Istanbul was a major port on the Silk Road, it was one of the terminal points on the original Orient Express route, and it remains an energetic and crowded city. It sits at a crossroad between Europe and Asia, the only city in the world to span two continents. With a history stretching back over two thousand years, the preserved ancient buildings and mix of cultures are truly something to see. We visited for 4 days and found the hospitality of Istanbul to be outstanding. Istanbul is indeed where History meets Hospitality.
We spent most of our time in the fascinating Old City, the best spot to see many attractions. There is a great energy here, owners of local shops and restaurants are friendly and always ready for a smile or a laugh. We ate at outdoor café tables, where the servers are often putting on a show as they weave through a crowded pedestrian street with a tray loaded with food. For a fun twist, motorbikes are allowed to ride on all pedestrian walkways, beeping their horns constantly.
The Old City
There is so much to see and do in Istanbul, all very walkable, right in the Old City. We visited the Spice Bazaar, with its many stalls of tea and spices. We had a plan to beat the crowds at Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque by going early. By the time we arrived at 07.30, everyone else was already there. Hagia Sophia has a fascinating history as a church, a cathedral, a museum, and a mosque. Both historic buildings are functioning mosques now. Strolling through Gülhane Park, a huge, quiet, green area, was a nice relief from the constant noise of traffic and horns.
Looking for a Turkish breakfast near Hagia Sophia, we went to The Must Turkish Restaurant, and ordered the breakfast for two. It consisted of cheese, cheese, more cheese, bread, eggs, and olives. It was delicious and could have fed a third person.
The Grand Bazaar, first started in the 1400’s, is a maze of small stalls, easy to get lost in, or at least go in circles for a while. We bought some wonderful trinkets (treasures!) at excellent prices. There is always a throng of people from around the world in the Grand Bazaar, much like it must have been in the days of the Silk Road. A real highlight of Istanbul.
Foods of Istanbul
Finding Irish Pubs in Istanbul
We walked across the Galata Bridge, where it is shoulder-to-shoulder with fishermen at one side.
The bohemian Cihangir neighborhood is known for its antique shops, cafés, and quiet atmosphere. Although we didn’t buy any antiques here, we did find an Irish Pub.
The ferry ride back gave us great sunset views of the European side of the Bosporus.
Time to head home, we awoke on our last morning to both our alarm and the call to morning prayer. Istanbul is full of highlights. We had a wonderful fun time, and cannot wait to go back, as well as to explore more of Turkey.
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