Miss Rosie and I have a travel thing going on. Last year we went to Moscow, this year Istanbul and next year, we want to do Tel Aviv. No one really wants to go with us to these exotic places. Maybe they are exotic but not exotic enough? Or maybe it’s us? In any case, we end up going on our own and the results thus far, have been very positive. Moscow we loved (apart from the taxi situation) Istanbul we loved too (definitely because of the taxi situation).
I’m not really sure if I found anything negative about Istanbul. I’m thinking hard here. Fair enough, some of the vendors were a tad pushy, but you had to give it to them – at least they were talented nation spotters (apparently I have Swedish written across my forehead). And they also knew how to say hot chicks in Swedish. What a gift.
I’m a great fan of lists and it’s been a while since I compiled one. So without further ado, here are my top likes about Istanbul.
1. Turkish breakfast
I’m a frequent traveller to Italy and as much as I love that country, they can’t do breakfast properly. I can’t emphasise this enough. Turks, on the other hand, they know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day (am I repeating myself, here?). A slab of cheese, fresh vegetables, honey and clotted cream, plus fried eggs – I loved every bit of it. In fact, at Delicatessen in Nisantasi, I ordered two things on the menu: soft-boiled eggs with country toast and then a round of Turkish yogurt with granola to top it off. Turkish tea is also a must.
2. The Bosphorous
A city by the water is far prettier than any other city. I grew up by a river, so I’m biased. But seriously, what would London be without the Thames? New York without the Hudson? The Bosphorous definitely adds to Istanbul’s magic. The views are pretty fantastic from wherever you are due to Istanbul’s hilly nature (less appreciated when you walk long distances).
3. The Grand Bazaar
I’m not sure I should mention this, but Rosie and I were hanging around the Grand Bazaar for 5 hours. 30 minutes were devoted to eating a corn on the cob, the rest we were browsing shawls, jewellery, hammam towels, jewellery and knick knacks. Did I mention jewellery? Rosie went into haggle overdrive and manage to seal a deal with a peck on the cheek. Take note, it’s a cheeky, but efficient way of bringing the price down. Although less successful, I came back with a pair of wonderful earrings that I will treasure the rest of my life. The Grand Bazaar might be a tourist thing and I might’ve been completely ripped off, but it was such a fun experience.
4. The Hammam
I had never fully understood the appeal of the hammam until a Turkish woman stood in front of me in a bikini and scrubbed me clean with an exfoliating mitten. The hammam experience was one of the most relaxing moments I’ve had in ages. Laying on top of marble looking up to the sky through a dome was probably the best part of the trip (and also very convenient after getting into bed at 4.30am). It’s a pity this tradition isn’t more widespread. I would certainly sign up to the local hammam should they open up the doors in my neighbourhood. However, it would be hard to beat the splendour of Kilic Ali Pasa Hammam.
5. The sights
Whether it was the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, The Spice Market or the restaurants, it was impossible not to want to bring out your camera every two seconds. The Blue Mosque made a huge impression on me, as did the colourful food, the doors of dilapidated buildings and the spectacular clubs right by the sea.