Istanbul

Istanbul Travel Blog

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I stood in the port of Istanbul for two days as part of my greece/turkey cruise. I have to say out of all the places i visited this one left one of the biggest impressions on me. The pure smell of the city, the colors and the sounds were very interesting. We were staying there during the month of ramadan so it was interesting to see how the city was occupied mostly of tourists in the day and to see all the locals come out at night. Immediately upon arrival i notice that istanbul or turkey in general where not at all what i had imagined. My western stereotypes of what women would dress like and how the locals would react was seriously skewed.  Most women dressed normally not being veiled at all- those who chose to wore beautiful and bright hijabs.

Of course i had heard that Turkey was a secular country although Islam was its main religion. It was obvious to me that Islam still played an instrumental part of turkish life. The call to prayer was heard throughout istanbul from its many mosques, food was for the most part halal and people pretty much exercised turkish and Islamic hospitality.

While my time in Istanbul was brief i did get to participate in some local traditions. I found the turkish people to be generally helpful and happy to have tourist. My first experience was the Grand Bazaar and boy was it Grand! It was filled with stores of the same exact trinkets all for different prices. One had to learn how to bargain for me i was suprised to hear so many compliments. I knew of course this was part of a sales tactic but honestly i didnt care.

Hot men were hitting on me and i was going to enjoy every minute of it. My favorite sight in here of course were the bright ceramics and the lamps. Oh how beautiful were the colors. I was also captivated by spices,tea sets and hookah pipes. Hookah was big here!

The second time i had an authentic experience was at the Hammam. I was a little hesistant at first. The idea of stripping naked and being scrubbed to death did not sound appealing. At first i step out in my little towel with my underwear underneath. The ladygave me a disapproving look and montioned to take my top off. I did hesistantly and then she montioned to bathe nearby a fountain. The place inside was spectacular like a hidden castle. The fountains and stonework was so beautiful to me. So after i wet myself she motioned me over to a large stone platform where she procedded to scrub me to death after lathering me with the softest thing i ever felt.

She then gave me a quick massage and lathered my hair. To rinse me off she splashed buckets of cold water on me. Ouch! but refresingly fresh after being on a stone platform that felt like 110 degrees. I came out of there a new color. Literally she showed me the layers of dirt. Eww hah! to think i had been clean my whole life.

The third experience  was Cafe Istanbul a hip hookah bar where the young turks hung out. Here everyone was smoking hookah not only men like i had seen in the states but women and teenagers. The plaza we went to was filled with hookah bars all next to each other and featuring outside seating in cushions. We got a round of apple tea the best on earth! It was so perfect and then we ordered our hookahs. Now im not a smoker i had only tried hookah one time before this and didnt appeal to me.

But to try it in istanbul is a different story. So i did coughed my lungs out bc i inhaled too much smoke. My coal kept running out but the oldman serving us was always more than happy to start my hookah. I got apple flavored and tried the peach. Good fruity smoke is what it tasted like...not something i would be hooked on but nevertheless interesting. Being the boy crazy girl that i can be. I was checking out the moroccan men- they seemed very handsome and laidback. Not like i thought of them at all. Some of them had captivating blue or gray eyes. In fact my favorite feature. As a person of color i didnt not feel aware of my race at all. I felt almost more comfortable there than i did in some parts of the USA. Awkard.

Well i cant forget to mention my experience at the sites Sultan Ahmed mosque or the blue mosque so nicknamed for its tiling was breathtaking much like the Hagia sophia.

Both sites had a peace, a spiritual element that i find very hard to describe. Almost makes you feel closer to God. I wish it wasnt crowded with tourists like me so that i can say a prayer and take a minute to take it all in. The topkapi palace was also marvelous along with the various parks throughout the city.

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3,290 km (2,044 miles) traveled
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Istanbul
photo by: Memo