My trip to Istanbul
Tired of the same old clichéd destinations, I decided that I would go to a completely new and unusual destination for vacation this time. After searching on net for hours, I decided that Istanbul is a perfect place for the kind of vacation I want.
I read on the net that even though this Turkish Capital is fast becoming a popular tourist destination, it still has not become highly touristy and has many hidden treasures. So, I and my friend booked our flight to Istanbul. Reaching the city was not a trouble at all. We landed on Istanbul Atatürk Airport which is around half an hour’s drive away from the city’s center. We took a private taxi to our hotel, but you can also board a bus to reach your destination, from the airport.
Istanbul is the most populous city in Turkey, which was quite apparent from its road. This is a bustling city that is thriving with economic development. It lies on a narrow strait between Marmara Sea and Black Sea. Istanbul works as a bridge between Europe and Asia. But the look and feel of this city is not European at all. You feel like you are in some Asian country.
Istanbul used to be called Byzantium and Constantinople in ancient time. Once in this city, we had to let go our presumptions about it being backward and underdeveloped, because Istanbul is a megacity and is also a major port of Turkey.
Our hotel in Istanbul was very nice and we really liked the people of this city too. They were polite and welcoming. It felt like they were happy to see us there; which was a pretty good feeling.
So Much to Do!
After taking rest and getting rid of our jet-lag, we started to decide what to do first on our vacation. Our travel agent had already given us a long list of activities we can do in Istanbul. It included a lot of activities and sightseeing. The first thing we wanted to do in Istanbul was to experience its heritage and culture.
So we decided to head off to Old Town which is the older part of the city. Here, we visited St. Sophie which is an ancient church. This impressive structure has been standing here, ever since Constantine’s times. It is also called the church of the Divine Wisdom. Built to show-off the power of Roman Empire, this church is the world’s biggest Christian Church.
Another beautiful structure in Old Town is the Blue Mosque. This breathtakingly beautiful mosque is made of blue colored tiles. This mosque was built in 17th century and the Sultan of Turkey is buried in this mosque. This was a very unusual, yet fascinating place to visit.
Another unusual place in Istanbul was the Underground Cistern. These strange and ancient reservoirs are said to be from fourth century. The archeologists have found many such underground reservoirs in Istanbul. According to me, this place is a must visit for sure.
We also went to see the Ottoman Empire’s ancient palace, Topkapi Palace. It used to be the center of the Empire. It overlooks Bosphorus and Marmara Sea which is a magnificent scene. The building’s architecture is quite impressive and it has huge courtyards where you can still imagine the Kings of Ottoman empire sitting.
There is also a Museum of Turkish Art and Archaeological Museum in this area but we could not visit it due to lack of time (and enthusiasm).
We spend 3 days in sightseeing and decided to relax for a day or two after that. That’s when our hotel manager suggested us to me to go to Hamam for a thorough cleaning. Though, I am not a big fan of somebody else bathing me, I decided to give it a try. And I must say what an experience. They scrubbed the flesh out of me and gave me a massage I will never forget in my life. It was pleasurable and painful at the same time. But my body never felt that great in a long time.
There are special hamams for women also and they can also enjoy a great bath in hamams specially made for them.
After my thorough cleaning (or was it beating? Don’t know!), we decided to just roam around the study. We went to Grand Baza where we saw people smoking from these huge pipes which looked more like watering hose. We realized that they were Hookahs; a type of smoking pipe which is burned by burning coal. We tried it and it was a unique experience too.
We also loved the food we ate in Istanbul. It consists of a lot of meat and vegetables. We also had a meal called mezze which is a composition of various small dishes to be eaten with different types of breads. It was one of the best meals we ever had.
In short, everything about Istanbul was unique and we loved every bit of that uniqueness. Istanbul is a type of city that has a strong culture and society, but it is also very inviting and friendly.
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