So here we are in Turkey! I am currently travelling with Julia, an Australian girl from Sydney who I met in Croatia while volunteering at Falling Lakes Hostel. Turkey so far has been fantastic: 4 nights in the bustling capital of Istanbul, 3 nights at Çannakkale, 2 nights at Selçuk, and now a night in Pamukkale.
I initially expected Istanbul to be busy, but I was very surprised at how I underestimated it. Can you imagine the population of Australia living in one city? At first, Istanbul reminded me of an Asian city like Bangkok due to the hustle and bustle, the wonderful and not so wonderful smells, and the insane traffic throughout the city. However, staying for a while gave us a great introduction into Turkish culture, food (yumm), and the cool vibe of Istanbul. Our four days ranged from exploring incredible alleyways and lanes, getting lost in the grand bazaar marketplace, sitting peacefully and observing prayer in the beautiful mosques, getting slightly lost in poor residential neighbourhoods, getting crazy looks during our morning runs, eating like a king and queen, and lots and lots of walking.
1. Spend time in the mosques
I'm not just talking about the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia (which isn't even a Mosque anymore), I mean explore and enter a variety of different Mosques and sit and observe. I can't even describe the peacefulness I felt inside. The interiors of the mosques are so beautiful and the respectfulness and commitment of the Islamic people is something to behold. It was great observing the ritual nature of the prayers and the loving interaction between people inside.
If I can try to paint a picture for you that I will always remember, it would be sitting at the back of the Mosque with Julia, the quiet peacefulness spreading though my body, the pure and perfect laugh of kids playing nearby, and watching people show their love to their God through prayer.
2. Explore. You may even come across an incredible rooftop overlooking the city.
Legend has it that there is a rooftop close to the Grand Bazaar (one street North) that has spectacular views over the city. I don't have the exact address, but I can give you a tip. Head to the building called 'Valide Hani Mescidi' and look for some stairs going up. Some adventure on the way will make the experience even more memorable. Make sure you also explore other parts of the city - some of my favourite memories are off the beaten track.
3. Try this lovely Vegan restaurant
We all like food right? It's even better if it is healthy in my opinion. You can have a Döner Kebab anywhere in Turkey, so why not try something different. Julia and I stumbled on a lovely little cafe just down from Galata tower in the EcoistHan building (7 Camekan Sokak, Beyoglu). The food is vegan, so don't go there if you are craving meat, but we went there two nights of our stay because the food was so amazing, so trust me on this. Try the incredible falafel popper wrap and the muffins (nicest I have ever tasted). I won't spoil the surprise, but I can tell you that the staff are fantastic, the interior is beautiful, and the food is so great that, just like the wifi password says, you will truly feel at home here.
So that's my three highlights of Istanbul that I recommend you experience when you go there. If you have any other recommendations I would love to hear them. In the meantime, feel free to subscribe to my blog on the right hand side and then get out there and love life! :)