7 Reasons to visit Istanbul
1. Low prized destination
From Austria, you can book a flight to Istanbul for under 100 € (round trip). There, the hostel we stayed was 11 € including really good breakfast in a common room on the sixth floor with view over the Marmara Sea in walking distance to Hagia Sofia. Of course, if you prefer more luxury than a dorm in a hostel, it will cost more, but it is still way better than in the most places of Europe. For a meal you normally don’t pay more than 5 € if you choose not to eat directly next to the sights. The public transport is paid with a rechargeable card. For every ride it changes your card and it gets cheaper the more often you ride – but you will never pay more than 70 cents, not even for the ferry.
2. Different Cultures
Also known as Byzanz and later Constantinople, Istanbul has way more culture to share than just the sultans palace and many mosques. Furthermore, it was once the christian capital city.
The Hagia Sofia, which looks like a church inside, lets you easily go back in time and imagine that christians came together to celebrate mass in the huge cathedral. And directly on the opposite of the Hagia Sofia, you see the beautiful Blue Mosque, one of the most important mosques of the world with six minarets, that seems to challenge the Hagia Sofia to realise that the muslim beliefs are better than the christian beliefs.
And while this part of Istanbul is quite traditional, you can feel the student spirit in the modern parts of the city around the Taksim Square on the other side of the Golden Horn. And the asian part can offer a quite ambitious lifestyle with several different city centres. It is also the most lively part of Istanbul – when visiting Istanbul you have to spend at least half a day exploring the asian part!
The Büyük Çamlıca (big Çamlıca) is one of the biggest mountains of Istanbul and is located on the asian side of the city. You can reach it by public transport and on top there is a park and a view point. Also, for cat lovers, there are many cats happy to be fed something (even if they don‘t look hungry at all). This is probably the only place where you can see both the mediterranean and the black sea.
4. Grand Bazaar
Visiting the Grand Bazaar is a must when staying in Istanbul. Just get into the flow and look at all the beautiful things they have to offer. Be nice to the people, even if you don’t want to buy, and enjoy their creative approaches to making people buy what they offer („Do you need help spending your money?“).
Also, even if you are not into bargaining, you will surely start enjoying it at some point because they make it so easy to do so. Just relax, and the Bazaar will be an experience you won’t forget.
Everybody knows that in Turkey you can buy carpets and scarfs and fake bags and so on. But for some reason nobody knows how great the turkish towels are. They are used at the turkish baths, the Hamam, therefore turkish people have centuries of experience. When I bought my towel I was quite satisfied because it is so soft and beautiful, furthermore really big but still very thin so it does not take much space in the suitcase. But after I first used it, it totally fell in love. It absorbs the water just perfectly but still it gets dry after only a really short time – it is exactly how a towel should be. I am actually thinking of going back to Istanbul just to buy more of those perfect towels.
6. Tasty Food
When thinking about Turkey, you will surely think about kebab. But actually, the kebab we know was invented in Germany, so kebab in Turkey is just an imitation, and to tell the truth, I actually enjoy kebab we have at home more. So don’t eat kebab, eat local food! The turks really enjoy their rice, they even have some special kind of way how to make it, and it is really tasty! Also, trying a couisine with lamb is necessary – they have various ways of preparing lambs. And they always acompany their food with bread. They say, without bread you won’t be able to still your hunger.
And not to forget: Baklava!
There is no dessert with nuts and honey that you will enjoy that much – just try!
Last but not least, besides Mexico I have never met people who friendly. When entering the Bus, some men stood up so we (two girls) could sit down, and when we stood somewhere unsure what to do, they asked if they could help. And even if they could not speak english, they tried to help as much as possible. And when trying to talk to waiters in turkish, they were always so happy they always wanted to bring us a çay (their special kind of tea) on the house. Needless to say one can’t drink that much çay.
All photos by Moni Kindslehner