wanderlust wednesday :: the sights of istanbul, turkey

Well, you knew this was coming right??  Obviously the next few wanderlust (and actually outfit) posts are going to be Turkey themed.  Sorry if you are sick of hearing about Turkey, that’s just the material I have right now…

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Istanbul is a mysterious city.  It’s magical, loud, bustling, overwhelming, cultural, and enchanting.  I’m pretty sure I have a little bit of a love/hate relationship with this place.  It really did feel like a wonderful dream while wandering the streets, but at the same time, that dream was interrupting by hundreds of Turkish store and restaurant people shouting at the American girls passing before them.  It was sensory overload, but not all in a bad way.  Just a different and intense way.  Here’s some of the stuff we saw, that are pretty much the “must sees”.

Topkapi Palace.

A wonderful palace (duh) with beautiful grounds.  Ottoman Sultans lived in this gorgeous place from the 15th century to the 19th century. So much gorgeous architecture and colors and decoration. Whenever I think of sultans, I just think of Aladdin, so I automatically imagine Jasmine’s father.  That’s what I was picturing the entire time I was there.  Such a kid at heart…

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Hagia Sophia

Obviously one of the most famous things in Istanbul.  Before it was a mosque, it was a basilica.  It was originally built in the 4th century, but has been rebuilt twice since then.  The current structure was originally built in the 5th century but has suffered many earthquake and partial rebuildings, but nonetheless, this place is OLD.  Seriously, sometimes I can’t even believe that things from this long ago are still on our earth.  Completely mind blowing.  One of the most beautiful buildings that I’ve ever been in.

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Blue Mosque.

Located right across a huge square from the Hagia Sophia, this mosque is in use today.  Many Muslims go here each day to pray and they are generous enough to open it up to tourists when prayers aren’t happening.  From the outside, this mosque looks so dreamy.  It’s almost exactly one of the pictures I got in my head when I was picturing Istanbul before I went.  the inside is equally as lovely.  Out of respect, girls must wear a head covering while they attend.  It’s a really interesting feeling being in such a sacred place, people actually worship here.  It’s just insane.

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Taksim Square.

This area of Istanbul is a short light rail ride away from the mosques.  It’s a trendy area filled with shops, boutiques, and winding little cobblestone roads.  It is kind of like the Montmartre equivalent of Istanbul, if that makes any sense.  I really enjoyed the afternoon we spent here.

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The Spice Bazaar and surrounding neighborhoods.

Leaving the main touristy area, we found ourselves winding through the street of what I like to call “real Istanbul”.  Here, Turks outnumbered tourists and life felt more authentic.  Although, it was still sensory overload, but it a completely different manner.  No longer were we getting heckled, but fought out way through crowded streets of tiny markets and shops that actual Turks went to.  We barely heard any English here (thankfully) and felt more immersed in the culture.

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We made out way to the Spice Bazaar, which is the smaller of the two main markets in Istanbul.  It’s in an old brick and stone building shown below.  In this photo, it doesn’t look like a lot of people were bustling around, but I assure you, it was complete insanity.

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Grand Bazaar

After fighting the streets of real Istanbul, we returned back to the Grand Bazaar, which is a HUGE indoor/outdoor market.  I’m pretty sure it had at least 5 entrances and we just walked in circles around inside and outside of it being constantly heckled by the “Yes, please” of desperate shop owners occasionally being drawn into their promises of apple tea. Nonetheless, it was a beautiful place.

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So, there’s a short sum up of the main sights/tourist traps or whatever you want to call them.  But, each one was completely worth it and I would see these at a bare minimum if you are traveling to Istanbul.

One thing that we really wanted to do but never had the chance was the Bosphorus boat tours.  The Bosphorus is the river that separates Europe from Asia.  You get a cruise along a beautiful river and see all of Istanbul from it.  I regret not doing it, so if I ever return, it will be a must do.  So, don’t make our same mistake and get on that tour!

More to come from the magical land of Turkey soon…

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