Istanbul is a city straight out of the fairy tales and a photographer’s dream. I’ll admit it, I booked my flight to Istanbul pretty much based on seeing the scenes shot there in Taken 2 (the plot was meh, but the setting was gorgeous). And then seeing more scenes of Istanbul in the new James Bond movie the week before the trip, I may or may not have spent a few hours online trying to figure out how to get to the rooftop of the Grand Bazaar for a few panoramic shots (I unfortunately don’t know the right people here…). Suffice it to say, I arrived with high aesthetic expectations, and the city surpassed them all.
The riverfront is just dotted with mosques, with their elegant minarets reaching for the sky.
My first day in Istanbul, I decided to see all the further out sights. Among which was the Kariye Museum (Church) known for its mosaics. Armed with a just copy of Lonely Planet, I proceeded to completely miss my bus stop and then had to backtrack, and of course, ended up wandering and lost in a cemetery. But it was a really beautiful cemetery, so I can’t say I really minded. Part of the beauty of traveling, I’ve learned, is to just enjoy the unexpected.
On the way, I came across another mosque (they’re truly everywhere) and went in to take a peek. The main tourist mosques, the Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque, are certainly must-sees, but visiting the lesser known ones is a good way to feel the space as a religious sanctuary, away from the crowds.
Eventually found my way to the Kariye Museum.
Next, I tried to follow the old city wall all the way to the end. Somehow I was under the impression that the wall was mostly intact and you can walk on top of the wall, clearly, I was wrong. Most of it was crumbly, another good portion was under construction, so I had to take some detours and, of course, managed to get very turned around and very lost once again.
So, wandering around a sketchy neighborhood like this without a map and by myself was probably not one of the smarter things I’ve done recently, but I did get cool photos, so we’ll call it a wash.
Found the wall again!
In the afternoon, I took a ferry over to Asia (no big deal) for a late lunch and explored the local market. The colors were incredible!
People feed the gulls so swarms of them follow behind the ferries.
Just after sunset. Unreal.
Day two was truly a whirlwind of all the major sights. Above is the tile work found in the Topkapi Palace harem.
The Blue Mosque.
The Hagia Sofia. Photographers, if you visit Istanbul, bring a super wide-angle lens, if nothing else than to capture the inside of this architectural marvel.
Now we can’t really talk about Istanbul without talking about the food, which was in short, amazing. My favorite country for food has been Singapore for a very long time now, and a part of me expected Turkey to take its place. I have to say, Singapore keeps its crown (probably because I’m still a bit more partial to Asian food), but Turkey is a very close second. The above is a traditional breakfast feast.
Fresh squeezed pomegranate juice.
I’m really not a coffee drinker, but even I found Turkish coffee to be quite tasty. It comes in a very tiny cup and about a third of it is the finely ground coffee itself, forcing you to slow down and take tiny sips. The grounds can then be used to reveal one’s fortune. I think I see an angry owl in mine, not quite sure how to interpret that.
Another thing about this city is that it’s full of cats. Seriously, the cat population density here rivals that of the squirrels on most American college campuses. This one here was my favorite.
The world is a big, beautiful place, and for me, travel is the best way to experience that sense of awe and wonder.