When I was 7 years old, I First watched my Miss Universe pageant on television. When I heard the country Turkey, my first thoughts was the animal that is served as a meal during Christmas or Thanksgiving. Of course, my innocence and confusion back then were understandable of what I knew of the word “Turkey.” Of course, how would I know that Turkey is not just an animal, but also the name of a country?…
Fast forward and I start to learn about the country of Turkey! (And not just the animal itself!). I’ve read a lot of travel articles about it and many places to visit. Of course, when most of us think of Turkey, the First city we think of is Istanbul! Although lots of people confuse Istanbul as Turkey’s capital city (Ankara is the capital city by the way!), it is the country’s cosmopolitan city where everything happens (Think New York, Sydney, Los Angeles, Rio de Janeiro). My fascination for the country in general and Istanbul in particular, made me want to visit! Fortunately, 2019 is the year and finally got myself checking different search engines for plane fares, hotel bookings, and tour ideas. This led me to check Skyscanner, Airbnb, Icelolly.com, Lastminute, Opodo, Netflights and anything that comes up on my google search.
When I boarded my Turkish Airlines flight from London Heathrow to Istanbul, it set the tone of the Turkish hospitality that I’ll be experiencing in Turkey and the rest… Are the reasons why I love this place!
Reason Number 1: The New Istanbul Airport is Huge!!!
The new Istanbul Airport opened back in April 2019. This is something the Turkish should be proud of the accomplishment of creating a massive and beautiful airport! I was awe as we landed at the new airport. They say that an airport gives a positive impression of the city! And this is already a reason for me to be excited to arrive in the city centre.
Reason Number 2: There are cats everywhere! M-E-O-W Cuteness!!!
One of the things I’ve noticed walking around Istanbul is that there are cats everywhere! There are lots of cats that are well-taken care of by the locals. One of my walks to find the Rainbow steps, I’ve witnessed a resident bringing out food and water for these cute newfound feline friends! As a cat lover, this made me love Istanbul even more!
Reason Number 3: Food! Food! Food!
OMG! Where do I begin with this?!… I’m a foodie and I was so excited to try the food in Turkey! I’ve heard lots of good things about the food here. From Kebabs to salads, and lots and lots of Chicken with Pita on the side! I was loving it! For the sweet tooth, I love their baklava and of course, their Turkish delight, which is a type of gelatin/jelly that comes in different flavours such as Rose, Orange, Mint and may contain nuts or coconut. I’ve been a fan of Turkish delight, and so I was enjoying this treat.
Reason Number 4: Turkish Tea
When I was enjoying the food in Istanbul, I also enjoyed Turkish tea! I love how they are being presented in those small majestic looking glass mugs. In most restaurants and the places, I’ve eaten, having Turkish tea was complimentary and will always come with sugar cubes (For those who love to sweeten their tea). I made sure that I have Turkish tea in the morning and in the evening! Because I naturally love tea (The British-ness in me!), it was no doubt I enjoyed Turkish Tea!
Reason Number 5: The City That Connects The East To The West! (The City of Two Continents)
Istanbul is a city that connects two continents… Europe and Asia! This city is blessed to have the best of both worlds! and it shows when I was in Istanbul. This city has a Eurasian vibe to it, which really fascinates me and which makes this one of my fave city in the world! To experience the hop from Europe side to Asia side, one can take the Ferry ride from Eminonu or Karakoy port (Europe side) to Kadikoy (Asian side). The ride both ways took around 25 minutes, and a way to enjoy the cruise along the Bosphorus strait!
Reason Number 6: I Enjoyed My Experience Tour!
As a solo traveler, I love going from place to place at my own pace. When I was in Istanbul, I decided I wanted to book an experience tour on Airbnb and found a photography tour in the Taksim and Sultanahmet area, which was hosted by a Hostel owner, Arzu and her assistant Ehsan (Link to Arzu’s hostel can be found on the Lastminute.com site here). It was such a fun way of getting to know some history and facts about the area as well as someone taking photos of me. Really loved it!
You can follow Arzu on Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/arzuozdemirphotography/
Reason Number 7: A Massive Market
There are Two markets I visited in Istanbul which I find interesting, and somewhere you need to visit for the experience. They are the Spice Market which is in Eminonu (Not far from the Eminonu tram station) and the Grand Bazaar (Beyazit tram station).
The Spice Market sells various spices and fragrances, as well as souvenir items to choose from. I was able to buy Saffron spice for my brother in there (Haggling skills will be very useful in this market!). This market I would describe as majestic. The architecture and design are beautiful! Made me love my shopping experience there.
The Grand Bazaar is where you definitely find all sorts of stuff! From jewelry, souvenir goods, clothing, bags, Turkish lamps, and Turkish delights. This market is massive! and it took me hours to walk around this market. I really enjoyed shopping here and was able to buy some boxes of Turkish delights.
Reason Number 8: Getting A Local Sim Card Which Was A Lifesaver
Since my service provider in the UK didn’t have free data usage coverage in Turkey and I had problems with internet connection, I decided that getting a local sim card was the best option for me, since I was staying for more than a week and will be using it to update my Social media posts, especially on Facebook and Instagram. There are various networks in Turkey. They are Vodafone, Turkcell, and Türk Telekom.
Reason Number 9: The Locals
Although I didn’t get to the chance to spend more time in Istanbul than I wanted to, as I am loving this city! My 9th reason would have to be the locals! From my experience being in Istanbul, I have felt the warm welcome of the Turkish! The locals were fascinated and interested to get to know where I’m originally from what I do in life! This was from the crew on my Turkish Airlines flight to the ground staff in the airport to bus drivers and those I even meet at the shops or the streets.
One memorable experience I had was after my amazing Airbnb experience photography tour with Arzu and Ehsan that ended in Hagia Sophia, I was approached by a group of students who were eager to interview me for their class project. They asked me questions about where I’m from, to my hobby, to my favourite Turkish food and what I love about Istanbul. They even taught me some Turkish words which I appreciated! Some of them were very shy, but I encouraged them not to be and I was more than happy to help them with their class project. So I accommodated every single student with their interviews. Although some of them were making every effort to communicate with me in English, we all had a laugh and I wished every one of them the best of luck for their class project before I bid them farewell.
Overall, my experience in Istanbul was very memorable! This city really blew me away! I love everything about this place! and would definitely love to come back and visit very soon. When I spoke to some fellow visitors to the city, they said the same thing about this city and how they love it!
Istanbul… All that’s left for me to say is “teşekkür ederim!” (Thank you!). I left Istanbul with a smile not just on my face, but also in my heart! 🙂
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