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Magic Istanbul…Straddling Europe and Asia

Good day to all of my friends. I hope that your days are mild and sunny, wherever you are!

Did you know that it is possible to be in Europe and Asia at the same time? All you must do is visit the magical city of Istanbul that straddles the Bosporus water linkage between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. This fabulous modern metropolis offers the best of both continents in one convenient place!

Behold the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque)

Istanbul was founded as ‘Byzantion’ in 660 BCE by Greeks wishing to control the strategic waterway. It became a metropolis, however, when the Roman Emperor Constantine moved his capital to his new capital and ‘modestly’ called it ‘Constantinople’. The city stayed the capital of the remnant of the Roman Empire until 1453 when it was captured by the Ottoman Turks and renamed Istanbul when it became the Ottoman capital. The city has been an important capital city for almost 2,800 years!

There are layers upon layers of history and culture in this exciting and mysterious city. Trade has always been at its heart so be prepared to haggle for deals and take home the treasures of the world, which are all for sale in Istanbul’s shops and bazaars.

There are so many fantastic sites to see, it is impossible to list them all. In fact, I recommend that you plan your trip very carefully to make sure that you make the most of your particular interests. Still, there are some ‘must sees’ that I recommend that you visit. The most historic part of Istanbul is the ‘Sultanahmet’ neighbourhood on the European side. This is the centre of old Constantinople and it is fantastic for walking and exploring.

Sophia, the largest domed ancient building in the world. It was constructed using innovative engineering by the Emperor Justinian in 537 AD. It is now a museum and one of the most spectacular sites in the entire world. A short walk from Hagia Sophia is the Sultan Ahmed Mosque colloquially known as the ‘Blue Mosque’ for its gorgeous tiled interior. The walk between these two marvels is along the ancient Hippodrome laid out by Constantine himself.

Have you seen a more beautiful Museum then the Hagia Sophia?

The Topkapi Palace Museum is a beautiful introduction to the early Ottoman period with its sumptuous architecture. Take a peek in the Harem for a once-clandestine thrill! An interesting stop is the Basilica Cisterns which stored water for the city. It is an awesome feat of engineering and truly beautiful. There are many other historical sites for you to explore depending on your own interests and beliefs.

The most spiciest Bazaar ever!

Istanbul invented ‘retail therapy’! Visit the Grand Bazaar which has been selling virtually everything under a covered walkway since 1461 AD. Pass through the open air Mahmutpasha Bazaar before entering the covered Egyptian Bazaar, the main spice market of Istanbul. You can buy vacuum packed spices and teas here that are of the finest quality. I always buy real black pepper – once it was worth more than gold and one smell of this aromatic jewel will make you understand why this was so. You can lose yourself in these fabulous bazaars but don’t worry, you don’t have to spend a lot to have a fantastic and memorable time.

While in Istanbul, it is important to try a Turkish Bath or ‘Hammam’. This tradition will take you back thousands of years and is truly relaxing. Your skin will feel luxurious as you relax afterwards drinking a tea and chatting with friends! Also, no trip to Istanbul would be complete without a boat trip up the Bosporus from the Sea of Marmara to the Golden Horn with its views of both the European and Asian sides of the City.

The magical sunset over the Bosporus

Reaching Istanbul is easier than ever since the new Istanbul Airport opened on April 2019. This convenient facility is currently the largest airport in the world, but it is strikingly easy to navigate. Beware, however, you’ll be enticed to shop while you move between gates so give yourself plenty of time at the airport – it is one large shopping mall!

Travel within the city is convenient via the Istanbul Metro. Taxis are also convenient, and most taxi drivers speak English well. Istanbul has more than fourteen million citizens so be prepared for traffic jams of biblical proportions!

There are hotels in Istanbul to meet any budget. Nearly every large chain has multiple hotels throughout the metropolis. For something ultra-special, I recommend the Four Seasons Sultanahmet. It is not only in an incredibly convenient location, it is a former Ottoman prison! I suspect the accommodations have changed since it was a prison, but the management is still maniacal about your treatment! For a special hotel that won’t break the budget, check out the Sura Hagia Sophia. It is elegant and most of the rooms have a view of Hagia Sophia or the Blue Mosque!

Here’s a pro-tip: If you are flying Turkish Airlines, you can now drop your luggage at convenient ‘miniports’ within the city on the day of travel so you don’t have to drag it around with you on your last day in Istanbul. Simply pick your bags up at the airport before departure. This is super-convenient!

This is one time you MUST have a Turkish Kebab!

Istanbul is a culinary capital with exotic flavours to please any taste and diet. I really enjoy the Beyoglu neighbourhood with its art galleries, fabulous bistros, boutiques and elegant restaurants.  The Kumkapi waterside neighbourhood on the Sea of Marmara is now for pedestrians only and has more than fifty fresh fish restaurants. All the food is fresh, prepared to exacting standards and delicately spiced! Consider a walking culinary tour to experience the exotic tastes of the region while walking off the calories.

There is something for everyone in Istanbul!

 

Love,

 

Isabella

Isabella’s Checklist

What to see: Hagia Sophia Museum, Sultan Ahmed Mosque ‘Blue Mosque’, Topkapi Palace Museum and definitely a boat trip from Sea of Marmara to Golden Horn  (https://www.hagiasophia.com/, http://www.bluemosque.co/, https://millisaraylar.gov.tr/en, https://www.getyourguide.co.uk/sea-of-marmara-l25385/)

Where to stay: Four Seasons Sultanahmet, Sura Hagia Sophia Hotel                  (https://www.fourseasons.com/istanbul, https://surahotels.com/sura-hagia-sophia-hotel)   

Where to party: Great nightlife in Bodrum, Marmaris & Istanbul

Where to eat: Eat anywhere in Istanbul, I suggest The Kumkapi Waterside area and the Beyoglu neighbourhood for diversity and fabulous bistros and restaurants

What to buy: Retail therapy is available at the Grand Bazaar, Mahmutpasha Bazaar and the Egyptian Bazaar and make time for a Hammam Bath too!

There’s a new SULTAN in Town!
Isabella’s Checklist

What to see: Hagia Sophia Museum, Sultan Ahmed Mosque ‘Blue Mosque’, Topkapi Palace Museum and definitely a boat trip from Sea of Marmara to Golden Horn  (https://www.hagiasophia.com/, http://www.bluemosque.co/, https://millisaraylar.gov.tr/en, https://www.getyourguide.co.uk/sea-of-marmara-l25385/)

Where to stay: Four Seasons Sultanahmet, Sura Hagia Sophia Hotel                  (https://www.fourseasons.com/istanbul, https://surahotels.com/sura-hagia-sophia-hotel)   

Where to party: Great nightlife in Bodrum, Marmaris & Istanbul

Where to eat: Eat anywhere in Istanbul, I suggest The Kumkapi Waterside area and the Beyoglu neighbourhood for diversity and fabulous bistros and restaurants

What to buy: Retail therapy is available at the Grand Bazaar, Mahmutpasha Bazaar and the Egyptian Bazaar and make time for a Hammam Bath too!

There’s a new SULTAN in Town!

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