I love to travel and was looking for somewhere exciting to go to this summer but Ben said he needed to work on his dissertation this year :(. So I was looking for new travel buddies and heard my coworker, Zina, was going to Turkey for a wedding, so I talked asked if I could come along and talked my other coworker, Becky, into coming along too! Zina’s mom and 2 sisters, and us all flew from DC straight to Istanbul — we left Saturday at 11:30pm and 10 hours later landed in Istanbul at 4:30pm on Sunday! All 6 of us spent 4 nights in Istanbul at an AirBnB apartment, then Becky and I went to Florence, Italy for 3 nights while Zina and her family stayed in Turkey for the wedding :).
Turkish Airlines were pretty impressive – gave us Turkish Delight, slippers, overnight kit (tooth brush, socks, chapstick etc), pillow, tons of movies, etc. I felt like it was pretty fancy but by the time dinner came around I was starting to get annoyed they wouldn’t just let me sleep ;-). Anyways, we landed in Istanbul, made our way to our apartment, and then found ourselves some dinner. Dinner that night, was pretty bland — we probably stayed in a too touristy of an area? The apartment was decent and only a 5-10 minute walk to old town, but was a little sparse on the bedding, the beds felt like box springs, and the bedroom window didn’t close all the way so we could hear the street noise…but I was tired enough that I slept decently anyways :-).
Day 1 (Monday, June 16)
Monday we left about 8:45am and walked to Topkapi Palace – which was the primary residence of the Ottoman sultans from the 1400s – 1800s and was huge and gorgeous! I loved all the painted walls and ceilings! We also had a rather pricey lunch there… but I did get my watermelon ;-).
Then we walked over to the Basilica Cistern which has over 300 columns, was built in the 500s and provided water to the Topkapi Palace and other places until after the 1400s.
Then we went to the Blue Mosque which was very beautiful! A mosque normally has 1 minaret but the Blue Mosque has 6. When being built in the 1600s, the Sultan was critiqued for being presumptuous for having 6 minarets, since the only other mosque with so many was in Mecca. To overcome this critique the Sultan ordered a 7th minaret for the mosque in Mecca :).
Then we went to the Grand Bazaar (a huge indoor market), where you are supposed to bargain… I did bargain but I think we still paid too much…After we were sufficiently annoyed with people trying to get us to buy stuff ;), Becky and I RAN back to the Science & Technology Museum (back by the Topkapi palace where were that morning lol), we got there at 4:30 and it closed at 5, but I think we were done in about 10 minutes lol… we were so tired and my feet were dying plus the museum wasn’t that impressive… so we laughed and went and sat in a park for an hour :-).
For dinner, Becky and I wandered around neighborhoods looking for a mysterious restaurant on google maps…we never found it but after finding our way out of the neighborhoods (or the “ghetto” as Becky said ;), we found a decent place to eat with a Whirling Dervish dancer – they spin while they meditate/pray.