This was our first visit to the Turkish megacity and everything was absolutely new to us. The culture is different as well as the traditions. Of course for the Christians it was Easter, but for most of Turkey it was just another weekend.
I am keen to share a few words about Istanbul before we begin with the story of our actual trip. The Turkish megacity is the biggest city in Europe with a population of about 15 million people spread accross a radius of over 50 kilometers. Not only that but the city is located on 2 continents, Europe and Asia, connected with three bridges and a tunnel under the waters of the Bosphorus and there is also one separate metro-tunnel. Further, there is an ambitious tunnel construction project in progress, which will allow people to walk the distance between the two continents under water whilst admiring the sea beneath through a glass type material.
The time on our hands wasn’t nearly enough to see everything as it was just 2 days, but a city that big will most probably take weeks to embrace it's full extent. I’ll be taking you through our journey step by step and share what we did and what we saw.
First of all, our hotel was located in the old European part of the city. Basically most of the landmarks are located there, but to be honest in my opinion it was the worst part of Istanbul.
Day 1 began with a cruise over the Bosphorus. For the price of 17 euro per person you get to enjoy a two hour boat ride with a guide and you will be a ble to admire the the old and new parts of European Istanbul as well as the Asian part of the city.
Cruising with the ship we pass through Ciragan Palace (now Kempinski hotel), the new Sultans palace - Dolmabahçe, the most popular night club of Istanbul, Reina and many properties and luxury homes owned by famous Turkish sitcom actors and businessmen as well as Maiden's Tower- another one of Istanbul's many landmarks.
After the cruise it was time to power-up and grab some lunch, so we found a nice place located by the seaside of the old European part. The food was really delicious!
The clock was passing 12:30 and it was time for us to continue our trip and our first stop was the old Sultans palace, Topkapi. What then used to be a royal residence (new one is Dolmabahçe) is now a museum. We had a walk in the residence, took a glimpse of the museum and after that a short break was welcome, so we decided to indulge ourselves with a bit of ice cream.
*Important note to oneself: "You have to have ice cream in Turkey!"
Our next stop was Sultan Ahmed Mosque or better known as The Blue Mosque. Not only a popular tourist site but it's also a functional mosque. People come here to pray and there are two entrances for visitors and prayers. When visiting the Blue Mosque, women are given cloaks to cover their shoulders, heads and knees.
The timed passed quickly whilst we were enjoying the above landmarks and it already became later, so we had to get back to our hotel and take a rest. A long day was ahead of us. It was the tulip festival week in Istanbul, so we had plans to visit Emirgan park known as the tulip park early in the morning.
And that is how day 2 started for us, we grabbed some breakfast and headed straight to Emirgan park.
This park is so big the the sign actually says “korusu” which in translation means forest. A colourful sea of tulips organised in various figures made our jaws drop. It was so beautiful that only a few words and the most eloquent poets can describe it. Fortunately, we have some pictures to show you.
There are three restaurants in Emirgan park (you can see one in the background on the picture below) which we were keen to try, but the only way to do this is by booking a table months in advance.
It's incredible how the park is decorated and landscaped, and all those figures made of flowers are simply magical. One can see a big big heart and several flamingos made out of roses. Along those, you can see many more figures made out of different flowers like the tulip tree above. Several lakes and fountains are positioned in the park, which all add to the glamour. Wedding photos are often taken here and we even had the chance to witness this ourselves.
In total, we spent about 2 hours in this park before heading to our next destination, the Istanbul Forum- which is one of the biggest shopping centres.
The mall itself has a spectacular Sea Life aquarium. For the small price of 12 euro you get to admire many different types of fish, jellyfish, tortoises and other sea creatures. We spent about an hour and a half admiring the aquarim and were able to observe some sharks too among other dangerous and exotic sea animals.
This was our last night in Istanbul, so after the aquarium experience we decided to have a glimpse of Istanbul at night. We went out to have some dinner, hookah and of course one of my personal favorites- turkish coffee. The Turks have some lovely food and deserts so if you ever decide to go there make sure you try lentil soup, a donner or two, baklava and tolumbi.
Many things were left unexplored, but our time here was almost gone. After dinner we took a nice night walk in the city on our way to the hotel. Since it was Sunday, as you can see there were almost no people on the streets.
Hopefully very soon enough, we will be back and enjoy all those things we couldn’t experience. The list itself has starterd populating already and first on that list are Domabache and Reina club, where we would love to experience the full glamour of the nightlife in Turkey.