Sunday, February 9, 2014

Istanbul- First 2 days

(Written by Reed while still in Europe...) After a nice morning in Rome we headed to the Fiumicino Airport to catch a flight over to Asia! Yes, you read that right. We landed in the Sabiha Gökçen International Airport that is on the Asia-side of Istanbul. So in one day we left the European continent, went to the Asian continent, and then came back to the European continent all within a few hours.

The flight was about 2.5 hours long but the buses to and from the airports made the trip seem much longer. We had a scare when we were going through the passport control after we landed and the lady said that we had to purchase a Visa. Natali was worried that it would be super expensive or something like that. It ended up being 30 EUR but it got Natali pretty panicked for a few minutes.

We got to our final destination at about 10:00 at night and were starving so we asked for recommendations from Saban, the guy that we booked our apartment with. He suggested a restaurant called Doy-Doy that was just up the street from us. We headed that way and found it easily. We entered the restaurant and the guy on the main floor said to go up to the terrace, so up we went. We went to sit down but another guy said to keep going up. This happened about 4 times (seriously, each time we tried to sit down and they had to keep telling us to go up) before we arrived at the top. It was definitely worth the stairs. We had a great view of the Blue Mosque all lit up at night.

We ordered some interesting Turkish food that was very good. I felt like I have been deprived of meat being in Italy for so long. We had a pasta for lunch and dinner most nights so we didn't eat meat very much. I was happy to see all of the meat choices and we tried a sampler of pita dips and a sampler of different kebabs as well. Everything was very unique and delicious. It was a great way to start a stay in Istanbul and I would recommend coming here if you are ever in Istanbul.

It's Natali now...Reed wrote that introduction while we were in Europe.  Anyways, we started our first day in Istanbul touring the underground Basilica Cistern.  It was little eery but really neat and I really like the pictures...
One of our favorite things in Istanbul was the fresh Pomegranate juice you could buy at little carts along the roads.  It was sour but SO good. And very refreshing.
So much sparkly stuff all over Istanbul.
In front of the Blue Mosque
In front of the Hagia Sophia

Just snapping pictures along the streets :-)
One thing that is really neat about Istanbul is that it is a Muslim country (well okay the state says it's not but it really is).  But it's as safe as the rest of Europe so you can see the really unique Muslim culture without worrying about safety so much.  Our first morning in Istanbul we were woken up by prayers playing on loud speakers from the nearby mosques.  They play VERY loudly (it's like a type of singing prayer).  We didn't really appreciate it at 5 in the morning but it did really add to the cultural experience.  I think they do prayers about 5 times a day but I'm not positive.  When people want to pray in the mosque, they wash their feet first before going in so that is what is happening out here in front of New Mosque...
Walking around the spice market and Grand Bazaar are pretty cool experiences...they are both very colorful so I loved being able to take pictures.

Inside the New Mosque... We really loved going into all the mosques.  We found them to be beautiful and very peaceful places.  It was also touching to see so many people who cared so deeply about their religion.  The only mosque we didn't really like was the Blue Mosque because it has become SOO overrun with tourists that it just has lost that special peacefulness about it.  But the others are all lovely.  In the first Mosque we went into, I asked this young Muslim girl near the door if I was allowed in wearing pants (as opposed to a skirt of course). She couldn't really speak any English but could tell I wanted help with something wardrobe related so she immediately hopped up so excited to help me. She called a couple friends over who proceeded to put a scarf around my head and shoulders, helping take my shoes off etc haha. It was a little invasive of my personal bubble but so sweet :) (They seriously were SO tickled to help). When they were done they all said how "bootiful" I looked :-). And yes, you can wear pants inside :).

Suleymaniye Mosque


We went to this restaurant where the manager was SOO nice.  And he kept begging us to tell people about him on Trip Advisor.  So we wrote a review and we'll recommend it again here.  It's called Falls in Galata.

Galata Tower
Galata bridge at night with New Mosque in background
Suleymaniye Mosque at nigh
Bosphorus Bridge