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Istanbul has been near the top of my “must go” list for as long as I remember.  I had built up in my head so much excitement and mystery about this city that it was going to be impossible for it to actually live up to my expectations.  But I think it did.  It’s hard to pinpoint any one thing that made it so special though.  It’s the Turkish coffees on roof top decks.  It’s the views of the setting sun reflecting off innumerable domed hilltop mosques.  It’s the food that is vaguely familiar yet exotic and always delicious.  It’s the endless chaos that always seems to sort itself out.  It’s the energy of a young population (average age: 29) and vibrant economy.  All of these things come together to make a city like no other.

We stayed with a young woman, her fiancee (they were getting married the following week) and the fiancee’s father Selim who was a musician and a descendant of a Sephardic Jewish family.  It was really interesting hearing his views on Turkish politics and hearing him play ancient sephardic wedding songs that had nearly been lost to time.  He also let us know about a hidden treasure of a rooftop cafe with unbelievable views of the sunset over the Bosphorus river.

One of the best things we did was to visit the Hagia Sofia.  We got there as soon as it opened so we had the place pretty much to ourselves for a few minutes before hundreds of tour busses showed up.  I had studied it a bit in college in a GE art history course so I thought I knew what to expect.  I knew it had been a significant building both for Byzantine Christians and Muslims (it’s now a museum) since the 4th century.  But reading about it cannot prepare for the sense of grandeur that comes from standing under the dome.  We spent several hours exploring the massive building with our jaws on the ground.  Afterward, we both agreed that it was one of the most beautiful buildings we had ever seen.  Next we wandered out way over to the Grand Bazaar and checked out the endless indoor and outdoor alleyways full of antiques, jewelry, clothes, and everything else imaginable.  Then we tracked down a 300 year old sweet shop called Haci Bekri that apparently invented Turkish Delight.  Amanda claims they also made the Baklava she has ever had!

We wandered around checking out more beautiful mosques before ending up at a nighttime whirling dervish performance.  The dervishes are a sect of Islam and they show their devotion by getting in a trance and endlessly spinning around.  It was really interesting but got kind of boring after 45 minutes.

The next day, we went to Sultan’s Topkapi Palace and harem, went underneath the Hagia Sophia to see the eerie cistern, and went to an interesting modern art museum.  We made our way to the rooftop cafe that was recommended to us by Selim and watched a beautiful sunset while we said goodbye to Istanbul and got ready to fly to Israel!

  • Turkish Delight
  • Hagia Sofia
  • Hagia Sofia Roof
  • Hagia Sofia Cat
  • Byzantine Mosaic
  • Archangel at Hagia Sofia
  • Cat at Hagia Sofia
  • Hagia Sofia Roof
  • Hagia Sofia
  • Byzantine Mosaic of Jesus
  • Mosque Domes in Istanbul
  • Byzantine Mosaic
  • Adam and Amanda at Hagia Sofia
  • Writing
  • Istanbul "Buffet"
  • Heavy Load
  • Istanbul
  • Domes Mosques in Istanbul
  • Domes Mosque in Istanbul
  • Sunburst Over Mosque
  • Mosqque in Istanbul
  • Amanda in Mosque
  • Amanda in Front of Mosque
  • Love
  • Muslims Getting Ready to Pray
  • Turkish Flags and Istanbul
  • Outside of Hagia Sofia
  • Turkish Snacks
  • Assorted Turkish Snacks
  • Adam in a Weird Wizard Hat
  • Sultan's Bedroom
  • Infinity Mirror
  • Cistern
  • Istanbul Cistern
  • Upside Down Medusa
  • Modern Istanbul
  • Bosphorous
  • Istanbul Mosque at Sunset
  • Istanbul Mosque at Sunset
  • Istanbul Mosque at Sunset
  • Istanbul Panorama
  • Istanbul Mosque at Sunset
  • Istanbul Mosque at Sunset
  • Istanbul Night
  • Turkish Icecream Tricks

Posted: December 8, 2012

Author: Adam and Amanda

Category: Continents, Middle East, Turkey


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