Istanbul

After 2 weeks of traveling through Greece in a sailboat, exploring Istanbul on foot was a welcome break. Like dervishes, we whirled through the city's history, culture and cuisine all in two and a half days. Here's my story.

Clean up like a Sultan

We arrived at the hotel in the Sultanahmet area too early in the morning and our room wasn't ready. Tired and grungy, the best thing to do was to refresh at the closest Turkish bath. We chose Cemberlitas Hamami (built in 1584) because it is a twin hamam that could accommodate us both at the same time. It was both our first authentic Turkish bath experience. For the next few hours, we were lathered, scrubbed and massaged with bubbles and soap on the marble platform under the domed skylight. It was a "religious" experience according to Michael.

Cemberlitas Hamam
Behind the seemingly modest facade lies a magical and holy place.

Put your guidebooks away and hire an official guide to take you around.

They whisk you past all the queues and provide historical and local knowledge. This can be arranged with your hotel's concierge. They're worth it.

Hagia Sophia

The Hagia Sophia (537 AD) through the centuries was once a Christian, Greek Orthodox & Roman Catholic Church before becoming an Imperial Mosque and now a museum. It is the most visited tourist attraction in Turkey.
Interiors of the Hagia Sophia

Suleymaniye Mosque

Suleymaniye Mosque, a 16th century Ottoman imperial mosque built by Suleyman the Magnificent, is the second largest mosque in the city.
Exterior & Interior of the Suleymaniye Mosque

Blue Mosque

We visited the Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque) first thing in the morning on our last day. We had been looking at it from our hotel room day and night. It did not disappoint.
Inside the Blue Mosque

Look, Touch, Haggle

After the austerity of Greece, Istanbul was an assault on the senses. The rich colors and patterns in fabrics and architecture was such a welcome sight. I had been feeling deprived.

Tapestry Weaver
I barely scratched the surface.

Spice Bazaar

One of the largest bazaars in Istanbul built in 1660.
Its impossible not to leave the Spice Market without buying something.

The Basilica Cistern

The Basilica Cistern is the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath Istanbul, built in the 6th century during the reign of Byzantine emperor Justinian. It is dark, somewhat dank, beautifully lit and massive.

Baklava from Hafiz Moustafa rocked my world.

I honored this establishment daily.
Revel in their 150 yr pastry magic.

Six things I'd recommend from my experience, if you'd like to believe me.

1) Put your guidebooks away and hire an official guide to take you around. They whisk you past all the queues and provide historical and local knowledge. This can be arranged with your hotel's concierge. They're worth it.

2) Get cleaned up like a Sultan in a Hammam.

3) Detox and drink as much pomegranate juice as possible. They're cheap and ordinary in the side of the world. Drink hot apple tea. It's like cider, but tea.

4) Eat Baklava from Hafiz Moustafa. It rocked my world.

5) Beware of hand-embroidered Turkish textiles. Make sure they're color-fast and will not bleed when you wash it at home. I learned the hard and expensive way.

6) P.S. You can buy Turkish towels from Amazon. You can buy any exotic spice from Kalustyans.

Created By
TESA Totengco
Appreciate

Credits:

Michael Girman & TESA Totengco

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