For our vacation this year, the hubs and I decided to travel to Turkey. We traveled in October and couldn't have asked for better weather conditions! And that was one good decision we made! Turkey is so beautiful, vibrant and touristy :)
We(K!) had made a list of places to visit and of course, a detailed itinerary was drawn up much in advance. And hey in my defense, this time I did take time out to read and jot down places that I wanted to visit. And no, it wasn't just the shopping areas :D
Day 1 at Istanbul began in a frenzy and certainly not the way we anticipated. We flew Etihad Airways and we were told that our baggage was not traceable. We panicked. We had no jackets and it was freezing outside! I had another problem, a slightly more expensive problem. You see, the clever girl I am, I decided to leave my wedding ring(diamond) in my luggage and didn't bother telling K about it. Don't ask me why. I am very random that way!! K was super pissed off. Uh oh. What a horrid start!
We filled out some paperwork, gave all our details. We were told it was still at Abu Dhabi and we should get it within 24 hours. They would call our hotel to confirm and would drop it off. Fair enough. Saying all the prayers we knew, we left the Ata Turk airport.
Our stay at Hotel Ilkay
This probably has to be the highlight of our trip. The place was extremely cozy and the staff very courteous and helpful. Everything was well taken of - rooms, giving us directions, recommendations to areas, tram routes.. everything.. The moment we landed, I spoke to the lady at the front office and asked her if she could help us out by calling the airport about our bags. She did not hesitate, and did the needful. Same response though. Wait was the key word. Sigh. This was going to be a long day.
The Suleimanye Mosque
On our first day, we didn't want to sit around and sulk, so decided to freshen up and head to see the Suleimanye Mosque. Take a look -
This is a very special place. I'll tell you why. It was around afternoon and the call for prayer had started. Unlike in India, where it isn't very musical, in Turkey the call for prayers is so calm, soothing and lovely to hear. K turned around and asked me if I prayed for the bags. I looked at him as if he was mad "Err, I don't know how to pray in a mosque". He gave me a disgusted stare and said "Just pray". So I did. I stood outside the mosque, didn't really care about who was looking and said a silent prayer(I will be honest, I did say that even if I don't get anything else, I must get my ring back:))))
Then we left.
How the saga finally ended!
We did not get any confirmation even on Day 2 and we were convinced that we are not going to get the bags. Extremely upset, we just went about eating quick meals and staying huddled indoors, thanks to the cold weather. In the evening, K said he was going to step out to buy water. In exactly 5 min, he came in gleaming and said "Good news, our bags have been found and will be delivered around 10 pm tonight"! Oh god. That was the best news I had heard in a long long time. Apparently, he was ranting to the guy at the reception and was extremely upset. The guy was very sympathetic and had told him not to fret and that Insha Allah, the bags will reach us. At that moment, the phone rang. It was the person at the airport who said our bags were found and will be delivered. Sounds freakish no?
After that, there was no looking back. We went about with our plans!!
The major sites
The Blue Mosque is another beauty(Although personally, I liked the Suleimanye better). I couldn't get enough of the Hagia Sophia(a church converted to a mosque to a museum). Loved the architecture and the detailing at the Topkapi Palace. Was amazed that something like the Basilica Cistern could be built at that point in time.
Shopping, Food, Road Side Vendors
This has a very Indian feel to it - the little corn cob vendors, the Simit sellers(Turkish buns), the mobile lemon juice seller, the hustle bustle etc. We also loved shopping at the Spice Market and the Grand Bazaar
Istiklal Cadessi in Taksim is a must do! The place has tons of people, shopping and eating.. Makes you feel uber cool. Shopped at my favorite places - Sephora and H & M! :D
At the end of this street, there is a lovely church, St. Anthony's Padua.
Spice Market and the Grand Bazaar
Psychedelic lamps, tea pots, spices, tea, fruits, vegetables, nuts, dry fruits... you name it, you get it! But it does involve a lot of haggling(which comes naturally to us Indians :P)
We flew to Izmir one day to visit the Artemis temple and to walk around Ephesus. We had hired a tour guide to pick us up from the Izmir airport, she took us on a full day tour. We visited the ruins of the St. John's Basilica, the Sirince Village, the House of Virgin Mary and finally Ephesus.An entire day well spent!
Isn't this such a hilarious name? Although it was pretty, I have the worst memories of it. Did I tell you that Turkey is full of cats? Yuck! They are all over the damn place!! It gave me such nightmares. At this particular place, the cats jump on the table. I am not kidding! We took a Bosphorous cruise from Sirkeci to Andalou Kavagi. It has a castle at the top of the hill(what a climb it was!) that offers some stunning views.
An evening in Ortakoy
Don't forget to spend an evening relaxing at Ortakoy. It is a busy area, filled with tourists who keep clicking pictures of the splendid evening shots. There is an amazing place to eat - Destan. They have hookah too and the best bit.. no cats!! My kinda place!
We went and sat by the Asian side, overlooking the ships, watching the sun disappear in the Istanbul horizon, sipping on tea and enjoying the beautiful weather.
One of my favorite pics :)