Travel Tuesday: Istanbul

Illuminated Interior of the Blue Mosque

I know I mentioned Forum-Nexus in the first Travel Tuesday post I made…and now I shall mention it again.  While travelling around on my study abroad trip to many different cities, we completed our journey in one that I had 1) never been to, and 2) never thought I would ever visit: Istanbul.

Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey, though is not the capital (that would be Ankara).  It is huge and beautiful, and is probably the most astonishing city I have ever visited; I really did not anticipate that it would be the way it was.  This is what I took from Istanbul:  

First, their food is amazing!  Seriously, I thought Paris had the best pastries in the world, but Istanbul’s bread and pastries blow it away.  One hundred percent.  And this is after just being in Paris two weeks prior.  So if you visit Istanbul, you must get a pastry with some Turkish coffee.  That is another aspect of Turkish food that stuck with me: their coffee is strong.  Which isn’t altogether that surprising – I was expecting it a bit – but it definitely made a lasting impression!

Second, the mosques are some of the most beautiful buildings I’ve ever seen in my life.  The above photo was taken in the inside of the Blue Mosque (officially called the Sultan Ahmed Mosque), which is just covered with stained glass all the way up into the huge dome ceilings.  Light just streams through them and illuminates everything.  It’s entirely impressive.  There are a bunch of little lights hanging everywhere as well.  I’m really glad they open the mosques to the public to see, especially being such an important religious building for Muslims; I was extremely grateful for the opportunity to see such an incredible building.  I’ve found most religious buildings in any country to be some of the most beautiful, and the Blue Mosque is definitely that.

Third: the bazaar. The Grand Bazaar is one of the largest in the world and, if you want to shop, is definitely the place to do so!  Stretching on for what seems like miles are stalls after stalls after stalls – closely packed together – of various goods.  The place itself is so labyrinthine that we kept having to do head counts to make sure all of us were together and no one had wandered off; it was very easy to get lost in a sea of scarves, bags, wooden objects, clothes, ceramics, etc.  I definitely was awestruck by the sheer amount of stuff, and definitely became a bit lost as the day grew dark.

Finally, I have to say one of the most striking parts of Istanbul, for me, was just the friendly vibe that surrounded it.  The people were extremely nice and helpful if we ever needed to ask for anything, trying their best to help us despite any language barriers.  (Which actually does not surprise me too much as one of my best friends is Muslim).  Also, the subway system was one of the easiest I have ever used, which was good because I can’t read (nor speak, actually) any Turkish at all!  This was pleasantly surprising to me, and just increased my esteem of Istanbul as a city.

So my overarching advice to you is this: if you have the travel bug (as I do) and Istanbul is not on your list, add it.  You will not be disappointed and, if anything, will hopefully be as impressed with this gorgeous city as I was!

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