Around the world travel, Backpacking, Bucket List, Istanbul, long term travel, Travel, Turkey

Istanbul’s Charm

I wake up feeling lethargic and wanting more sleep, but breakfast ends at 10 and Rodrigo and I have plans to see the Archaeology Museum, so I pull myself out of my warm, cave-like bottom bunk. Breakfast, coffee, coffee, clothes, GO. I’m seeing sculptures and reliefs and remains and ruins, but there’s so much to take in, it’s almost overwhelming. My attention span is limited, so I head outside for some fresh air- and maybe a tea, or coffee.

I head back towards the hostel and pass the owner in the side street. He asks me what I’m up to and I suggest a tea. He links his arm in mine and says, “Come with me.” We stroll to the back of the Sultanahment District, towards the water, snacking on some street corn on the way. Literally, within ten minutes we have lost the crowds from the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia and I feel like I’ve entered a new section of the city, quiet and much less frequented from where we were.
We visit Little Hagia Sofia- a smaller scale replica of the more grand mosque of the same name. Craftsmen occupy small workspaces in the mosque’s courtyard, creating and selling everything from paintings to jewelry to plates. We leave the mosque and walk across the street to a Nargileh Cafe. It’s getting cold and gray and we warm up with an apple tea and a water pipe, whiling away an hour of the afternoon.
We then venture further into the back roads of Sultanahmet, down winding alleyways, over bridges, passing old, dilapidated wooden houses that have retained so much character they almost tell a story. We loop back towards Topkapi Palace and Hagia Sofia and rejoin modern Istanbul, almost like we opened a door and climbed back through from old to new, leaving a magical, more unknown world behind. And I realize this is Istanbul’s charm – a beautiful, harmonious balance between old and new, east and west, and it reminds me of something a Turkish man told me prior to my trip.
He said, “Istanbul is the city where my heart, my whole existence belongs to. Some say it’s too crowded, some say it’s dirty, some say other bad things… some poets say Istanbul is a beautiful old lady that has too much makeup on. I don’t care…I am still in love with her.”
I’m leaving for Israel in the morning and I feel like I’m leaving reluctantly, or should I say, with much inclination to return. Istanbul is a very inviting city – one that asks you daily if you want to stay a bit longer. My answer could have easily been yes.
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