If the city of Istanbul had a theme song, it would be “I’m Sexy and I Know It” by LMFAO. The beat fits perfectly for zipping around the city streets in a taxi, cruising along the Bosphorus on a boat, and even riding to the airport at 3am (we heard the song played in all of these instances.) It’s also just a fitting slogan for the city itself: Istanbul is sexy. And it knows it.
After months spent in developing countries, John and I felt a new appreciation for how amazing Europe is. We’ve both been to Europe before (a couple of times), but this time we couldn’t help fawning over the pristine cobblestone streets, lovely landscaping, and general wealth and splendor that European cities exemplify. Istanbul technically borders two continents with half of the city falling into Asia and the other in Europe. Technicalities aside, though, the flavor of this city is decidedly European.The Bosphorus Bridge connects the European side of the city to the Asian side. Upon completion in 1973, it was the 4th longest suspension bridge in the world. Now it stands as the 21st longest.They don’t build big castle-like forts like this in Asia…very European.
Of course there are mosques everywhere, providing a unique Islamic twist on the standard cathedral-filled European city. Just like in the Middle East, the call to prayer fills the streets five times per day from hundreds of mosques. The Blue Mosque (pictured below and above) is a stunning example of the beautiful architecture of these buildings.
Inside the huge domes, its colorful and light. For the first time on our trip, it was John (not me) that didn’t have on appropriate clothing to enter the religious site. I’ve gotten used to decking out in Muslim-friendly attire, but John’s shorts were deemed inappropriate. (He could have rented a sarong of sorts, but he chose to stay outside and enjoy the outer courtyard instead.)
My Muslim-friendly attire looks very much like what a Hollywood starlet would wear when trying to hide from the public (it’s the cheap sunglasses that pushes it over the edge.) John liked it so much he insisted on taking about 15 photos of me.
Across a fantastically well-landscaped and delightfully clean square, lies the Hagia Sofia. We lounged on the grass in the square for hours, relishing in the delight of curated public green spaces. You just don’t find things like that in the developing world.
A restaurant on the square offers daily whirling dervish performances with live Sufi music. The guy is really just spinning in a circle for about 5 minutes at a time, but he brings an art to it.During our visit, a farmer’s market set up around the corner from our hotel. I wish we would have been able to buy and cook some of the wonderful produce. (I know, I’m food obsessed. Produce is just so pretty! I mean, have you ever seen such shiny eggplants??)If we had stuck to our original plan and stayed in Istanbul for a month, I would have bought armloads of stuff at this market. (Don’t fret on our behalf – we’re eating our bodyweight in fresh produce in Crete as I write this. There is no suffering here.)Another place I would shop if we were staying in Turkey for a month: the Spice Bazaar.
Teas, spice mixes, dried fruits, nuts, exotic spices…they have it all.Oh yeah, and rows of Turkish Delight. I didn’t care for it, but it was satisfying to finally know what it is (did anyone else ever wonder growing up why that kid in The Chronicles of Narnia books was so obsessed with Turkish Delight?)Even with that whole tear gas incident, Istanbul still ranked high as one of our favorite cities. It’s just that sexy. I guess I’ll just have to add it to the ever-growing list of places we can’t wait to return to.
If earlier in this post you thought to yourself, “Shouldn’t the theme song for this city be Istanbul (Not Constantinople) by They Might be Giants?” you are awesome. (Or you are Erin, which is also awesome. Hi Erin!) That song danced through my head all five days we were there. If you weren’t thinking that, or you don’t know the song, go listen to it now, or watch the Tiny Tunes video of it. It will be in your head for the rest of the day. You’re welcome.