I have a confession to make. I think I’m in love with you…
See, I didn’t mean it to happen this way. I was just going to spend 3 days visiting you, the perfect introduction to my time in Turkey, before setting off to explore the country which you used to rule over in significant glory.
But there was a problem. I didn’t plan on being taken in by your spell, with your pulsating energy and incredibly nice and generous people. I lay full blame for my feelings on that. That, and the first glimpse of your intense history I had when my bus from the airport took a duck under an old-fashioned aqueduct, just like those ones I’d seen in my history books in school.
Yes, you’ve got some pretty awesome history. Like some truly eye-popping mosques and even a 500-year-old one that you’ve dubbed “New.” I didn’t have to wonder how a something quite so old could be called the “New Mosque” because history pulsates through your very veins and under your very streets. From a palace that the Ottoman sultans called home to a little place I’d heard of before called Hagia Sophia, what’s not to like?
How about the truly unexpected Basilica Cistern, an underground reservoir that stole my heart? If not the endless rows of columns there, perhaps it was the sculptures of Medusa’s head supporting a few of said columns that made me fall head over heels? I gazed into her stone cold eyes thinking back to the days we used to watch the original “Clash of the Titans” to learn about ancient Greek mythology in school.
Maybe that was it. Silly history. But wait, Istanbul, you have so much more! Like the comparatively new Beyoglu with Taksim Square at its heart and the pedestrianized Istiklal Street at its core, your 24-hour shopping and nightlife mecca. It’s a good meeting place that would become the site of many a night-out, where your denizens sip Raki, that star anise flavored liquor and Efes, the national beer, lines the walls.
Add to that your bi-continental vibe, for how many places is it so easy to dine in Asia and dessert in Europe? Here moving between the continents is nothing more than a ferry ride or a drive across a bridge, from more chill Asia with its houses and suburban malls to more intense Europe, with its go-go-go energy.
How about your incredible diversity? In people and in food. Your open minded and friendly folks don’t hesitate to lend a helping hand or befriend a stranger to your territory and that is so very nice. You’ve got something for everyone and then some!
And that includes awesome CouchSurfing hosts who will convince you to stay past those 3 days you planned and make it 7 days instead! Hosts who will show you what it’s like to really live in Istanbul. Who will take you to meet their friends, invite you to their birthday, take you on long walks along the Bosphorus and show you the time of your life.
You know what Istanbul? I think it’s a combination of all of these things that made me fall head over heels for you… It’s a good thing I keep my travel plans flexible because I would have been very sad if I only spent 3 days exploring your streets. But a week was just enough to give me a good fill and reason to come back!
Stay classy Istanbul!