Istanbul in 3 Days

"Like a Tequila Shot after a couple of Long Island Teas. A perfect closure." - that was first thing that came to my mind when my friends asked me to describe the place (after Paris and Amsterdam). I just couldn't think of another way to end the trip but with a jolt of energy like Istanbul. Istanbul was the final leg to our 11 Days Trip from Paris - Amsterdam - Istanbul.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Istanbul was One of its kind.

The more I know about the beautiful city the more I fall really really hard for it. The people, the east meets west culture, its scenic esplanades, THE FOOD. Good glorious food.

Turkey
Democratic and liberal, Turkey is a beautiful mish mash of a nation that is in the border with about 8 countries - Greece, Bulgaria, Georgia, Armenia, Iran, Iraq and Syria. Largely, of Islam by religion. Contrary to popular belief, Turkey's capital city is not Istanbul (although it is the largest, Ankara takes pride in being the main city). However, Istanbul is more notorious for its character and charm. And has just recently been awarded the #1 City of the year as voted by Travelers through Tripadvisor.


 
Istanbul is one of the more unique city in the world to be right smack in the Europe continent as well as the Asian continent (Arabs etc). 

Let's put Turkey into the map.



With its 77 million population, Turkey is recorded to be one of the world's best self-sustainable country in terms of resources. Ladies and gentlemen, it's time to put Turkey into YOUR map.

Day 1 (Getting into Istanbul from Amsterdam) 

Mum and I flew into Istanbul from Amsterdam via the budget airline Transavia.com. Prior to purchasing our tickets, I scanned through a few other airlines which summed up to a few hundred of Euro dollars, and luckily, ours cost less than 90 Euros (which is still expensive in Ringgit but very cheap in Euro). Transavia.com was the cheapest at that time.

BUT BEAR in mind, using Transavia means you'd have to land at Sabiha Gokcen, which is not the main airport and it's 70km off the main city / land. Being the smart alec that I was (we landed around 11AM), I started chatting up with the airport guys asking how to go to the main city and thank heaves the Turks were real sweethearts. So I figured, let's take the bus!

We had no idea when and where to stop. But we knew we had to head to Sultnahmet. 

But there was this white girl in her backpacks that looked like she was probably traveling into Istanbul as well (so we decided to follow her stop and assume she's heading to the city as well).

2 Hours later. 

We still had no idea that our stop was the last stop, and that was just the beginning of another adventure! Our hostel is this place called Antik Sofia which is located in Sultanahmet. So in order for us to reach Sultanahmet we'd have to take another ferry to this to this particular jetty calle Ortakoy.

Almost an hour later. 

We finally reached the jetty we were supposed to be at and...... we were told we needed to take the tram to Sultanahmet. All these traveling were okay with me except that my 60 year old mum was part of this too, and I was very quick with my feet (trying to get to the hostel as soon as we can to let her rest) and she was pulling all our rollers around Istanbul. I felt bad but we needed to walk fast to reach faster for her!

Day 1 (4pm)

If you had read my previous post about the kind Turkish man who drove us to the hostel (even though it's very near) you would had known that we had an adventure searching for our place. Not that because it's impossibly hard to find, Sultanahmet / Istanbul is beautiful that way where its streets gets lost within its streets. And newbies like us getting lost is almost part of its initiation.

And yes, we FINALLY reached our hostel at 4pm after almost 5 hours traveling (count about half an hour communicating with the Turkish airport guy), walking we finally reached our hostel. Our kind Turkish hostel manager, Aleed was a gem!! LOVE HIM TO BITS! He took our bags and put it in our room and invited us for hi teas and told us to "settle down".


^The famous Turkish tea (and they say there's a myth that you're never leaving the Turkish men once you've tasted their Turkish tea). I think its true *inserts WhatsApp Monkey closing mouth emoticon*

It's been so long since people actually looked me in the eyes and said "please seat, and settle down." Like reminding me there is no need to be so rush, and fast in this world.

This is exactly what I wanted. An even slower pace in life.

