top, and once you reach the viewing deck there is also a cafe for you to sit and enjoy the views sipping a coffee!

Gallipoli (day trip)

If you have a full day to spare, I would highly recommend doing the Gallipoli day trip. It was particularly moving for us Aussies on board, but everyone found the tour very educational.

Not only did we go on a long bus trip to get here, but also an emotional roller coaster once we arrived. It was so hard to believe that the beautiful scenic beaches that we were standing on were once battle fields where so many men lost their lives. At the same time it was so humbling to see the remains of the trenches and physically stand in them trying to imagine the circumstances the soldiers were living in. And then tear jerking to read all of the memorials, and hear the real life stories of individual soldiers.

Having grown up in Australia and learning the story of how our troops landed in the incorrect location during WW1, it was interesting to hear the sequence of events told by a Turkish tour guide.

Prince’s Islands (day trip)

And last but not least, a visit to the Prince’s Islands, the islands where the Princes were exiled to if they broke the laws (or so I was told). The Prince’s Islands are made up of nine islands, with only four being open to the public. One of the main draw cards for the islands is that they have limited motor vehicles on them, and you will be spend the day touring the island either on foot, bicycle or horse drawn cart.

To check the islands out you can take the public ferry, be warned the tour companies try to get you to take the private ferries but it costs a lot more and there is no need to have a tour on these islands.


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