There is no word that can describe the feeling when I first drank my Çay (Traditional Turkish Tea), the taste, the way I held it with my fingertips on the rim of the tulip-shaped glass, and the amazing ambience of Istanbul. I didn’t stop drinking ever since; every hour if possible. I have to be honest, food (and drink) usually plays important role on how Bandi and I end up loving the place we travelled to or not; and Turkey scored well on that department. We were really looking forward to every meal.
We started everyday with scrumptious Turkey breakfast; which just like their tea, is a big deal for them. From this experience, I learned the best way to eat my toast: with butter, cream and honey. Mind blowing. Although most of the recommended dishes in Turkey are meat heavy, there were some pleasant surprise of vegetarian options. I turned into a vegetarian most of the days because I simply couldn’t eat meat everyday. I love love love their Lentil Soup, pairing with Turkish famous bread makes it perfect.
Before I continue rambling about food, let’s talk about the city itself.
I rarely fall in love with cities. Cities are not my most favourite place to travel to and only few cities left mark in my memories; London, Tokyo, Rome. So I was surprised when I grew fond of Istanbul organically. Istanbul is visually beautiful, no doubts, but it also has something unique that enticed me. Maybe it’s the culture, the people or the food, I didn’t really know when exactly I fell in love with it.
I knew it was love because there’s something I hate about it, yet I still love it. Turks smoke like they drink their çay, non-stop; and I hate coming home with my hair smelling disgusting.
Bandi and I visited the Sultan Ahmet Mosque, or famously known as the Blue Mosque. I had goosebumps all over me when I entered, it was the same feeling when I first entered Pantheon in Rome, the unforgettable feeling, the wow-this-is-out-of-this-world feeling. It was BEAUTIFUL. Please take note that you have to dress modestly if you plan to go in, you also need to take off your shoes. There is no entrance fee as this is a functioning mosque.
Our second stop was Hagia Sophia, which has a very long history. It was a church during Byzantine period. Hagia Sophia has more interesting stories than the building itself. We stopped for a while before we entered, sat on the park bench, just to read the long history of Hagia Sophia, it’s really interesting how this building has witnessed so many revolutions happened. Google for the story, it could be 20 pages long! The main wodden door in Hagia Sophia has been standing since 6th century!
The third must-visit place in Istanbul is Topkapi Palace. This place is huuuge! Slot some time to really walk around and explore the place. Bandi and I really enjoyed this place, especially the kitchen museum, imagining how it feels to be the chief cook in that era, leading a team to cook for the whole palace (roughly 4,000 people), it was massive in that era. The museum has a lot of information written all over it, so we could really learn about the palace.
Sadly the 40 Lira entrance fee doesn’t include the Harem (the place where the Sultan spent his private life with his family). You need to pay additional 25 Lira to get to know the Harem.
If you’re a Moslem, or interested in one, there is some seriously important artefact stored in Topkapi Palace, such as footprint of Prophet Muhammad, Moses’ staff, and other impressive collections! You may googling more about the list and its authenticity, but it is definitely a must visit!
My only regret is not to spend longer time in Istanbul. I was so mesmerized by the seabirds that followed us all the way when we boarded ferry from the European Istanbul to the Asian Istanbul. There were thousand of them, hovering above the ferry, while cruising from one continent to another. Everything about Istanbul is visually beautiful.
And the vibe in Galatasaray bridge in the evening, full of people fishing, chatting, hassling… A dad teaching his daughter how to fish, a group of friend hanging out while eating fish sandwich, a couple having fun under the bridge, where the restaurants are, and their pink sunset… This city is really special, their sunset is pink color! I love Istanbul, I really do. I will definitely come back because I’ve left a piece of my heart there. :)
May, with a hair as pink as Istanbul’s Sunset.