The trip came to me as a sudden one and of a much surprise to me as this was an offer I got from one of my family businesses. I was all excited about the trip as Istanbul was always in my travel list. We started from Cochin early in the morning (or I would say late in the night ) and reached the Istanbul Atatürk Airport after quite some boring (long…) time, It would have been worse if they had not served the life saver liquid (Booze to be precise) on board.
However as soon as we landed and cleared the formalities we were taken to the hotel and given time to freshen up. The hotel was situated right at the heart of the city. We were given time to rest that day, So I thought of having a walk down the street to get some glimpse of the city and take on some flavors and went on and did exactly the same. The city was old and preserved all its tradition and culture really well. The following day we were taken in bus for a guided tour. The tour guide with us was a professional guy and he knew the culture and places very well. He was explaining each and everything while we passed the landmarks of the city and I found it really useful in understanding the country and its culture.
The first stop was at the famous Hagia Sophia which is a former Greek Orthodox Christian patriarchal basilica (church), subsequently became Ottoman imperial mosque and currently a museum open to public. I learned that this is a really important monument in the great history with relates to Christianity. . We roamed around the structure and got a glimpse of all the richness of it.
Sultan Ahmed mosque aka Blue mosque aka Hagia Sophia
We went inside the monument and got to see the interiors which I would say amazed me. This country had all the money and the kings were definitely freaking rich.
Our next destination was the Taksim Square famous for nightlife, shopping and dining but was over crowded with tourists, so I went on to the Grand bazaar.
The Grand bazaar is the main market place for the tourists to find something to take home with them. I also had in mind the plan to buy the most famous ‘Turkish delight’ which is a Turkish savory which is famous around the world. Some of us in the group lost their way in spite of the advises given to them by the tour guides. And I don’t think we can blame them seeing the vast market and its confusing walk ways.
I bought some savories and the Turkish eye (which is supposed to bring you good luck) as a souvenir.
We started from there to have lunch and was surprised to see Indian dishes being served for buffet. Later I came to know that the menu was set on request for us. But I badly wanted to try the Turkish dishes, so made up my mind and swore to myself that I will go out and have some authentic Turkish dish at night. Decided to pick up some food and enjoyed the belly dance performance especially for us.
It was time for us to go for the cruise at the Bosphorus Strait, This is where we find the famous Bosphorus Bridge. This is the bridge which connects the Asian side to the European side of the continent.
We were brought to the port where our cruise was ready to sail off, It was a boat of medium size with an upper deck. We got into the cruise and the music was already playing. We started from the port. The view from both sides of the strait was so very scenic with lots of mansions and forts.
The sun was about to set and it looked like in dreams with the ‘yellow-orangish’ sky. We reached near the Bosphorus Bridge after sunset and it was a beautiful scene to look at it from the cruise. We went past under the bridge to the other side and it was a mesmerizing experience to look at the well-lit forts and palaces on both sides of the Strait with the (Indian) music playing in the background.
Our dinner for the day was arranged where the boat reached next. We had some amazing performers performing different kinds of dances on the boat as well as where we had our dinner. Outside the dinner hall they had some traditional dresses arranged for us to wear and take pictures.
While we were trying our dresses and posing for pictures, we saw a crowd near the stall on the other side and could hear people cheering. So we thought of going there to see what’s happening. There was this ice-cream man doing all tricks to whom he was selling ice-cream to. It was so much fun to watch him do his prank on people (or rather ice-cream lovers) with the long spoon which he was using to take out the ice-cream.
After dinner we took off to the hotel, once we reached the hotel, we freshened up and then someone put forward an idea to get out and explore the city night life.
We took a cab from the hotel and started off our adventure to explore the night life of the city. The streets were very much live with all the night clubs and bars on one side of the city...
The next thing I remember, was inside the room waking up in the morning (or rather afternoon! ). We were supposed to be ready and on the bus by 9 in the morning after breakfast. I had to rush and eat the vast selection of breakfast arranged and had to run to get into the bus.
The first destination was the Dolmabahçe Palace which is the largest of all the palaces in Turkey which served as the main administrative centre of the Ottoman Empire.
It had a huge garden and we walked the entire way to the palace on the bank of the river. It was well worth the walk. The palace interiors announced the luxurious life of the Ottoman kingdom and was truly a mesmerizing experience.
It was almost the end of our trip already and realized that have not bought anything much to take back home. And then as per our request, on our way back to the hotel and after lunch (obviously, Indian cuisine ), we were dropped at a market (don’t remember the name exactly) and asked to get a cab back to the hotel. I was happy that I got some time away from the group and that I can spend it on trying some exquisite Turkish food and probably do some shopping.
Luckily I found some really good and cheap souvenirs to take back home and most of them with a Turkish eye on it . I still have some of those in my work desk looking at me.