Blog - Istanbul

Added on Friday, 2016-03-25 20:42 CET in category Traveling
The birthdays of my wife and I aren't far apart, and this year we thought we'd give each other a (long-)weekend trip to some city. We've visited a lot of cities in Europe already, so that narrowed the choices down, but then we realized our friends Paul & Natasha had just moved to Istanbul. Neither of us had been there yet, and with all the good things we heard about Istanbul and visiting our friends this trip should surely be worth it! :)

The trip there went just fine, but the next morning we woke up to the news of the terroristic attack in Istanbul's Beyoğlu district :( Because of that the city was a lot less bustling than it usually was, but as always life goes on: we had a great breakfast in Ortaköy, and noticed a very sweet and warming custom: Istanbul has a lot of stray cats and dogs, and they're being taken care of quite well. The government chips them, so they can be tracked, and the citizens toss them some leftover food or put out bowls with water or a blanket. There are in fact so many (mainly) stray cats, that at some point I was surrounded by about twelve of them after I opened a pack of cat food :)

Sights

The first sight we visited was the Grand Bazaar with its thousands of little shops. It reminded me a bit of Chatuchak market in Bangkok, but then obviously with a more middle-eastern feel to it:
Grand Bazaar (1)Grand Bazaar (2)

We also visited the Basilica Cistern: a great underwater reservoir you may remember from From Russia With Love:
Basilica Cistern (1)Basilica Cistern (2)Basilica Cistern (3)

That evening we climbed the Galata tower, where we enjoyed this great view over the city:
Galata towerView from Galata towerSelfie on Galata tower

The next day we visited the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque, and lastly Topkapı Palace:
Hagia Sophia (outside)Hagia Sophia (inside)Blue Mosque (outside)Blue Mosque (inside) Topkapi palace gardenTopkapi palace mirrorTopkapi palace imperial hallTopkapi palace "fountain"

Celebrating

The sights were beautiful, but as this was a special occasion, we decided to get pampered a bit in a Turkish hamam (Turkish bath): we relaxed (or tried to :P) on the hot stones, and enjoyed a full-body massage.

What made the occasion special for Paul & Natasha was something altogether different: Paul had started working for TRT, and although Natasha had come along, she didn't yet have any kind of residence permit. With all the political tensions between Russia and Turkey at the moment that might prove hard to arrange… On our last evening they finally got the good news: she can stay for another year :)

We invited them to celebrate in one of the few places in Istanbul we could show them: Nusr-Et, one of the (purportedly) best steak restaurants in the world. (Thanks, Fausto! ;)

At home

At home we got pampered too: Natasha turned out to be a great cook, and with all the fantastic breakfasts and tasty meringues, it's now time to hit the gym extra hard ;)

Thank you, Paul & Natasha, for having us over, showing us around, and spending a great weekend with us! :)