Istanbul, Turkey

Early morning sail-in to Istanbul
Evening view of Galata Tower
Late night view of the Bosphorus Bridge

From early morning until late at night, Istanbul offers breathtaking views! As the last of four incredible days in Istanbul winds down, we are still in awe of this amazing place! An assault, in the best way possible, on all five senses, Istanbul will leave an imprint on our hearts for a long time to come. We will try to share a bit of what we experienced here, with strong recommendations to come and experience it for yourself!

Home to some 3,000 mosques, we had the chance to enter only three: the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and Rustem Pasha Mosque.

The Blue Mosque, aka Sultan Ahmet Mosque, was built in the 1600s and is one of Istanbul’s many iconic landmarks.
Although it is largely covered due to extensive renovation, glimpses of its delicate Ottoman tiles can be seen behind the scaffolding and drapes. It is open for prayer and visitation during the renovation.
The magnificent Hagia Sophia, aka Ayasofya meaning “Shrine of Holy Wisdom,” was built as a Christian church in 537. Minarets were added when it became a mosque in the 15th century. It became a museum in 1935, and was converted back to a mosque in 2020.
Hagya Sophia’s enormous domed sanctuary was an architectural innovation and masterpiece for its time.
Rustem Pasha Mosque is a small mosque built in 1563. It sits on a high terrace behind the old city walls, and was built over a complex of shops originally intended to provide financial support for the mosque complex.
The mosque was re-opened in 2021 after extensive renovations to bring the beautifully designed tile walls and ceilings back to their former glory.
Other mosques dot the skylines throughout Istanbul.

Istanbul is a shopper’s paradise. Bazaars of all types and sizes offer everything from sweets to carpets to jewelry. The bazaars are also popular meeting places for a talk, a smoke, and a cup of thick, rich Turkish coffee.

Busy entrance to the Grand Bazaar
Outdoor stalls sell different foods
Indoors, one can find every kind of souvenir!
Entrance to the Spice Bazaar
The Spice Bazaar is much smaller, offering mostly food items ranging from MANY flavors of Turkish Delight to exotic spices and essential oils. We opted for some saffron and argan oil at a fraction of what we would pay at home.
And religious symbols abound
The Arasta Bazaar has a more upscale feel, with high quality goods and more of a local feeling.
Beautiful Turkish items are offered indoors and out.

Topkapi Palace was the Imperial residence of the Ottoman Sultans from the 15th to the 19th centuries. Amid the lovely courtyards with towering cypress trees and lush gardens, visitors can imagine what life might have been like during this time.

Palace Gate
Restful lush gardens
A view of the gardens from within the palace
The golden throne in the sultan’s bedroom
Jewel-encrusted dagger of Topkapi
The 86 carat spoon maker’s diamond
Palace fountain inscription: “To tell the date it suffices you know it contains the verse ‘there is healing and mercy.” (surah al-isra, 17-82)

A poet once described the Bosphorus Strait as “God’s beautiful calligraphy written by an ink made of sapphires.” The strait provides part of the continental boundary between Asia and Europe and divides Istanbul into Anatolia and Thrace. An important international trade route, it also connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara. We enjoyed a cruise along the strait as well as a ferry ride from Besiktas Pier on the European side to Kadikoy on the Asian side. Views on both rides were spectacular!

15 July Martyrs Bridge and Grand Mecidiye Mosque
Hamid-i Evvel Camii Mosque
Maiden Tower, another Istanbul landmark
Wall Mural in Kadikoy
Marmara University

We can’t say enough about the food! From street vendors selling grilled corn on the cob, roasted chestnuts, and the ubiquitous simit (yummy round sesame bread) to fresh seafood, grilled kebabs, and the fresh fruits, nuts, cheeses, and vegetables in abundance at the bazaars, we found the food in Istanbul to be satisfying and delicious.

But it was the culture in Istanbul that we found most appealing. Although Turkey is 95% Muslim, 3% Christian, and 2% Jewish, we were told that religious freedom and tolerance is the norm. The call to prayer 5 times a day is a reminder of a greater good. And we were told that getting together for a coffee in Turkey can last 2-3 hours. Friends gather before and after prayer, and people seem to greet one another with genuine hospitality. These lovely friends pretty much sum up our views of the people of Turkey…old friends taking time for genuine conversation. We liked that!

Would love to have been able to understand their conversation!

At our ages, it’s not likely that we’ll have the opportunity to return to Istanbul, but we’re delighted we had four truly enjoyable days there!

6 thoughts on “Istanbul, Turkey

  1. Denise and Doug, I really relished your travelog on Istanbul. You will need to publish it, along with all the other cities of your journey.
    Thank you for sharing; onward to Cairo.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautiful, and the food looks amazing. But don’t believe the bit about religious freedom. Andrew Munson spent 2 years in a Turkish prison for spreading Christianity, and they were none to kind to him while imprisoned.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have relived our stay in beautiful, vibrant Istanbul through your amazing photos and
    blog! A sincere thank you to the two of you for sharing, waiting for the next chapter
    as your exciting journey continues.💕

    Liked by 1 person

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