A Week in Constantinople

Arriving in Istanbul Abby and I weren't really sure what to expect. We'd heard nothing but great things about the city, but had no idea what we'd find. Coming from India the first thing that struck us was the road from the airport. It was the smoothest, quietest blacktop we'd experienced in months. Combine that road with the brand new Fiat we were riding in and we could talk to each other in a whisper. We were definitely in Europe now.

Mehmet Akif Ersoy Park

Istanbul, as people had told us, is a great place to visit. The city is a mixture of so many things. It has a very eastern European feel combined with a strong Muslim influence. The calls to prayer throughout the day give the city a very spiritual aura. At times it would even raise the hairs on my neck, it was quite moving. Along with all of that Istanbul had some amazing sights. Our friend Jesse insisted on a list of must see sights and we visited every one. Starting with the Topkapi Palace which houses many sacred Islamic relics, from Moses's staff (my personal favorite) to pieces of Mohammed's beard. Abby and I don't know a lot about the roots of Christianity, even less about Judaism and next to nothing about Islam so it was as education as it was interesting.

Next on the list was the Basillica Cistern, a massive underground reservoir that was used to store water for Constantinople. The large columns, red lighting and eerie music gave it a very unearthly feel, not to mention a great place to take photos.

Basillica Cistern II

Basillica Cistern III

Once back above ground we visited Hagia Sophia, a beautiful building with a long history: once a cathedral, then a mosque and now a museum it has been rebuilt many times due to earthquakes and deliberate destruction.

Hagia Sophia

Theodosian Church Remains

Hagia Sophia Dome

Colored Arches

One day we devoted to just visiting several of the famous mosques in the area including the Süleymaniye Mosque, the New Mosque and the famous Blue Mosque.

New Mosque

Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque Pillar

We hit up the Spice Bazar and Grand Bazar and being so close to the water we couldn't help but enjoy the seafood and getting in some runs along the waterfront.

Catch of the Day

Across the Golden Horn

The food in Istanbul is so delicious it is worth its own trip. We feasted on doner kebap, soft pita bread, and Ayran (a very popular plain yogurt drink) almost daily. Some of our favorite snacks included: borek (a cheese filled pastry using phyllo dough that is either steamed or fried), fresh squeezed pomegrante juice, freshly roasted chestnuts and simit (a sesame seed covered bread that is part pretzel part bagel and is sold by tons of street vendors). We went out for meze one night, basically small plates of cold appetizers brought to your table for you to select, and we loved the cheese stuffed hot peppers and dolmas. Along with our meze we also sampled the national drink, Raki, probably the only thing we haven't enjoyed (so much so we gave part of our bottle to Turks sitting next to us) in this city. It is a very strong anise flavored liquor that you add cold water to, giving it a cloudy look as well as it's nickname "lion's milk". We would both take a glass of wine or beer over it any day, but when in Rome, err... The desserts here are also outstanding and we sampled our share of Turkish delight and baklava. The golzeme, or stuffed pancakes, were also super tasty as well as the turkish meatballs, you really can't go wrong eating in Istanbul.

We only got a sample of Turkey, but we really enjoyed it and would love to be able to explore more of the country some day.

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