First Day in Istanbul
Istanbul Travel Blog› entry 2 of 29 › view all entries
I donâ€™t know what was longer passport control or the flight but I was quite agitated by the time I reached my backpack. Outside I was greeted by the hotel courtesy bus and taken to the hotel. My first impressions of Istanbul was congestion like any other city of 10 million plus people, very built up and hardly any greenery but the trees had yet to get their leaves and had a very wintery look to them. As I we drew closer to the hotel modern Istanbul was replaced by old cobbled streets and I could see the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia I was pretty excited now about exploring these places. My friend Zehra had not yet arrived she was waiting for her flight to depart from Izmir, our room was not ready so I had breakfast and killed time surfing the Internet on my netbook in the hotel lobby until I was able to go to my room. Zehra turned up about 10am we chatted for a while then headed out for lunch. We were staying in the old part of Istanbul in Sirkeci near Sultanhamet spitting distance from the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and all the other major attractions. The streets were windy and cobbled and each shop looked like Aladdinâ€™s cave, full of colourful temptations! I didnâ€™t know which one to explore first! We stopped to get Zehra a pashmena scarf the rain had stopped but it was very cold especially coming from 25C back home 10C was a bit of a shock to the system! We then went to a Simit Saray cafe for lunch where I tried su borek which was a pastry that resembled lasagne sheets stuffed with cheese. Zehra explained that the pastry had been boiled in water then baked in the oven. It was cheap, delicious and very filling! Our next stop was the spice Bazaar selling not just colourful spices but amazing varietyâ€™s of Turkish Delight, so many colours, shapes and fillings I tried a little bit here and there so that took care of desert! I love Turkish delight and I could have pigged out in here all day!! Outside the bazaar you could buy cheeses and meats, these cheeses werenâ€™t small blocks of cheese but huge boulder size cheeses and one stall had their cheese covered in Goat skin and hair still attached! Zehra explained that this is how they store the cheese to maintain the flavour until its ready to eat. Another stall that caught our eye was cows and sheep feet we thought at first was pigâ€™s trotters!
We moved on from there to the Blue Mosque, first we wondered through the gardens or more commonly known as Sultahamet Park in front of the Mosque which were lovely with the Tulips in bloom. A large fountain dominated the centre of the park. We first walked around the outside of the Mosque and took in the beautiful architecture then we went inside. We had to take our shoes off and cover our heads, we both had our Pashmena scarves which came in handy! I could see how it got its name the Blue Mosque with its blue Mosaic patterns, photoâ€™s didnâ€™t do it Justice I took video as well. We spent about half an hour inside before wondering down some alleyways nearby and into a row of shops; we ended up in a jewellery shop where I spent some money buying a necklace made with red coral. We wondered back to the gardens and took some pictures of Hagia Sofia which is opposite to the Mosque we then found ourselves in the middle of an open air concert when the afternoon call of Prayer started. It was getting late so we wondered back towards the hotel via cobbled laneways, one in particular that run along the side of Sofia was steep and attractive with Ottoman looking houses. We stopped in a cafe for some tea and to warm up! Iâ€™m really not liking the tea in Turkey, they serve it black in small glasses and its very bitter, Zehra asked them for milk for me! We didnâ€™t go far for a meal in the evening, jet lag was starting to creep up on me so we picked somewhere local, the food was OK not great but Zehra and the waiter had a laugh at my expense when I attempted to read the Turkish word for Hot Chocolate but actually ended up saying the Turkish word for â€˜Shitâ€™! due to miss pronunciation of the letter â€˜câ€™!