Woke up at 8pm exhausted. And decided to grab some bites at the first shop we stopped by. FOOD? LEGENDARRYYYYY

I love Turkish food. LOVE. I have never eaten that fast in my life - pita breads flashing by my eyes. Next thing I see, I had dessert. YUMS.


Day 2

Mosques and Taksim Square.

Walking around the old Sultanahmet is like a dream. It must be. It must be one of my dream that I had never known prior coming to Istanbul.

The smell of steaming hot teas in the morning, the shrieks of greetings among the men, the flaps of carpets, wooden chairs setting up, prayers booming through the mosques, mothers weaving outdoor, the sight of tulips blooming, kids playing soccer around the corner, colours everywhere - "aih aaah halla!"

The streets are the real deal. They're the city's most happening personality.


Some of the sights we stumbled upon around Sultanahmet. 



This beautiful typical Arabian setup is so adorable, I want one my own! Because of this setup, I actually bought a few rougher pashminas that could take up the role as table top as well.

LOVE. Everything about Istanbul's home deco seems right!!


I sat at the hostel's terrace overlooking the small Hagia Sofia and the sea - I am lucky. This is an amazing experience, a remarkable sight. I am lucky I quietly thank God.

Since Blue Mosque was right behind our settlement - we decided to start our day going in and out of the iconic mosques. We started at Blue Mosque - and I saw the same (should be) Hop on Hop Off buses around Blue Mosque and suggested to mum that we'd take on that since it would be easier on her. We eventually went to only two within our area.

We weren't informed of the beautiful tulips that welcomed us in the mosque!!!! What a pleasant surprise!! They were so gorgeous we actually spent most of our time just taking photos of the tulips and mesmerising them. SO PRETTY.Remember how this trip was on chasing tulips? Since we started from Paris where there was barely, and tons in Amsterdam... and EVERYWHERE in Istanbul!


I always like these cute random different coloured tulips among coordinated ones. They seem so out of place yet part of it, but most outstanding.




The mosque reminded me of.. Notre Dame actually. I think it's the fray graphite walls and colours. The only thing I wondered was whether this was also inspired by the European gothic architecture. But largely, these Arabic / Muslim settlements were first conquered by the Byzantine Empire which then rose the rebellion through the Ottoman Empire possibly at that time world's multi-national empire.



Look at the beautiful interior. This mosque was built thousands of years ago - and the interior remains evergreen, and so beautiful till today.



^ All the ladies without a headscarf were told to wear one. This was in Hagia Sofia.


We continued our journey to the other side of Istanbul. The West! Taksim Square is SO FAMOUS for being one of the more advanced/ more liberal part of Istanbul. And because of that - you see a lot demonstrations from time to time. But no, they're not dangerous. They're usually done up by these cool youths who're only carrying placards and PA system. Like everywhere in the world.


^ On our way to Taksim. Love these stacked up houses - these neighbours must know each other!


^ On our way to Taksim Square I saw these two adorable men who I think are friends that were catching up by the side of the street, eating oranges looking out to the sea. It's so adorable.



^ Little girl was playing with this long metal stick by herself. I took this photo because she was just too cute (like most Turks). They're so pretty and you can probably tell she would grow up beautiful too just by this photo?


^ They've got these trams that take people up and down the SUPER LONG streets of Taksim. But there were not many people in it, most people spent their evening / afternoon walking around.


These were some of the sights of Taksim. They were what felt more like the higher end stuff. We spent the remaining part of the afternoon walking around, getting lost, and buying stuff we weren't sure. I loved the streets of Istanbul. They were so vibrant, so full of life, so cool.

Istanbul's food kind of answered my question of whether they're more Eastern or Western - they're right smack in between. This particular dish that I had was almost like Lasagne, but it had all the veggies like brinjals and chillies around it.


^ Restaurants in Turkey are famous for looking over the top and luxurious.

We continued the day walking around and exploring Taksim Square. I was determined to buy pashminas/ carpets that I could carry home. And blue is truly an Istanbul colour. 




^ Turkish ice cream man fancied me around with his funny antiques like pulling the ice cream from my hair throwing the cones up in the air. I must say, I was sold.

