Where: Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul in many ways felt like a trip back home.
The mosques, the call to the prayer, the conservative dress; I was feeling very nostalgic the whole trip. This marked the first time I had travelled to a predominately Muslim country after leaving Oman.
However, Istanbul is NOT Oman. This is mainly due to how mind bogglingly massive it is. Everytime I thought I could see the outskirts of the city, we’d turn a corner, and another million buildings appeared. I’ve never seen a city that so perfectly fit the word ‘sprawl’ before, but that is exactly what Istanbul is laid out like. No logic, no planning – just organic growth in any direction possible. It is strangely beautiful in this regard.
My two full days in Istanbul were done in two very different ways, but combined together I feel I truly ‘experienced’ the city. The first day was all about sightseeing. We crossed the bridge from Asia to Europe. We saw the Sulyemani Mosque (by accident – we thought it was the Hagia Sophia) on our walk over, and then stopped by the Topkapi palace. Of course, we saw the Hagia Sophia (very old, very large) and the Blue Mosque (arguably more beautiful, but not as famous for some reason). We then made our way back for some much needed rest before going out to see some of Istanbul’s more famous nightclubs.
The second day, in contrast with the first, was about sensation. We went to an authentic Turkish hammam/bath, where we spent the next two hours getting cleaned, steamed, scrubbed, foamed, and massaged. It was indescribably relaxing compared to the first day, and much needed after Budapest as well – I felt purged and detoxified.
A third day would have been nice – I could have done a river cruise, seen some more mosques, and maybe see a whirling dervish show. But the two days were optimally planned out that I feel I hit the main sights and activities, to tide me over until I go back sometime in the future.