Turkey | Istanbul, Delightfully Charming (Part One)
It has been over a year since I was in Turkey, and as I settle in to finally share my stories via my blog, the memories of the charming people, the delicious foods and the awe-inspiring sights come flooding back to me. But lets start at the beginning of my delightful Turkish (see what I did there?) adventure: Istanbul.
Carly and I arrive in Isantbul bright and early, and are picked up at the airport by the Intrepid transfer. After dumping our bags at the hotel, Carly and I set off on a mission to find pide. But given how early it was, this mission proved almost impossible so we decided to make our way to the Blue Mosque. Confused by which tram to catch and lacking in coins to pay for a tram ticket, we decided instead to walk along the tram tracks and hope for the best. This turned out to be a pretty good tactic, and one we used a lot in Istanbul (and saved us from wondering around lost). As we walked along the tracks, we quickly started to get an idea of how friendly and charming this city is. Walking along, people kept calling out things like "Hello Spice Girls!" or trying to guess where we were from. It was always friendly, and rarely ever followed up with an attempt to sell us something. It felt like they just genuinely were keen for a chat.
|In front of the Blue Mosque|
Walking up the Blue Mosque is definitely a beautiful sight, with lush green lawns leading up to that magnificent Mosque. As you enter you are asked to remove your shoes and put them in a plastic bag. You are required to cover your hair (if you are a woman) and any exposed arms or legs. I was wearing a maxi dress, cardigan and a shawl so was fine to go in but if your outfit is not appropriate they do provide robes and cloth.
Not surprisingly given the exterior, the inside of the mosque was very pretty with beautiful glass and lighting. There was a gated off area for only women, and a fenced off area where people could pray. Tourists are free to explore the rest of the space. And even though I was also a visiting tourist, I did find it a little strange how watching people pray was almost like an attraction itself, with tourists lining the gate watching as people prayed.
As we made our way from the Blue Mosque to the Grand Bazaare we spotted a restaurant that was selling cheese pide- victory! As we waited for our pide to be made, the man at the restaurant insisted we take a seat at one of the tables outside and have some complimentary Turkish tea. And I mean insisted! This was the first of many times when we were offered a seat, a chat and some free tea at restaurants and cafes while in Turkey.
We munched on our pides, which were tasty and salty, and made our way to the Grand Bazaare. Carly and I agreed that we could both easily spend a day there, as it was so easy to get caught up in haggling and looking at the array of products ranging from rings, to rugs, to tea.
|Just some of the offerings of the Bazaare|
We then returned to our hotel and were reunited with Mel, who was lucky enough to have had already started her Euro adventure weeks before us. We then prepared to go meet out Intrepid tour group, who we would be spending the next 12 days with. We tried to keep our expectations low, we had been fortunate to have had an amazing group when we had travelled with Topdeck (which if you read my blog regularly is how I actually met Carly and Mel) and we tried to be realistic and assume that was a one off, us getting lucky. But we would soon find out either way! Stay tuned, as I share my adventures through Turkey on Intrepid's "Turkey Active" tour.