One thing I’ve learned in travel is that not everything goes as planned! I’m a pretty laid back person, but I do NOT like when my plans go awry, especially when other people are counting on me. So, when I got an email a WEEK before our trip that the flight plans to Italy had changed and we were suddenly staying overnight in Istanbul, I was less than thrilled…ok, truth be told, I was panicked. This ripple would affect all reservations already in place…
So, after my husband talked me off my ledge (he’s amazing at that), I called the airline, got our flight changed to a day before so that overnight in Istanbul wouldn’t affect our subsequent reservations in Venice.
As it turns out, it was an experience we will always remember. I mean, we got to see a country we otherwise wouldn’t have gone to, or would have only seen from the airport. Once we finally found our way out of the airport…who knew that would be so difficult?!? We found the hotel shuttle and were on our way on this great adventure.
After navigating traffic that rivals ours here in DC, our taxi driver dropped us off at the Sultanhamet District. Our senses were overwhelmed from the moment we stepped out of the taxi. It’s hard to describe the feeling…honestly, it’s completely overwhelming. Where do we go? What do we go see? Who do we trust? It’s not like I had a ton of time to research this city. This was spur of the moment, spontaneous…
Do be aware of those that are too friendly, too helpful. They are trying to sell you something. They will follow you and you will need to give them a hard no! Don’t let them take pictures of you or go to their family’s store down the street…it’s where you will probably get hustled. Beyond that though, there are those who are genuine and lovely.
I’m not sure I can describe the moment you see the Blue Mosque or the Hagia Sophia sitting opposite of each other in this historic district of Istanbul. It’s literally breathtaking! The Hagia Sophia dates back to 537, a Byzantine Catholic Church turned mosque, turned museum. The Blue Mosque, though younger (1609) is no less impressive.
Though the major tourist sites are impressive, don’t forget to take notice of the smaller, more local moments, like the guys shucking corn in a small out of the way building for the food carts. Buy the local food from the food carts, that’s the where the authentic stuff is…the real life. Check out the local markets, buy the decorative bowls and spices that catch your attention. When will you ever get this chance again? Take it all in, marvel at the colors and the scents…take pictures. Talk to the merchants. Ask questions. Live in this moment.
Speaking of living in the moment, we were hungry! So the search began for a restaurant that was open after sunset during Ramadan. Luckily, many restaurants cater to the tourists, so we found this fantastic rooftop place that exceeded our expectations. The view was unparalleled, the service was impeccable and the food was delicious. We could see Asia from our rooftop. And once the sun went down, the city lit up for Ramadan. It was spectacular!
We ordered the local beer and the halloumi cheese appetizer and soaked up every second of this gorgeous city.
I wish we had more time here as there is so much to explore, but I am so thankful for the few short hours that we spent experiencing the magic of an unexpected (and welcomed at first) stop on our adventure.
Life is short. Enjoy the journey, not just the destination.