Istanbul is very fashionable right now. Thinking much of the fanfare was mainly hype, I really didn’t expect to love the city as much as I did. I’d been told I could spend two weeks in Istanbul and still not see everything there is to see. This seemed like an exaggeration, but I definitely found it to be true. There is so much to see and do that you’ll never get bored. Here are 5 things I love about Istanbul:
1. It’s pretty much perfect. Istanbul has everything you’d want out of a city: It’s located on two continents; it’s modern yet entrenched in history; located by a gorgeous body of water. I love how there are decorative flowers everywhere you go. If any Turks are reading this, I’d like you to go to Kabul and build us a city just like this. And bring the sea with you if you can.
2. The history. I have never been to a city with so many historical sights that were made so accessible to tourists. With the exception of the Holy Relics exhibit at Topkapi Palace, tourists can touch and interact with history.
You can wander through a 1,000 year old building, touch the walls and columns; you can buy souvenirs in the courtyard of a centuries old cemetery where Ottoman rulers are buried.
3. The markets. Steer clear of the Grand Bazaar. Even the vendors in the surrounding area will tell you two things: 1.) Everything at the Grand Bazaar is overpriced, and 2.) The vendors are slimeballs. This may be because they pay their yearly rent in gold and I can’t imagine that to be cheap. The second I walked in, a salesman jumped in front of me and began the most obnoxious sales pitch I’ve ever encountered. I turned around and walked back outside.
Instead, opt for the shops around Old Town and the Egyptian Spice Market (Misr Bazaar) in Eminonu. Vendors are far less aggressive and offer much of the same merchandise at reasonable prices. Don’t forget to haggle – it’s part of the experience.
4. It’s easy to get around. The tram that runs from Old Town to Kabatas costs just 3 Lira and takes you past all the main attractions of Old Town. Four major tourist sights (Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, and Hippodrome) are right across from each other. This is a city built with tourists in mind. You’re always within walking distance of a major attraction or public transit that can take you there.
5. Fresh fruits. Fresh fruits are everywhere and in much more appealing form. You’ll gladly choose a fresh squeezed glass of orange juice over iced coffee. I definitely left Istanbul with a rosier complexion.
At a vendor outside Fatih Park, I picked up an iced blackberry drink. The man gave me a strange look when I asked what was in the drink: “Berries and ice.” Imagine that- an iced drink with no syrup or artificial flavoring…just berries and ice.
I’m convinced if American cities adopted the fruit and juice carts of Istanbul, we’d wipe out obesity once and for all. Who doesn’t want to eat an apple when it looks like this?
I could go on and on about Istanbul, but I’ll leave it at that. Have you been to Istanbul? What do you love (or dislike) about the city?
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