Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Traveler: Istanbul

I was super, super lucky to have the opportunity to go to Istanbul with my study abroad program in London. I've never been that far east before, and it was the perfect city to go to with the help of our experienced tour guide and a big group of my classmates. From dining on kebabs and hummus all weekend to visiting stunning mosques to shopping at the bazaars, it was definitely one of my favorite trips from my experience abroad!

The Blue Mosque

Istanbul's a HUGE city, and there's no way you can do it all in just a weekend. I had the best situation because everything was planned for me, but here are a few of the top experiences I had in Istanbul.

1. Visiting the Mosques: The most famous of which, are of course, the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia. Both are stunning on the inside and outside and are of course worth the visit. Conveniently enough, they're located across from one another. There's a ton of beautiful mosques in the city, many of which are worth a visit, but if you're going to do two, stick with these -- they're centrally located and beautiful.

2. Shopping at the Bazaars: The two best, in my opinion, are the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar. Be prepared to haggle, I'm not the best at it and probably could have saved some lira had I tried harder. One friend got a necklace down from 150 to 55 (75 USD to 27 USD!). Head to the Grand Bazaar for beautiful pillowcases, ceramic bowls and plates, mounds of jewelry, and of course, as much tourist items as you can manage (think tee shirts, key chains, etc). At the Spice Bazaar, stock up on spices, soaps, turkish delight, as well as many of the goods you can find in the Bazaars.

3. Turkish Baths: A friend and I decided to spend our remaining Turkish lira at a traditional Turkish bath. While we decided to go to the more 'touristy' one, we still felt that we were getting an experience unlike anything we've ever had before. We both got the second most basic package, which included a 'bath' and a 15 minute massage. The whole practice was basically getting washed by a (large, half-naked) Turkish woman. It was definitely cultural, but something to experience and very relaxing!

4. Indulge in the Eats: Turkish cuisine is delicious, and there's much to devour in the city. Be sure to eat lots of kebabs, shwarma, and of course, the desserts: Baklava and Turkish Delight are delicious and to die for! Tons of shops on the street, as well as the bazaars, sell these, so be sure to stock up!


With friends in front of the Blue Mosque

The Blue Mosque

Across the street, the Hagia Sophia

Inside the Blue Mosque

Evil Eyes -- all over Istanbul!

Turkish Delight!

Spices at the Bazaars

Busy streets of Istanbul.

Gorgeous mosques with overwhelming domes are all over the city

Istanbul's famous Spice Bazaar. To get this shot, I just lifted my camera above my head in the crowd and snapped away!

Gorgeous painted tiles all over the mosques and the whole city! The patterns were stunning

The beautiful Bosphorus seen from the ferry on the way to the Asian side of Istanbul!

Turkish flags were everywhere! Our chaperone told us that the Turks are a very proud people. It showed!

Sunset on the Bosphorus with a view of the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia in the distance. Unearthly beautiful.

Istanbul by night.

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