Turkey – Travel and Touring
Stayed: 10 Nights
When: 1 May to 10 May
After traveling through Asia for four months we were all looking forward to Europe, a change of pace, culture, and cuisine. However, East Turkey is still considered to be Asia by, well, everyone and West is considered to be Europe, so we had a laugh about the fact that we were still technically in Asia for most of our stay. Historically East Turkey has always been described as Asia Minor and so we should have expected this.
We arrived in the early am on the 1st of May, Labor Day around most of the world and one that was notoriously violent. We were warned not to venture into Taxsim Square where most of the protests had been arranged. There was some trouble in the square that day but we were on the other side of the river (the European side) and well enough away.
After only a short stay and lots of sight seeing in Istanbul we hired a campervan to see Gallipoli and more of the coast.
Short stay: 2 and a half nights – we arrived at 3 am and fortunately for us they let us check in and sleep for free, that’s right, they did not charge us for the first night. We don’t know why but did not question it. We were even invited to have breakfast which we were so relieved about after a crazy long haul journey to get there.
Accommodation: tiny three bed room in a hotel in the poor neighbourhood of Fatih-Eminonu.
The mosques that call the worshippers to prayer across the city is haunting and yet melodic. The enormity, detail and history of this city fascinated all of us.
Our hotel was in a neighbourhood where poverty was very evident. The streets were filled with men drinking Turkish tea and playing cards and groups of young children covered in dirt, most without shoes, fighting, playing and fighting some more. Never once did a street child or adult approach us to try to get anything or sell anything. It was such a nice change from the previous few weeks in India.
Each day we only had to walk a mere 500 metres to reach the Spice Bazaar and another 200 metres to reach the New Mosque.
We walked through the spice markets and into the New Mosque or Yeni Cami. It is not really new just in name and we were lucky enough to walk in right on call to prayer and so we sat in the tourist section and watched as dozens of men ran in to take their positions. They all go through the same motions, in unison and so it was something really interesting to witness first hand. The interior of the Mosque is intricately detailed and lit with hundreds of small bulbs.
After fluking that experience we continued to walk until we reached the Grand Bazaar. It is a fantastic old maze with colourful goods and equally colourful characters amongst the over 4000 shops. We got pleasantly lost for a good while.
Our final day in Istanbul it rained non-stop and what better way to spend it but getting naked and wet in a Turkish bath house, called Hamami’s. Another unique experience enjoyed by the girls but Winter thought otherwise, read his blow by blow account here.
- Hagia Sophia – is a museum. It was once a Catholic Church but the religious effigies were covered when it was converted to a Mosque and now work is ongoing to uncover and protect all features of this remarkable building.
- Sultan Ahmed or Blue Mosque – is one of the most visited Mosques in the city and so crowds are to be expected. What isn’t expected is how white it is. The blue tiles appear to be in less numbers than the white and so it appears very white and the carpet is a deep red colour reflecting a warm orange glow, see the image below.
- Hamami – we visited one of the oldest Cagaloglu hamami in Istanbul for a very unique experience.
There is so much more to see and do in Istanbul but as the crowds of tourists are shepherded swiftly in lines, enabling quick access to the more popular sites, a short visit will still produce unique memories, as ours did.
7 Day Camping in Turkey
After a quick dinner and stocking up on some essentials we headed on a 7 day camping adventure. Read about it here.
Istanbul is a very welcoming city, you can wander the length of central Istanbul and come across many attractions that are free, the mosques for example, paid, Hagia Sophia Museum or the rambling bazaars and not feel pressured to do anything but enjoy the unique sights and smells. While we encountered sales people in the Grand Bazaar using all their skills to encourage us into their stores and children trying to sell us spinning tops, at no time did we feel threatened or feared our safety, even in our poor neighbourhood.
We would go back in a heart beat.