30 hours in Istanbul

I’m now back in Ghana after an eventful 30 hours in Istanbul, which I loved. It’s an incredibly photogenic city with a fantastic transit network, so even with so little time I was able to check two major things off of my to-do list: shop the Grand Bazaar and visit the Hagia Sophia.

After a long flight from Toronto to Turkey, I was shocked to see snow out the airplane window when we landed in Istanbul. Snow! I thought I had escaped that evil substance when I left Canada! With no use for anything with sleeves in Ghana and very little room left in my bags (see my last post), I was seriously low on appropriate clothing for sub-zero temperatures.  Despite that, I trudged through the snow in my ballet flats and after a surprisingly easy subway ride, a failed attempt to figure out the bus system in a land with few English speakers, and a short taxi ride involving several U-turns, I finally arrived at my awesomely located hostel.

After dropping off my backpack I immediately headed out the door again, only to be stopped by several members of the hostel staff.

“Those shoes, no coat- no good!” the men said in unison. “We get you good coat.”

Seconds later I was wearing a giant black parka and had a pink umbrella in my hand.

“That better,” the men said, handing me a map and ushering me out the door.

So awesome.

Though I had asked how to get to the Grand Bazaar before I left the hostel, I misunderstood the directions and thought it was a 15 minute drive, not a 15 minute walk. After the cab ride rip-off of a lifetime with a driver that couldn’t speak a word of English, I eventually arrived at the Bazaar with an hour left until closing time.

The Grand Bazaar

The Grand Bazaar

The Bazaar is a maze of glittering lamps, gleaming metal works, and beautifully designed ceramics. It’s a feast for the eyes and the ultimate ‘window’ shopping paradise. I bought a little sparkly lamp with some of my last Turkish lira, and shopped until the vendors began to pack up their things.

These kind of lamps were everywhere in the Bazaar.

These kind of lamps were everywhere in the Bazaar.

I then headed across the street and bought the cheapest food item I could find- a diamond shaped pita filled with cheese- after struggling to communicate my order using hand signals (an English speaking patron eventually came to my aid). After plotting my walk home (there was no way I was dealing with those taxi drivers again that day), I headed out the door and down the shimmering, snow-covered cobblestone street.

Not long after, something caught my eye and I gasped. It was the Blue Mosque, lit up with amber lights, being circled by bats in the moonlight. It was a stunning scene and pretty typical of that area of Istanbul, I came to find out. I then looked to my left and saw the Hagia Sophia towering above me, glowing and majestic, with grand spires reaching to the starlit sky.

The Blue Mosque. Photos don't do it justice.

The Blue Mosque. Photos don’t do it justice.

The Hagia Sophia at sunrise.

The Hagia Sophia at sunrise.

The next morning I had the chance to step inside the Hagia Sophia and the inside was just as grand and opulent as the outside. The decor was a mixture of different centuries and religions- it was originally a Christian church, but was converted into a mosque in later years. Since then, the original Christian artwork has been exposed, and some of the mosaics on display dated back to the 5th century. It was beautiful.

Inside the Hagia Sophia.

Inside the Hagia Sophia.

The Hagia Sophia is much like Istanbul itself in a lot of ways, a mixture of old and new, ancient and modern, globalized and unique. It’s got the cobblestone streets and opulent buildings of years past and the subways and light rail of the modern day. Basically, it’s a fantastic place to visit, and I’ll definitely be returning some day.

One Response to “30 hours in Istanbul”
  1. moodygirlgem@juno.com says:

    Thanks Kelsey for the update…so glad your having such a great time. Hope there is more excitement to come love Noel & Muriel

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