Istanbul was the perfect city to begin our two-week honeymoon in! We stayed in an adorable little studio apartment, complete with exposed brick walls, located right by Galata Tower, a looming old fortress built by the Venetians in 1348. Galata Tower was a nice introduction to this amazing city, where buildings built in 1348 stand watching over busy neighborhoods and mosques built in 1663 (above) are called "new." You could also see the tower from virtually everywhere we went, making it easy to find our way home.
Our first day in Istanbul, despite all of my assertions that there would be none of this napping business, we both collapsed on the bed and took a luxuriously long nap. We woke to the sound of the nearby muezzin emphatically calling people to prayer, and decided to set out to explore the Egyptian Spice Bazaar and Grand Bazaar. Built in 1660 and 1455, respectively, these bazaars are some of the oldest and largest in the world. They were absolutely packed with people and filled with the smells of spices, teas, and sweets. Brett and I aren’t big souvenir shoppers, but we did stop to buy some lokum, or Turkish Delight, in every flavor you could possibly imagine – rose, pistachio, hazelnut, honey. The list was seemingly endless! After that, we found an old café and got our hands on some Turkish Coffee. It was delicious, but also very strong and bitter, and Brett laughed at my face every time I took a sip. After our coffee, we wandered through the Grand Bazaar, looking at rugs, kilims, and a thousand evil eye charms. The Bazaar was overwhelming. It has 61 covered streets and over 3,000 shops! It felt like we were in some kind of maze as we tried to find our way out.
|Saffron in the Spice Bazaar|
|Inside the bazaar|
|Inside the bazaar!|
|Brett takes coffee drinking very seriously|
|It was STRONG.|
Once we found our way out of the Bazaar, we walked down to the river and ate dinner at Hamdi’s, a riverfront restaurant with rooftop seating. The view was gorgeous – we could see the river, Galata Bridge, and Galata Tower across the way – but neither of us were crazy about the “Turkish Pizza” with minced lamb, walnut, and pomegranates on it.
|Our view from dinner!|
|Oh hi, we're married.|
The next day, we walked back down across Galata Bridge to get to back to Sultanhamet. Along the way, we picked up some simit, a type of sesame-coated Turkish bagel, from a street vendor (all I wanted to do in Istanbul was eat street food!). Our simit was served with some type of very delicious cheese and we sat in the square, listening to all of the muezzins call from their mosques, as we devoured them. We headed over to the Hagia Sophia, stopping at a fantastic little book shop along the way to pick up a Lonely Planet guidebook (we left our Frommer’s in Atlanta!). The Hagia Sophia was amazing! It was bigger than I had imagined it would be, but also much simpler in design. One of the most interesting things about visiting the Hagia Sophia is that you can see the history of so many empires inside her frescoed walls. In front of paintings depicting the crucifixion and the Theotokos (the Mother of God) are Arabic inscriptions from the building’s centuries as a mosque. It is such tangible evidence of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, and it is amazing to see how they sit side by side, forever intertwined.
After the Hagia Sophia, we walked through a pretty little park to the Blue Mosque. The Blue Mosque was built in 1609 and is covered in 20,000 blue mosaic tiles. It was simply stunning!
|The Blue Mosque|
|Momma bought me this lovely Lilly Pulitzer scarf for the trip! It came in handy!|
After the Blue Mosque, we wandered over to the Hippodrome for a yummy lunch of roasted corn (I told you all I wanted to do was eat street food :-). Then, we headed down into the Basilica Cistern, which was built in the 6th century by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian. The Cistern was super cool and had a great atmosphere. The huge columns - all 300 of them! - were lit up and if you peered down into the dark water you could see fish swimming around the ancient site. After the Cistern, we walked through a lovely park near Topkapi Palace and wandered into a lovely garden overlooking the Bosphorus River. We sipped chai, enjoyed the nice breeze, and watched the boats go by.
|Have I mentioned I love street food?|
|Lovely little tea garden|
|I could write a love song about my love for apple tea|
Unfortunately, the Topkapi Palace closed earlier than we thought, so we didn't get a chance to go inside. Instead, we walked back to Galata and grabbed dinner at a restaurant there before packing for our next destination: Selcuk and Ephesus!