- 07 Sep - 13 Sep, 2019
LIVING THE TURKISH DREAM
- 17 Nov - 23 Nov, 2018
- Travel Diaries
Under the black of the night, with the gentle drizzle of rain and cold breeze that didn’t need layering, taking to the cobbled streets in the Old City, sipping Turkish coffee and watching life go by – a little quiet and a little loud, is how I fell in love with Istanbul.
ISTANBUL – CITY WITH A HEARTBEAT
Touchdown, Ataturk airport. Split between two continents and a perfect blend of both, this metropolis is very happening and is always bursting with energy. The airport is on the European side of the city and the first time the city unfolds in front of your eyes is quite the moment. On your left is the Black Sea in all its vastness, shining jade-blue. To your right, is the posh skyline and in between modern architectural structures, are ancient aristocratic edifices that tell the historical tales of the city.
WHERE TO STAY
If you want to get a taste of Europe on the budget of Asia, then you have a few options. Taksim Square and Fetih (Old City) are some names that keep coming up when making a travel itinerary, and for good reasons. The entire area is crammed with small hotels, tiny eateries, push cart vendors, roadside shisha lounges and tourists from all over.
HOW TO GET AROUND
A number of operators manage city tours that include bus, boat and double-decker sight-seeing tours. My advice; don’t pre-book anything from here. There is plenty of help and very competitive pricing in tourist areas. I got the bus and boat tour which included a cable car ride and a layover at Rumelihisari, [also known as a Boðazkesen Castle]. The panoramic view from the top of the castle makes a flawless backdrop for pictures and a good place to ponder over the meaning of life.
ANTALYA – VIBRANT & ALIVE
The sun is out, the water is inviting, the poetry book is hitting all the right notes and the soft-pretzel bread is heavenly. Welcome to Antalya. Pebble beach, clear waters and the breezy yet sunny afternoons are all the right reasons to go to to this place. My idea of a perfect vacation is spending sunrise to sundown on a pristine beach and let the foreign waters wash all the stress away.
CAPPADOCIA – MAGICAL OTHERWORLDLINESS
How do you describe history’s marvel? Google will tell you something about rock formations and people with a couple of tools carving out entire cities in them. But a visit to one of the underground cities will pose only one question: how is it possible for people to have carved these caves into cellars, perfectly rounded tunnels, shafts, churches with minimal natural light, and survive? It is easier to believe the famous cave city was built with magic. That is what Cappadocia is; magical otherworldliness.
WHAT TO EXPERIENCEMevlevi Sema Ceremony – A gift from Rumi
We all know about the hot air balloon ride, which by the way costs equivalent to a kidney on the black market, but there are other activities that are quite underrated. One doesn’t need to be keen on the subject of spirituality or Sufism to enjoy the Whirling Dervish ceremony called Sema. There is only one word for it: enchanting. The lights in the cave are turned down, dervishes are dressed in the pristine white Mevlevi costumes, the soft music induces a hypnotic trance and the whirling is graceful. The whole experience feels like being intoxicated.
GET INTO SOME ADVENTUREQuad Bike Tour
My favourite thrill: the quad bike tour. A little run down ATV, the expanse of earth, the scary slope of mountains to drive up, empty land till the eye can see, chill in the air, wind in your hair, the sky bleeding red and mountains bathed in the fainting light of the glorious sun. It is a sight that demands to be seen and felt through the soul.
WHAT TO EAT
The aroma of the Adana kebabs fills the air anywhere you step on the sidewalk. It lures you in and the hunger pangs are not satisfied easily. The kebabs grilled to perfection, mildly-spiced, salty and finished with a punch of garlic, are a delicacy that should be illegal to miss out on. Turkish coffee must follow after. If it is too strong for your taste, you can always pop into the world-famous coffee chains for a cup o’ joe. The Turkish cater to sweet tooth very seriously; the sights of dessert bars are enough to induce a diabetic coma. A variety of Arabian puff pastry sweets, European desserts boasting culinary expertise and of course, Turkish delight will be found literally everywhere.
WHAT TO BUY
You can spend hours popping into little souvenir shops, with the Whirling Dervish mantle pieces and the extensive variety of the famed Turkish Eye Bead charms. The Ottoman Lamps are an instant eye catcher with their bright colours softened for the eyes. If you don’t have a baggage problem, I strongly suggest you bring back one of these babies.
Most shopkeepers and tour operators accept Euro, Dollar and the Turkish Lira while trading. While this helps with no hassle to exchange currencies, be sure you are given the rate of the day and not being cheated into paying extra.
GOOGLE TO YOUR RESCUE
I found Turkish to be strongly cultured. Street signs, restaurant menus and billboards aren’t necessarily designed with tourists in mind. They stick to their native language and not everyone speaks or understands English. But fret not; technology has excelled to the point where none of this is a problem to cancel plans over. I ended up communicating with many strangers over Google translate. Some of those wordless conversations also ended with hugs.
Hagia Sophia: Once a church, a mosque later and now a museum, this main tourist attraction has great significance in Ottoman history and the grandeur of its structure narrates the chronicles it has lived.
Blue Mosque: A trip to Turkey is incomplete without a selfie with Blue Mosque in the background. Also called the Sultanahmet Mosque; its blue tiles and the majestic Hippodrome is a sight to behold.
The Grand Bazaar: The vibe of the whole place is infectious. Hustling, bustling, vibrant and alive. Don’t be taken away by the consumerism at first sight; haggle for prices like your life depends on it.
Ottoman Old Bazaar: Most bazaars across Turkey are kind of similar. An enclosed historic architectural structure with shops crammed together, the aroma of street foods filling the air, the chatter of excited tourists and coffee shops with sinful desserts on display; I’m talking the kind where you consume calories if you ogle five seconds too long.
The Taurus Mountain: If you don’t think it’s too cheesy, then hire a horse cart ride for yourself for a tour of the bazaar. On the small journey you will stop at a point where you witness the Mediterranean Sea reveal its glory. Standing on this very point, you can see the Taurus Mountains and their summit under the blanket of clouds. The view at first knocks the oxygen from your lungs and however long, you stay here, you wont get enough of it.
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