Sunday, 7 August 2016

Crossroads of the World - Travel Review

Hagia Sofia


Leap of Faith Travel Review

What a brilliant week spent very well in the breathtaking world of Istanbul. A place where extraordinary places are found around every corner, continents are crossed in a day and home to a diverse millennia of old monuments and buildings. It’s a fantastic destination where drinking, eating and dancing are priorities.

The old city in which I stayed in was a lot more compact than the likes of Rome. All the top sights were located in one place and very easy to find. This brilliant place offers a time-capsule of Byzantine and Ottoman history with culture unmatched in the world. It also has an impressive array of sights with shops, hotels and restaurants which are all within walking distance.

Grand Bazaar

The top sights I had visited on my trip to Istanbul were:

1.     Hagia Sofia (Free with museum mass)
2.     Topkapi Palace (Free with museum pass)
3.     Blue Mosque (Free to enter)
4.     Grand Bazaar (Free to enter)
5.     Istanbul Archaeology Museum (Free with museum pass)
6.     Süleymaniye Mosque (Free to enter)
7.     Princes Mosque (Free to enter)
8.     Fatih Mosque (Free to enter)
9.     Basilica Cistern 9 (20 Turkish Liras to enter)
10.  Spice Bazaar (Free to enter)

Galata Tower

The mosques were incredible to be amongst and to hear the sounds of the muezzins singing the call to prayer across the city was astonishing. It was definitely a culture shock especially walking inside the mosques. Each mosque had its own designs all incredible to gaze upon and feel at peace.

There were some rules and etiquette for visitors entering mosques such as:

1.     Remove your shoes before walking on the mosque’s carpet
2.     Women should always cover their head and shoulders with a shawl or scarf
3.     Both men and women should dress modestly
4.     Speak quietly and don’t use flash on cameras if people are praying
5.     Avoid visiting mosques at prayer times within 30 minutes of when the call to prayer sounds from the minarets

Blue Mosque

In Istanbul, all roads lead to the Sultanahmet square bookended by the grand edifices of Hagia Sofia and Blue mosque. This is a fantastic place to start your exploration of the city.

As for accommodation there are plenty of cheap hotels and apartments to use throughout the city. I chose a quiet apartment block named ‘Seven Hotel Apartments’. It was a room only basis but it was all I needed as I would spend a lot of my days out in the marvellous city. It had everything you could need though such as TV, shower, kitchen area, double bed, terrace (only on top floor) and fridge. It was also located within the central area which was great but the only trouble is that it is at the bottom of the hill in the old city so it would be advised to think of this should you choose this accommodation.

My Room

The flights were booked with ‘Air France’ from Newcastle to Istanbul via Paris. It was a long trip to take and there are alternate routes you could use but this was the option I took. I also prepaid for airport transfer in which was great to avoid any problems and stress at the end of your long journey. 

Galata Bridge

A visa is required to enter the country too which was also quite cheap. You can pre pay for a visa or pay at the airport when you arrive.

Overall the return flights, accommodation for 7 nights, airport transfer and visa cost me £550.

Like my previous travels I only used my own two legs to move about in the city. As said above everything is within walking distance except the famous Bosphorous Bridge and Ortaköy mosque which are a good 4 – 5 miles away. I walked to this destination enjoying the views along the way in great detail. However should you wish to get around quicker, then there are an abundance of transport for you to use such as trams, buses, taxis and ferries.

Also if you read my diaries you would have noticed I used an attraction pass to enter the top museums in Istanbul. This was a great thing to have in your bag as this allowed free entry into museums and also fast track entry avoiding the heavy queues. I paid 85 Turkish Liras for a 72 hour museum pass which gave me access to:

1.     Hagia Sofia
2.     Topkapi Palace
3.     Istanbul Archaeology Museum

There are many more places you can use your pass for and below I will share a link to the museum pass website.

As for the food and drink it was outstanding as I enjoyed everything that was put down to me. There were so many options to try such as delicious kebabs, fish dishes and spicy red meat dishes too.

Turkish Cuisine

Also spread across the city were small red and white stalls laden with artfully arranged snacks. Look out for the snack named ‘simits’ as they are very delicious especially with chocolate spread on them.

My favourite of all were the Turkish tea and Baklava dessert which you have to try. You should also try a water pipe like I did that has a variety of different flavours to enjoy. Many restaurants have this on the menus so look out for them as you stroll through the city.

Turkish Tea

Water pipe

This was my first time in Turkey and what a cultural place it was indeed. It was magnificent to see so many people in one place with a variety of backgrounds and cultures enjoying the same place and I was there representing Britain. If you are full of exploration and discovering cultures, unique architecture, fantastic food and ancient history spanned over thousands of years then go to Istanbul as it has so much to offer making a trip there worth it.

‘Live life to the fullest
It’s the best way
Live every moment intensely
Because life is too short
And the moment comes when we are going to die
And we’d have wished to do so many things we didn’t
That is why we have to enjoy every moment
One must enjoy life
Try not to acquire so many things
But instead have experiences
Accomplish everything you want to do
No matter the effort it deserves  
Life is too short and one must relish it’

Author: Shaun Davison
Post a Comment