Photo essay: Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul wasn’t on my radar despite knowing four people who visited this West meets East city in 2012! When an acquaintance talked about her travel plans for  a 2-week trip to Turkey, I only half listened because Turkey didn’t intrique me. Don’t ask me why. And I wondered why it’s become de moda, the place everyone seems to visiting right now.

I find it interesting how there are some places we are eager to visit and others, we just don’t really think about. There seems to be no rhyme or reason… Look at me- A desire to wander in Africa alone and then live in Spain without having been before? I still can’t explain either of these desires but here I am. Two dreams accomplished. 

When my ex-room mate invited me to join him and a friend over New Year’s to Istanbul for a 5 day trip, hotel and tour included on a special offer, my ears perked up. Hmmm… Maybe I’d go with people I know and whom I road tripped with before.  I went back and forth with my decision, flights weren’t cheap ( I had a hard time justifying an expensive flight for only 5 days) and by the time he figured out dates and I made a decision, all the special offers had disappeared and flight prices had sky rocketed! However, never wanting to live with regret and getting my mom’s opinion, it was decided.  Why not? And when else am I going to have this opportunity?

Exactly. 

 Seize the moment.

So I closed my eyes and clicked “purchase” and it was set: I was going to Istanbul for 5 days to ring in the New Year.  Money is made to be spent, right?!

I was surprised to see a tram in the heart of the city carrying passengers from one side to the other, in addition the ferry service. This photo represents Turkey- a mix of modern and history. Old and new. Side by side. Living in harmony. 

Old meets new.

Old meets new.

Polis. Turkish is a phonetic language and the few words that are similar in English were pronounced how they are spelled. Taksi=taxi is another one. The police were everywhere on New Year’s Eve. I mean everywhere but considering the amount of people on the street and in Taksim plaza, it could only be a good thing. 

Police in Istanbul

Police in Istanbul

Tea. It’s always time for tea. For breakfast. To warm you up. After lunch. While smoking the narguile or hookah. Negotiating big purchases in the bazaar. or simply because you feel like it. Tea. It’s everywhere in Istanbul. Almost always served in a small glass on a ceramic plate.

After dinner at a kebab shop, our friendly waiter brought us complimentary apple tea when we finished our meal. A nice way to end a delicious and filling meal.

Delicious tea

Delicious tea

Turkish delights. Ubiquitious throughout Istanbul and my mouth salivated every time we passed by a shop but didn’t sample many.

Delectable Turkish Delights

Delectable Turkish Delights

Kebabs-meat rotating around a heater could be Turkey’s food mascot. Kebab shops are everywhere. A shot of raw meat in the morning, getting ready for the expected crowd and kebab orders. Shish kebab is also everywhere. Meat on skewers and the occassional vegetables, grilled when ordered.

Grilled Meat- it’s what you eat in Istanbul.

Raw meat for kebabs

Raw meat for kebabs

Narquile (water pipe) or hookah cafés are everywhere and is a common place where men meet up with friends to chat and smoke. You see the occasional woman tourist but I never saw Turkish women smoking, let alone only women at these cafés. Many are indoors. 

An outdoor Narquile (hookah) café

An outdoor Narquile (hookah) café

The famous Blue Mosque, nicknamed for the incredible amount of Blue Tiles.  When we arrived, it was call to prayer so tourists couldn’t enter. We came back later to a line of 50 people and when we entered, it was swarming with people and had the unfortunate smell of stinky feet. We didn’t stay inside very long.

Inside the Blue Mosque

Inside the Blue Mosque

Group shot in front of the fountain and blue Mosque. Good photo of us but chopped off the important sites behind us.

Sergio, Pillar, Victor and I in front of the Blue Mosque

Sergio, Pillar, Victor and I in front of the Blue Mosque

I know next to nothing about Turkish traditions and holidays so not sure why this man was dressed this way, except that he was posing for photos in exchange for money. I secretly took this shot…while he chatted with a street vendor.

People on the street

People on the street

Bosphorus river separates the city of Istanbul. The other side is more modern, is where the well-known chefs open their gourmet restaurants and where tourists shake their bums to pumping music in cosmopolitan nightclubs. Unfortunately, I only saw this side at night as I fell sick on my last day and spent the whole day in the hotel. I couldn’t spend the  morning on the ferry  nor sightsee in the afternoon because my body was frustrated at me for pushing myself too much and trying to fit in a lot of travel in a short time. 

Across the Bosphrous river

Across the Bosphrus river

A beautiful night shot of the Blue Mosque on my second to last night.

Beautiful mosque at night

Beautiful mosque at night

Have you been to Istanbul? What surprised you about the city?

Have you ever visited a place that wasn’t on your radar or spent a fortune for a flight just because it was a good opportunity?

I’m curious to hear. Leave a comment below.

Stay tuned with more posts to come about Istanbul including, Eating my heart out in Istanbul and Playing tourist.

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14 thoughts on “Photo essay: Istanbul, Turkey

  1. Pingback: How successful was I? A recap on my goals in Basque Country | Roamingtheworld

  2. Pingback: Browsing the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey | Roamingtheworld

    • HI Jack and Jill,
      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. Happy to hear you get to realize a dream soon. STay tuned, I’ll be posting more pics from Turkey soon!

  3. Gorgeous. Gorgeous. Gorgeous! I soooooo wanted to go with you!! (Argh, jealous).

    –> “I find it interesting how there are some places we are eager to visit and others, we just don’t really think about. There seems to be no rhyme or reason…”

    I know exactly what you mean. I’d been wanting to go to Spain since I was 15 for now reason at all. Then I ended up living in Andalucia without knowing a soul, let alone the culture! But it was meant to be!

    The other place I’m dying to go to is SouthEast Asia. When when when.

    • One day love, you’ll get to SouthEast Asia. Heck, maybe will be travel buddies.
      It’s been on my radar since rooming with a gal in South Africa in 2005 and she had just spent 7 months traveling there.
      Who knows where your path, our paths will lead!
      Just when I think I know, life hands me a different path!

  4. Pingback: Eating my heart out: Istanbul, Turkey « Roamingtheworld

    • Thanks for the compliments Azra. It’s a place I want to return to now. Really, SA has a large Turkish population? The things I learn…

  5. What a bummer that you ended up in bed for an afternoon of your trip! Although you still got some nice nighttime shots and made the right move to carpe diem. I took a quick solo trip there as well (4 days), and know that some day I have to make it back. More baklava eating required. Maybe it had something to do with the time of year? September proved to be quite lovely. Pics here..if you’d like to see http://www.sobremesainspain.com/2011/09/travel-istanbul-photo-essay.html

    • May be time of year and the fact I stayed on the tourist track and didn’t met locals. I almost met with a gal, Cat Gaa knows, but it fell through. I’m sure I also lacked a bit of energy and enthusiasm, which doesn’t help.

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