Istanbul Turkey - Where Two Continents Meet

By: Lori Guretzki

Things to Do in Istanbul

Istanbul, situated along the shores of the Bosphorus Strait, is the only city in the world bridging two continents, Europe and Asia; it is as old as civilization itself and as modern as carrying cell phones.

My husband and I were very excited about vacationing in Istanbul. We flew with Lufthansa Airlines from Vancouver, B.C., stopping in Frankfurt, Germany to change planes and approximately 15 hours later, we were there.

Finding our way around Istanbul was easy.
Transportation by taxi, bus or Tram was efficient and inexpensive and a life saver in the heat. Tickets for the Tram could be purchased at the kiosks located on street corners everywhere adjacent to the Tram stops. Istanbul’s only train travelled only around the outside of the city. It was clean but old and slow. 

Things to Do in Istanbul

1) Shopping in Istanbul is Awesome
The Turks are masters at bargaining so be prepared. Don’t pay the price marked on the item or you will have insulted the shopkeeper. It is common to be invited into a shop, offered a cup of sweet apple tea, or black coffee served in a cute little demitasse cup, and the bargaining would begin. 

  • The Grand Covered Bazaar.
    There are over 4000 shops, selling everything from Turkish rugs to leather goods, beautifully embroidered linens and fine jewelry. It was not unusual to see a shop selling tourist trinkets located next to a shop selling fine silk fabrics. We wondered for hours up and down the many lanes and alleyways and still didn’t see it all.

    When we tired of shopping in the Bazaar, there were shops, boutiques and kiosks leading to the Bazaar and down every street. This was a shopper’s paradise. It was rare to see women working in the shops though; men dominate the market place even in shops where only women’s undergarments were sold.
  • Spice Market
    Also worth visiting was the Spice Market. Before entering the huge partially covered areas, the smell of cinnamon, mint and thyme greeted us at the door. Upon entering, I was hypnotized by the beautiful brilliant reds, oranges and yellows of every spice and herb imaginable. They were displayed in large jute sacks neatly stacked on the floor at the entrance to each little shop or in glass containers on shelves that lined the walls of the shops. The aroma of coffee beans, bulk tea and fresh baked goods made our mouths water. Be sure to purchase Saffron and pure Vanilla while you are there, the prices were reasonable and makes for wonderful gifts for family and friends back home.

  • Turkish made clothing was very inexpensive to buy, and fun to shop for.

2) There are many tours available in Istanbul
with English speaking guides.

We took a tour that lasted five hours.

  • Costing us US$30.00 each, the first stop on our tour was the beautiful Beylerbeyi Palace on the Asiatic shore of the Bosphorus Strait. It was the summer residence of the Ottoman Sultans, built in 1865 and is now a Museum for the public.

    We crossed The Bosphorus Toll Bridge linking Europe and Asia and then stopped at Camlica Hill, the highest point in Istanbul. The view of the city was breathtaking. 

3) Popular Places to Visit

The Museum of Haghia Sophia
This “Divine Wisdom” was built in the 6th century or, The Blue Mosque named for the blue tiles covering its interior walls and built in the 17th century. The Blue Mosque is the only mosque in the world with six minarets and is the most beautiful and grand mosque in Istanbul.

The Beyazit Mosque
The oldest mosque in Istanbul with free admission. This mosque was the only one where we had to remove our shoes, and I was given a scarf to cover my hair. Recommend that you bring your own scarf.

The Turks are purists in their culinary tastes so food wasn’t smothered in sauces and very little herbs or spices were used in the dishes we tried. The seafood was local and tasted fresh and was usually served with boiled rice; it was very tasty. A favorite meal of the locals was a Kebap; a large roll of mutton or beef cooked slowly on a vertical skewer in front of a heating element. When we ordered a Kebap, we could watch as it was shaved from the roll and served on an open bun. We didn’t need anything with it, it was very tasty all by itself.

The evening meals could be compared to an evening of entertainment. We were wined and dined for hours in air conditioned restaurants or outside on the patios and we would leave full and feeling like we had made new friends.

The water in Istanbul was safe to drink but not wanting to take chances, we purchased our own bottled water very cheap (5 liters for the equivalent of 90 cents).

Istanbul is the largest city in the Republic of Turkey.

  • It has a population of more than nine million people
  • As many as eight million tourists visits turkey at one time.
  • It’s main religion is Muslim

If you are looking for an exotic holiday destination, with friendly, hospitable people, an ideal climate and beautiful scenery or if you want to explore a city filled with Ancient sites and ruins mixed with increasing modernization, or how about just a fabulous shopping holiday well, Istanbul is the destination for you.

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