4 days before my journey the headlines read:”Riots are making Turkey too dangerous”
I worked very hard at avoiding the news that went viral about the problems in Istanbul. Istanbul is like many cities around the globe, a must see place to visit with a rich history that’s well deserving of exploring. Being the cultural junkie I am, like many addicts, I love to feed and share my addiction. When a good friend restored my faith, I was off on my international excursion. I was quite intrigue about this trip for many reasons. Well for starter’s it’s my first visit to Europe outside of the IST airport, although I’ve heard wonderful things about this country, in the back of mind was “Taksim Square”. Best known for its famed restaurants, shops and hotels. Now its scenery consists of tents, graffiti, destruction and anger, at least that was what the media had reported.
Before I ventured off to that part of the city, I decided to follow along with my scheduled routine of educating myself on the story of Istanbul. The first stop on my adventure was the infamous “Blue Mosque”.
I had to cover my hair with a hijab, take off my sandals and cover my bare arms before being allowed to enter. once inside, I was amaze at the walls of colored mosaic stones and gold-plated arabic scriptures. from top to bottom, this place marveled in beauty. Next, it was on to the “Old Center of Sultanahet”, where I toured the cathedral of Aya Sofya and Tokapi Palace.
I ended my first night sailing the Bosphorus River, dining with friends and partaking of wonderful Turkish entertainment. I enjoyed a great opportunity of sailing in between two continents.
The Bosphorus, also known as the Istanbul Strait, a strait that forms part of the boundary between Europe and Asia.
Next, it was on to the Grand Bazaar, Istanbul’s largest and oldest covered markets. Here is where I stop to shop for nice souvenirs for my family and friends. Deals was easy to come by, but I quickly learned that bartering could be time-consuming.
Later I climbed to the top of Galata Towers, where I was able to watch the sun set below the mythical structural rooftops. Before heading off to the “heart of the city”, I dine at a local restaurant on Istikal avenue, for a delicious traditional grilled lamb and pepper meal.
News about the protests in Taksim Square, spread across the web instantaneously on the hour. As I remained optimistic strolling along the route to the park, I witnessed things that had not been reported, which lead me to believe only half of the story. Within a few feet of the park, I noticed students camped out near graffiti ridden buildings, gas mask vendors and a large crowd of chanting in their native speech. I wasn’t surprised initially, I thought that was typical behaviors of a wild, loud and unstable bunch.
What I was not prepared for was the “Wood Stock” aspect hidden behind the chaos. There was vendors selling fresh fruit and veggies, Turkish ice cream parlor performances, native Indian rain dancing, shisha smoke, beer drinking, a local band performing, fireworks and no police in sight. “Was I really in Turkey”? The crowd was peaceful, the people friendly and the vibe calm. The night carried on with a tour around the square and stool hopping to hear live rock music motivating the crowd to focus on the fight. At this point, I heard no conversation about their fight to save their park and I was here in the place the world deem a war zone, at least for the moment.
I spent my last day at leisure, taking up the culture with a traditional breakfast, which consists of a Lak Lak potatoes and egg omelet. Next, I pampered myself at the oldest bath house with a foam massage, facial and sauna pool treatment.
With a few more hours to spare, I headed over to the Istanbul Modern Art Museum, where I enjoyed the magnificent pieces of Artistry by local painters and designers, from the past and present.
My trip ended in a way I began most of my days, with a nice cup of Java, sitting in a nice quite spot to enjoy some alone time to reflect on my journey thus far.
As I mark Istanbul off my list of places to visit, I bid many happy returns to Turkey and look forward to the beginning of a beautiful relationship with Europe.