After a lot of research over a couple months, the best deal I could find on a flight was with Turkish Airways. They all flew direct from Houston to Istanbul which was several hours past Italy, but several hundred dollars cheaper. One of the options had a 20 hour layover in Istanbul and since Dan and I wanted to visit anyway, it worked out! Unfortunately, we got there too late to do pretty much any of the touristy things. We still managed to take advantage of our brief adventure and enjoyed our one night in Istanbul.
I knew I wanted to stay in the middle of everything and not waste time on getting around, so we picked Cheers Hostel, just a few blocks away from the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia (or Aya Sofya). Baggage claim took quite a while and caused us to miss entrance to both 😦 Luckily, you can look at the outside at any hour! And we were just really excited to finally be there after the 12 hour flight. I’ve always thought that the best way to see a city is to walk it (with the exception of Houston- don’t try). Unfortunately, Dan twisted his ankle a couple days before we left, so he was still mending- I’ll spare you the photos of his bruised, swollen ankle, but it was pretty bad. After debating a taxi, we still ended up walking quite a ways, across the bridge and over into the younger, more modern side of town where we had dinner. Below the road part of the bridge, there are dozens of restaurants, I’m assuming overpriced for location, but maybe still good? We took a pass. But it was neat to see locals fishing was the side- when you walk on the lower part, there are a ton of fishing lines dropping down next to you into the water.
We ate at Karakoy Lokantasi, which was fantastic. I was in love with the turquoise tile covering the walls of the entire place. It was definitely a good meal to kick off 2 solid weeks of eating. They had a tiny balcony that people took turns leaning out of to take a smoke.
After dinner we perused the street shops where I bought some turkish towels (yay!! these were SO much more affordable than the ones I had been wanting online) and we tried the local liquor, Yeni Raki. I kind of had to force that down… I’m not the biggest fan. I also HAD to try a turkish kebab. Even though we just dinner. Don’t judge, they are one of my absolute favorite foods. Apparently I should have done more research on where to find a good one, because the one we tried was kind of a let down
The next morning we had just enough time to go into the blue mosque before we had to leave to catch our flight. SO glad it ended up working out- I know that there is no way to see everything in a city when you have limited time traveling (even if you live there for several years!) but this was one thing I didn’t want to miss. It was just beautiful. Women have to have their heads covered, hence my scarf.
Istanbul is such an interesting city- the history behind it is unbelievable. In terms of visiting, just because it is so conservative, but they also have this huge nightlife scene. Chances are good we won’t make it back, but I’m glad we had the opportunity to stop by 🙂