Saturday, June 7 (Istanbul – Asian and European sides) – It’s not every day that you get to take a boat and then a bridge between two continents. But for me, today was that day. Istanbul is a huge city spread across both the European and Asian continents, separated by the Bosphorus. Tali and I signed up for a two-hour ferry tour that took us along both sides of the Bosphorus as well as up along the Golden Horn, the body of water that separates 'old' Istanbul from the rest of the city. Here are some photos from the journey.
TIP: Don't pay more than 25 Turkish lire for the two-hour tour (in fact, you can probably get it for about 20). However, while we had a great time, I don't highly recommend this boat ride unless you have plenty of time in Istanbul. The reason is that you have no guarantee that your tour guide speaks good English or if you will be able to understand him on the sound system. Unfortunately we couldn't understand a word so we were just watching the views for two hours which was very nice, but it would have been more meaningful if we knew what we were seeing. Just food for thought.
After the excitement of our maritime adventure, and our final lunch in Istanbul, it was time to head to the airport for the second leg of our trip. Instead of flying out of the airport we flew into, we were leaving from the other Istanbul airport on the Asian side of the city. So for the second time in the span of a few hours, we got to take a ride (over a bridge this time) from Europe to Asia.
Friday, June 6 (Istanbul) - Throughout my travels, I have been extremely lucky with weather. Other than a 10-minute rain and hailstorm in Ireland and short-lived downpour in Italy, I have had sunshine just about every day. Then I arrived in Istanbul and the rain began. I was originally going to take a trip over to the Asian side of Istanbul, but with the rain and choppy water, I felt that was not the best idea. But there are a lot of things to do when it rains in this city, so here are my recommendations. (I didn’t have time to do all of them, but they were all recommended!)
Mosques: Blue Mosque & Aga Sofia
The Blue Mosque and Aga Sofya are both indoor sites, so those are good bets and must-sees, as long as you didn’t do them already. There is a line at Aga Sofya because there is an admission fee (the Blue Mosque is free and no line) so keep that in mind if you are umbrella-less. Fore more tips about these places and others, read this post about what to do in Istanbul.
Museums: Istanbul Modern
I really enjoyed Istanbul Modern Art Museum, especially their permanent exhibit “Past and Future” which looks at the evolution of contemporary and modern art in Turkey since its inception. Not all of the pieces are what you would consider ‘modern art’ because it is more of a stroll through Turkish art history, so there is definitely something for everyone.
One of their current exhibitions is a photography collection called “On the Road: Images of Turkey from the Nar Photos Archive” that documents current events in Turkey – political, social, lifestyle – in unique, thought-provoking ways. I wasn’t allowed to take any photos in that room, but some of the prints were extremely powerful.
Some other museums to check out (that I would have visited with more time) include the Istanbul Archeology Museum and the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum.
Turkish Bath / Hamam
You may remember my post about my first Hamam experience in Morocco… well, I tried again on this rainy day in Istanbul. Tali and I were recommended a place by a woman who worked at the café where we had breakfast, so we went to check it out. Maybe we should have known by the dead cockroach on the floor, but it wasn’t the nicest of places. Long story short, we sat in a hot, humid room with a bunch of men and women – including one towel-covered gentleman who was getting a soapy bath – for about 20 minutes before deciding to bail. We will try again in a TripAdvisor-approved Hamam in either Cappadocia or Antalya. BUT, there are tons of reputable, beautiful spas to get a Hamam treatment in Istanbul, and it is the perfect thing to do on a rainy day. Just do your homework a little better than we did!
Istanbul – particularly the Taksim area – is filled with live music! When the weather is dreary and you don’t want to sit outside, live music is a great reason to go inside and have fun. Modern Turkish rock is really great and regardless of the genre, who doesn’t love a man with a guitar?
Thursday, June 5 (Istanbul) - Istanbul is awesome, I love it! The city is huge and there are many different areas and neighborhoods, but overall it is a lot more modern than I expected, with delicious food, helpful and kind people, tons of live music, and a welcomingly different culture.
My good friend Tali met me in Istanbul for a week and a half of traveling throughout Turkey. That may sound like a lot of time, but I already know it will barely scratch the surface of what Turkey has to offer. On our first day in Istanbul, we checked out some of the main attractions including the Blue Mosque, Aga Sofya (or Hagia Sophia), the Grand Bazaar / Spice Market, and Galata Tower area. After spending some time in the city, I have some highlights, tips and recommendations to share!
Sightseeing in Istanbul
Shopping in Istanbul
Eating in Istanbul
Nightlife in Istanbul