Sunday, August 24, 2014

Turkey travel diary - Part 1: Istanbul

There's nothing better than travelling to demonstrate how wrong you are. About life, about the country you are visiting and about the country you come from. We usually expect what will happen when we get there, don't we?

No one would've told us that Turkey is, in a lot of aspects, more advanced than Spain (there were solar panels on EVERY single house). Also, if you get in a taxi, be prepared for the ride of your life... or death!
We would've never imagined that, whilst asking a man -who had absolutely no idea of english- directions to our hotel, he would get in the car and started driving until he got us there. The most amazing thing is... this is thought as completely normal in Turkey. 
Wearing shorts doesn't mean that people will judge you, even if the rest of women around you are wearing burka (although it's not that common). Travelling with a pair of natives (my father and brother) always helps! (I'm joking... but not really.) If you have a beard, come to Turkey... you're going to love it!
And the most usual thing is that, wherever you go, everyone will invite you to çay (tea). If you're not a huge fan of tea, I assure you you will start to be - and if not, try elma çay (apple tea.. yum!)

I wasn't expecting anything of what we encountered, and after these 15 days, I still can't believe how lucky I've been to visit this marvellous country! 

Our route: Istanbul - Ankara - Göreme - Konya - Pamukkale - Bodrum - Efes - Istanbul


Can you believe that this is not the coolest kind of clothing? 

I have to be completely honest here. Istanbul is the place to be if you want to see beautiful architecture (take the Blue Mosque below, for example) and astonishing contrasts (a girl wearing shorts while her sister is wearing a burka).

 I am a big fan of this city, but I have to say we visited on the worst possible moment. The Ramadan had just finished and there were a couple of limitations in restaurants and shops. (i.e. The Grand Bazaar was closed during our first stay... damn. However, we got to spend a whole day -and our savings- when we finished our tour, before getting our flight home the next day) 

The beautiful Blue Mosque

We HAD to try Narguile, at least once!

The whole city was brimming with people and the heat -combined with LOTS of humidity- didn't make it any easier. I have to say, I loved the night time in Istanbul, but I loathed the morning and afternoon. So. darn. hot. 

A couple of Istanbul recommendations:
  • Taksim Square and Itsiklal Caddesi (which is their way of saying "street"). It's a great area, always full of people and excitement. The most important shops are located here, so if you want to make a quick visit to Zara, you most definitely have to come here! There are great restaurants and bars in the adjacent streets, which are also full of charm and music. (If you're after Istanbul's night life, this is the place for you too!)
  • Grand Bazaar: I can't say enough good things about this place. We spent almost a whole day in there, and we didn't even buy that much. It's intoxicating (in a good way) and fascinating, because you can't stop looking around. Most objects you can find in more than one shop, so if the clerk is asking for a high price and you can't make him lower it -bargaining is a must here-, check other shops. But... if you really really liked it, I say buy it, because you most definitely will make a couple of turns and in a second you won't know where the shop is located. (Almost Alice in Wonderland-ish!)
  • Spice Market: Although it's a beautiful place to see, I wouldn't recommend you to buy there anything except maybe a souvenir. Most things have quite a high price and it's fixed, unlike in the Grand Bazaar.
  • The Blue Mosque: If you ever come to Istanbul, this one's a must! A beautiful example of muslim architecture, but if you're a woman you will most definitely have to wear one of those borrowed dresses + headscarves we're wearing in one of the pictures above. There are also delicious small restaurants around that area ;) so check them out after your visit!

Have you ever been to Istanbul? Would you like to? 


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