Actually, we even found church. Mum knew about the Catholic church (she wanted to go for Good Friday) so managed some shots. Very cool considering that 99% of Turks are Muslim. 99%!


^ The church's entrance.

We were done with Taksim around 6pm (their sunset at that time was 8pm) and by the time we reached  Sultanahmet it was almost 8pm. We bathed and decided to grab dinner somewhere around the street (that place is near everywhere, it was easily a walk to any) and call it day.

Love traveling on our own. Our time is truly well spent.


Day 3 (TULIPS!!)

We started our journey around 10am, and we had only one focus. We wanted to just look for tulips. This was the main reason we did this entire trip! We knew Istanbul hosts a Tulips Festival every year from mid March to Mid April every year at Emirgan Park, and reckon this year is no less. 

Some of the sights while we were walking around Sultanahmet. 





^ Everywhere around Sultanahmet or Istanbul is an uphill walkway like this. But so beautiful. 


^ Love all these lights shops. I get so entranced looking at how beautiful they are. Mum and I myself bought each for the house and my future house respectively. 

After much walking. 

So we wanted to head to just to Emirgan Park. We kind of got lost, some chap told us we could walk to it, some told us it was too far, so we decided to just cab there. Bear in mind, it's uphill everywhere in the park. And truth was, from Sultanahmet it's about 25 minutes drive to Emirgan Park (which is fairly far) so please keep that in mind. I had no idea how to take the tram to Emirgan Park, so you might want to check on this. 

But the reward? A FULL BLOWN TULIPS FESTIVAL. 



There were some seriously unimaginable colours. Like they weren't real. God really does exist.



^ What an ideal place to catch up / date! 




After Emirgan Park probably around 2pm, we decided to head back to Sultanahmet for the Kirkoy Famous Fish Market. We kinda guessed that the food there was great, but the Fish Emblek I had was beyond this world!!! (Maybe I was crazy hungry too). 





^ Hi fellow fisherman! Thank you for Smiling at me! :) There were so many fishermen! You Turks are so lucky to be blessed with great seafood.


We continued the evening and night to the Grand Bazar (not the bigger one, the one only at Sultanahmet) we couldn't go to the bigger one because we had to cut it short for a bigger night! 


^ THERE WERE SO MANY PEOPLE. MOST I'VE SEEN IN A BAZAAR. 

Istanbul used / has the world most famous trading bazaar thanks to it's international junction for the sea and land traders of both the East and West. I quickly Googled what are among the economy of Istanbul and found out that Turkey, Istanbul largely focuses on industrial, imported goods including but not limited to raw food supplies, clothings, leather products, chemicals and electronics. 

Did you know, Istanbul was recorded among Top 10 city in the world with the most billionaires in 2014? That could only mean that this beautiful city rich in variety of resources, healthy economy, and  unmistakable location is the world's next big thing. 

Day 3 (Evening - Night) 

When we reached Istanbul, I told mum that I really wanted to catch belly dancers and the MIGHTY FAMOUS Bosphorus Bridge that connects Eastern and Western part of Istanbul. After wandering around, we finally stumbled upon this tour agent that does it for us, all in for about Euro 50 dollars (which in my opinion is kind of expensive but everyone had the same rate and it's like killing two birds with one stone). But among the things included were, pickup transfers from our hostel, dinner, cruise at night from 8.00pm - 12.00am around the Marmara Sea to see the legendary Bosphorus Bridge as well as Traditional Turkish Folk Dancing and Belly Dancing (my thangg!!). 

The Bosphorus Bridge is kind of like the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco, huge, magnificent and plays a vital role in daily commutes for fellow users and in this case connects the East and West. Often featured in the movies, the Golden Gate San Francisco has garnered numerous favourites among travellers. Bosphorus as well. 




There are a lot more things to be shared like dates, budget and more within these Paris - Amsterdam - Istanbul trip of mine so if you needed to know more, please email me I will be more than happy to help you :) 

*** 


Love,
Jacqueline Rowena @ Jacqkie.

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