Istanbul is an incredibly diverse and culturally mixed city where the East meets the West. Known as the gateway to the West, it offers a diverse mix of Europe and Asia.
We were lucky enough to spend four nights with my friend from exchange, who was a fantastic tour guide with a great knowledge for this incredibly large city. Staying with a local gave us a huge advantage to see some sights away from the tourist track.
The first day we spent here we did the tourist route and wound our way through the European side, through the Blue Mosque with its gorgeous details of blue and pink tiles followed by the incredible markets of the Grand Bazar.
The following day we visited the ‘gypsy area’, full out outrageous, generous and extremely funny older woman who found Tyral and I quite amusing. It was international children’s day, so the three of us bought lollipops and handed them out to the adorable, hesitant kids.
We found a large congregation of people, all watching a man duck tape all his belongings and throw them into an already over packed moving van. We stood around long enough for the children to become interested in us, and the older woman asking us questions through my friend.
Before we knew it, the camera had turned on us and we were posing with everyone for photos, all the time laughing so much I had cramps and smiling so hard my face hurt. The whole experience was one of the best times I had on my journey, the gypsies were the friendliest and funniest people I have ever come across, and I was so thankful to have someone to interpret what they were saying. If you want to visit somewhere off the tourist track, I would highly recommend the gypsy area. It’s a great way to see the different areas of the city, and get a better understanding of the whole of Istanbul.
Istanbul is an incredible city, and I would have happily spent a month here seeing it up close. However, I have a timeline and sadly only had four days there. The time I did spend was amazing, and I would happily return the second I have the opportunity. I did feel hesitant a few times, especially because my friend was quite nervous to be in large tourist spots. One time we were in the metro station to a large black out and a man yelling and being carried out by security, but besides this nothing abnormal stood out to me. my friend kept us away from major tourist spots for longer than needed, and was always alert to her surroundings. Of course, at this time, there is a danger of visiting this beautiful city. But, there is danger everywhere you go.
Drinking tea is as much as Turkish culture as anything else. The love Turkish people have for their tea I will always be amazed by. In every shop, café, restaurant and house is a friendly smiling Turkish man offering you a small glass of delicious tea. Apple tea is an extremely sweet alternative.
This city you could get lost in for weeks. You could spend months exploring its hidden gems, its unique style, meeting hilarious locals and eating its delicious meals. It’s a city that captivates the hearts of almost all its tourists, offering just a diversity of sights that everyone can find something of interest. Turkey quickly became my favourite country, and Istanbul played a huge part in this. Istanbul, you have my heart.