Aside from Canada, I had never done any international travel. Unlike me, James has been all over the world! Since we took a large amount of time out for our wedding, we decided to skip a honeymoon and take a trip for our one year anniversary. We wanted to go somewhere that James had never been. Around the time that we were researching some places, our friends had just returned from Istanbul and had nothing but amazing stories to share. Coincidentally, my cousin also returned from Istanbul and fell in love with the culture. She even considered moving there!
James and I decided that Turkey would be the place to go. I had no idea what to expect since this was the first time I would be stepping outside of North America. Istanbul is very geared towards tourists, which made things easy for us. We purchased some travel books prior to the trip and made a list of places that we wouldn’t want to miss. The employees at the hotel were very knowledgeable and assisted us with the best places to go sightseeing. We were surrounded by restaurants and historical sites.
Based on our 10 day visit to Istanbul, below is a list of places I would highly recommend:
- Topkapi Palace: Primary residence of the Ottoman Sultans for 400 years. We spent majority of a day here looking at the holy relics, strolling through the countless rooms and harems within the palace, and admiring the endless gardens.
2. Blue Mosque: Truly blue and beautiful. There were hundreds of people that would join for prayer, that would pour out to the court yard of the mosque.
3. Hagia Sophia: This magnificent structure was once a church that later converted to a mosque. It now stands as a museum which contains both Christian and Islamic artifacts and murals.
4. Grand Bazaar: James and I visited the bazaar twice. It is one of the largest bazaars in the world, with beautiful and delicious goods. The Grand Bazaar was incredibly diverse. There were shopkeepers from all over the world that were eager to barter. James and I bought a small suitcase full of Turkish delights, prayer rugs, scarves, and jewelry boxes to share with our family and friends. We almost purchased a Persian rug but decided it would be too difficult to take back home with us.
5. Taksim Square: This is a very different experience from the previous four sites. Taksim Square is located in the modern side of Istanbul. Here, we found endless shops, restaurants, cafes, small grocery stores, and a mall. There were even several chains from the U.S., such as McDonald’s, Subway, and Burger King. Along the streets, we found artists and musicians. Many of the locals would gather around the musicians and dance to the music. James and I were fully entertained and without a dull moment.
If we had to pick one thing that we missed the most, it would be the Turkish bath. We never felt so clean and relaxed after a bath and massage…we still dream about it years later.
Overall, our trip was one that we will never forget. James and I got to experience an entire new culture together and meet people from different parts of the world who chose Istanbul as a vacation destination, as we did. We appreciated the gorgeous architecture, sailed across the Bosphorus Sea, indulged in the delicious sweets (this is where my love for Turkish delights come from), and found comfort hearing the call for prayer every morning. This is definitely a place worth seeing!